Companies have a funny tendency to do just about anything for publicity. Being a storage writer requires staying up to date on the news, and in the normal course of my week, I watch companies clamor for attention daily. Attempts range from the mundane to the hilarious, and sometimes even questionable. Some will do anything to separate themselves from the thunderous cacophony of the thousand other companies screaming for attention.
Personally, I'm happy I'm not the one tasked with promoting companies or their products. I can see that there must be somewhat of an addictive property to nailing it though, as we observed from the splash of Backblaze headlines in the last few weeks.
Backblaze has had their name emblazoned on the front page of every tech website this week with the results of their HDD reliability blog post. Backblaze's blog is a running anthology of their company, and their efforts to provide users with unlimited online backup for a scant $5 a month. The very fact that you read that sentence makes this all worthwhile for Backblaze - they just got their message out.
This latest post is a result of their initial blog entries covering how long HDDs last, and the follow-up that enterprise HDD's are less reliable than consumer drives. Needless to say, there are holes in the methodology big enough to drive a truck through. However, the headlines led to questions from the public about more detailed drive failure rates, and Backblaze complied with the latest post, "Which Hard Drive Should I Buy?".
While Backblaze is somewhat clear about the results, they don't explain the test environment, and they don't do a good job of explaining why much of their data is worthless to the typical consumer. Further digging unearths questionable practices, at least if the goal is to gather data on drive reliability. Backblaze follows the open source mentality of sharing data on their enclosures, and even share schematics so readers can build their own Backblaze servers. This provides us some insight into their activities.
Reading their blog posts during the HDD crisis in 2011 is enthralling, they really do go to any length to continue operation in a cost-efficient manner. Unfortunately, that doesn't fall in line with determining the winners or losers of HDD reliability. To add insult to injury, most tech websites have picked this story up and proclaimed the results as a definitive guide to drive reliability.
The Backblaze results have been tallied and placed in nice charts, and winners proclaimed. Hitachi and Western Digital appear to be the winners, and Seagate comes in a distant third. However, in this case, even the winners are losers. Let's fire up the truck and drive through the holes in this test, and explain exactly why the results shouldn't affect anyone's purchasing decision.