Tier Storage for Consumers
Before we make our case for spreading your data out across different types of drives, let's first discuss the devices we use data on today.
It's not uncommon for a single user to own multiple devices. Desktops, notebooks, tablets, cell phones and even media players can play or manipulate the same data. Later in this article we'll discuss ways to share the same data across all of these devices.
The end-user doesn't always have an option to choose or change the storage in a device, but when it comes to PCs, the options are plentiful. Most real work happens on desktops, although powerful notebooks have gained popularity over the years. High speed storage and large capacity plays a big role in keeping the desktop as the productivity king when it comes to professional applications.
Smaller form factors such as 5mm HDDs, mSATA and the newest form factor, M.2, have brought storage tiers to notebook products. Shown here, a Lenovo W530 has an mSATA slot, 2.5" slot and with a low-cost adapter, a second 2.5" slot that replaces the optical drive.
Next generation notebooks coming to market now replace mSATA with a new, higher speed small form factor when used with a PCI Express interface, M.2. Formally known as NGFF or Next Generation Form Factory, early M.2 drives shipping today can transfer data at nearly 1GB/s. As we demonstrated on the previous page though, keeping that level of performance means keeping unneeded data off of that drive.
Storage Tiers for Consumers
Level 1 - Operating system and frequently accessed data
Level 2 - Additional programs, downloads, essential, but not actively needed data
Level 3 - Permanent data such as pictures, music, and software installation files
Storage Tier - Desktop Recommendations
Desktops are flexible when it comes to storage. A good entry-level tiered storage is pretty basic, put your operating system and frequently used programs on an SSD and install your infrequently accessed programs on a mechanical drive. When installing programs just choose the advanced install option and install them to D:/Program Files to keep things tidy.
Moving beyond a basic setup, RAID offers more capacity and performance for the operating system and can give data redundancy for your long term storage. Modern motherboards ship with six or more SATA ports. The Z87 chipset even offers six SATA III ports and motherboard manufactures have added even more SATA ports through third-party controllers.
Several enthusiasts have moved to a two drive RAID 0 array with two identical SSDs and a three drive RAID 5 array with mechanical hard drives. This delivers the best of both worlds, high speed operating system performance and a level of data security for data you want to keep forever.
Going one step further, adding a NAS to the mix increases your data redundancy options, data availability and brings a whole host of features to the table. We'll talk about some of these on the next page.
Storage Tier - Notebook Recommendations
I use my notebook for just about everything other than gaming. My work weapon of choice is the Lenovo W530, at least until the new W540 hits the market next month. The W530 gives me three storage opportunities - a 2.5", an mSATA, and an additional 2.5" via an adapter that replaces the optical drive.
I recently purchased my daily use W530 and quickly loaded it with flash. I used a 750GB SSD for my operating system, a 240GB mSATA SSD for my supplemental data and for downloading content to and finally a 960GB SSD to keep movies and music on when traveling.
My goal is to reduce the amount of data on the operating system drive. It actually takes some effort to stop downloading files to my desktop, but I'm starting to get back in the habit of downloading everything to the mSATA drive. Since most of the data we download from the web is already compressed, this act saves quite a bit of performance, but over time, the operating system drive will reach a consumer steady state level.