We'll start on a few good notes, and end on some bad ones.
The week in storage began with news that SanDisk is challenging Samsung for the density crown with its new MicroSDXC Extreme and Ultra cards; just don't expect any details on how it is accomplishing it, because it is not revealing the type of NAND used in its diminutive 256 GB SDXC cards. The SanDisk cards most assuredly do not employ 3D NAND (or it would brag), but MicroSDXC supports up to 2 TB of storage, so we can expect capacities to continue to skyrocket.
Unfortunately, many of today's phones still ship with an insulting amount of storage (e.g., 16 GB). There are 256 GB phones in the pipeline, but it is still good to have the option to slip in 256 GB of storage goodness. It is disappointing that there are no mainstream UHS-II cards at hefty capacity points, but this is due to the extra row of connectors required for the ultra-fast 312 MB/s connection. OEMs are slow to adopt anything that increases the cost of a device, so we shouldn't expect to see widespread support anytime soon, which constrains us to the UHS-I imposed speed limit of 104 MB/s.
Seagate updated its Backup Plus Desktop products to include a USB 3.0 Backup Plus Hub model, which ships with capacities up to 8 TB and adds in two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the unit. USB-starved MacBook and notebook users will find the ports a welcome addition. The hub has an MSRP of $250 for the 8 TB model.
Chris shattered the glass ceiling of reasonable storage performance with 340,000 IOPS and 3 GB/s of throughput from a gumstick 1 TB Samsung SM961 SSD (what wonderful times we live in). Chris gave the speedy SSD the Tom's stamp of approval; head over to the full review for the breakdown.
In the meantime, join me as we take a closer look at a few other, less pleasant topics.
Dispose Of Your Data Correctly - Deleting And Quick Format Do NOT Count
Several years ago I purchased a WD Raptor HDD (how's that for a necro link?) from a forum, and it was shipped to me in a plain box with absolutely no insulating packaging material. In fact, the box was exactly the size of the drive, so a few millimeters of cardboard were the only thing between the HDD and the USPS. Remarkably, the drive worked great.
Even more remarkably, so did all of the personal data that was still on the drive.
I learned that the previous Raptor owner had used it as a boot drive simply because my computer attempted to boot to it when I installed the drive. The drive was from a nice young man who lived in an idyllic Midwest town, as evidenced by the numerous family pictures on the drive; there were even a few mildly risqué shots of his wife (at least by Midwest standards, which means she was fully clothed but had bared ankles). I could have learned much more about the man, as his tax returns, resume and many other documents were also still on the drive.
I fired off a private message to him outlining the perils of his blasé approach to data security, and also informed him that I
sold his data to the highest bidder had done him the service of permanently destroying his data. I even decided to forgo a speech on the merits of correct HDD packaging in the hopes that he would take the data protection issue more seriously.
Is there a reason for my storage musings? Yes, for once, there is. Blancco Technology Group (a data erasure company) conducted a rather informal data recovery study. The study provides us with valuable data about data security, and it also feeds my obvious confirmation bias.
The company randomly purchased 200 used HDDs and SSDs (93/8 percent mix, due to rounding) from eBay and Craigslist. The company employed its forensic data recovery specialists to extract information from the resold drives, and was able to recover residual data from 78 percent of the drives. 67 percent of the data contained personally identifiable information (67 percent photos, 21 percent financial data, 23 percent social security numbers, and 10 percent resumes), and 11 percent of the drives contained corporate data.
It is important to note that the company specializes in data erasure and recovery, so some of the techniques it employs to recover data will not be available to the general population.
36 percent of the data was improperly deleted by moving it to the recycle bin (we should empty the recycle bin after doing this), which is easy for even a layman to recover using simple downloadable tools.
All drive format operations are not created equal, and 40 percent of users deleted data with the quick format command, which simply creates a new file table and does not actually delete the files on the drive. Again, downloadable tools allow even those with very little knowledge to easily recover the data. Users erased only 25 percent of drives with the safest measures, such as full format, secure erase or encryption techniques.
Data destruction companies degauss and physically crush storage devices before discarding them, but there are a few bulletproof techniques we can use to assure the data is unrecoverable before we either sell or discard our computing devices. The best method is to conduct a full format of the drive, and then actually overwrite the data.
There are several free utilities available with these features, such as CCleaner, which overwrites the entire volume. It even offers options for multiple iterations of the overwrite process. A single pass is fine for most devices, although two might be advisable for SSDs due to hidden overprovisioning areas. There is also the option for 35 overwrite passes, which should assuage the tinfoil hat-wearing crowd.
Data proliferates everywhere in today's digital world, and these same concepts for data erasure apply to other seemingly innocuous devices, such as thumb drives, tablets, phones and SD cards. Destroy your personal data before disposing of devices or you may find yourself the latest victim of identity theft or blackmail or worse.
Storage Game Of Thrones - Yes, Everyone Dies
Micron, Seagate and Intel began (or continued) their firing sprees as yet another spasm of layoffs embraced the industry in a manner reminiscent of the latest Game Of Thrones episode.
SSDs are the hottest segment in storage, but Micron announced yesterday that it is the latest company to spin the layoff wheel. Micron, already in the midst of a restructuring, suffered a net loss of $97 million in Q3. Micron experienced a 20 percent decline in bits sold into consumer SSDs, and the enterprise SSD side of the company also declined by 10 percent.
Micron will send an undisclosed number of employees off to the guillotine, but it expects $300 million in savings from the head-rolling exercise, which indicates the layoffs will be substantial. Micron indicated that its new 3D NAND products would revamp its sales in the future. The company has 3D NAND-powered MX300 SSDs shipping, but its latest enterprise SSDs are of the planar variety, so this may foreshadow a 3D enterprise product announcement.
Seagate encountered severe turbulence earlier this year and is still struggling to pull out of the desktop PC market nosedive. The company issued an SEC filing yesterday that revealed it has committed to a restructuring plan, appropriately named "The Plan," which includes reducing headcount by 1,600 workers (or three percent of its global workforce) by the end of September, thus saving $100 million. Seagate is slowly climbing its way back from its white-knuckle descent earlier this year, and jettisoning some human cargo should help accelerate the recovery. The company plans to share more information on The Plan as it develops.
The doctor ordered Intel to take several rounds of layoff medicine to recover from declining sales, and it already swallowed the first two doses. The third round of medicine is underway with Intel confirming that it is restructuring its sales and marketing units, which followed the previous cuts to the mobile device and business product lines. There is not a clear indication if there will be any further rounds before Intel reaches its goal of 12,000 layoffs (out of 107,000 employees).
Storage is such a promising industry, and if one were to read the continuous onslaught of information claiming that we are running out of enough storage capacity to store the world's data, you'd believe that the industry is awash in cash. Reality is a bit different from perception, however; companies still have to manage their multi-billion dollar empires effectively.
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