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Do SSDs Lose Data When Static?

Hard drives have long been the standard when it comes to data storage for consumers and enterprises, but solid state drives are gaining in popularity. Although they still haven’t become the de facto storage device, simply because they don’t offer enough capacity or a low enough price point against HDDs, they are on the rise. However, some concerning news has emerged that suggests that SSDs could lose data quite quickly when stored in certain conditions.

This report comes from KoreLogic Security Blog, who claims that some SSDs stored without power can begin to lose data within a week. While it’s known that SSDs do have a shelf life, the claim that they can lose data so quickly is a worrying one.

Apparently SSDs won’t lose data if they’re supplied with power, but those disconnected and being used for long-term storage could face data loss. Factors that influence the retention period of those non-powered SSDs include the amount of usage the drive has already undergone, the storage environment temperature, and the materials that make up the memory chips within the drive.

The Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) is a group that defines the standards for the microelectronics industry; their remit includes the standards for SSDs. One such rating is an endurance rating, which partly factors in to how long the device can retain data with the power off.

For SSDs used for client applications, the power-off retention period standard is a year. For enterprise usage, that drops to three months. While these are the standards, these retention periods can greatly vary depending on the surrounding storage temperature.

For every 5 degrees C of temperature rise in SSD storage, the retention period is approximately halved. As such, if a consumer SSD is stored at 25 degrees C then it should be expected to last about 2 years without any power. However, increase that temperature by just 5 degrees, to 30 degrees C, and you’re looking at a shelf life of just a year.

Consider what impact this has on enterprise drives. Whereas the consumer drive would last 2 years in 25 degree C heat, the enterprise drive would only last 20 weeks on standard before data started being lost. Add the five degrees to that and it drops drastically to just 10 weeks. When it comes to long-term data storage, that’s simply not an acceptable time period.

Samsung, Intel and Seagate, a selection of SSD manufacturers, all have retention periods that would be expected from the JEDEC – and they all quote the three month retention period. While that’s probably a low prediction in order to cover their backs, it still highlights the vulnerability of storing data on a disconnected SSD.

What can you do to prevent this? Ensure you’re storing your drives at a suitable temperature, for one. But really the best thing to do is not to store long-term archive data on a SSD. It doesn’t make sense considering the data loss, but it also isn’t cost effective. You should just use a mechanical hard drive, which will offer greater capacity and a lower price, since the speed benefits of a SSD are far less relevant for archiving.


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