Helium drive – Lighter and better

Helium Drive, the next revolution in data storage

The world of technology is advancing all the time. Sometimes things move quickly and your new gadget is out of date before you’ve barely gotten used to it! In the world of hard drives, things don’t tend to move so quickly. But, there’s a recent development that has already revolutionised the large-scale data storage market, that should soon be available direct to the consumer: the helium drive.

Helium, better than air

A helium drive is different from a ‘normal’ hard drive because it is encased in helium, rather than air. While that may not sound like something that should have a significant impact on data storage, it does.

The reason is that helium is a lot less dense than normal air, which is made up of a number of different gasses. That lower level of density means a helium drive can perform better than a traditional hard drive; it can spin faster and last longer while using less power and creating less heat.

That’s not all. The encasement used to keep the helium in place means there is a much lower chance that dust particles can enter into the filter systems associated with other hard drives. Those tiny dust particles can cause more damage than you might think to a hard drive, so this is another pretty big positive.

Those are among the main reasons behind a growing number of big companies and data storage firms switching to helium drives from more traditional hard drives.

So far so good

But, while there is talk of helium drives coming to the direct to consumer market, it’s unlikely to happen until one thing changes: pricing. At the moment, helium drives are a tad on the expensive side, which isn’t usually a good start if you want to enter the general consumer retail market. However, there are signs that this should change.

Western Digital subsidiary HGST, the company formerly known as Hitachi, was the first major producer of the helium drive. Early in 2016, however, Seagate began selling and shipping its own helium filled hard drives. And other firms are sure to follow. As with most industries, once a new trend, system or tech is proven, more firms find a way to get into the market. When more companies produce similar products, costs start falling.

Once more firms invest in this new technology, costs should start falling to levels considered low enough for the consumer retail market. Once that happens, then you can start using the same state-of-the art technology to store your important, personal data, in the same way big businesses and data storage centers do now.

The hard drive

Hard drives – Can they last?

You’ve been using your carefully chosen PC for a couple of years now, and have experienced no problems at all. The warranty has just run out but as things are working well, there are no funny noises when you boot it up and it doesn’t seem to have slowed down at all, you’re happy.

But, while things are working well at two years old, you might want to consider the fact that the average lifespan for a PC’s hard drive has dropped to around 4-6 years. That could mean you have a good four years to go and don’t need to worry. Or, it might mean your half way through your PC hard drive’s life and need to ensure regular and appropriate back up.

In reality, regular and appropriate backing up of your hard drive should be something you do regardless of how old your PC is. And, you should always be vigilant where your hard drive is concerned, any unusual sound or function should be promptly investigated.

Hard drive related costs

As companies increasingly go digital, the use of technology has soared. That has helped encourage the development of new, faster and more reliable tech as well as more of the components that are required to build it. In turn, as more technology is being developed and improved, there is more competition on the market.

That combination of increased production of parts and technology has culminated in a number of changes. One significant change is that the cost of technology has been driven lower.

When prices come down, concerns can arise that the quality of the product might decline too. Due to the growing importance of technology – and the constantly growing market for it – this is less true for computer-related components than it might be of other industries. Although, because technology is updated so often and older components become out of date more quickly than they used to, there is likely some truth to that expectation.

So, while a shorter hard drive lifespan means more frequent PC replacements, lower costs mean that while replacing your hard drive, or PC can be a pain, it isn’t as expensive as it used to be.

Data storage boom

Those lower technology-related costs have also fed through to data-storage fees. Demand for data storage and archiving, combined with suitable technology for it, has also helped to lower the price of data storage. From large-scale, off-site data storage business use, to personal storage devices for data files including photos and spreadsheets, you can get more for less.

In particular, external hard drives for personal home use, are cheaper than ever. But remember, those hard drives also have a shorter lifespan of around the 4-6-year mark. That means you’ll need to keep on top of your dates and provide replacements at regular intervals.

Think you can get around the shorter lifespan with a more expensive option? Think again. Rigorous testing of PCs, laptops and hard drives show that while some brands do perform better than the warranty states, the more expensive options rarely do better than the market standard.