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Hard Drive Shipments Have Plummeted, But There’s Still an Audience

July 22, 2022

Consumer demand for hard disk drives (HDDs) has dropped by 35% year-on-year, according to an analysis from Trendfocus. This follows reports that Microsoft is encouraging — or strongarming — manufacturers to speed the industry-wide transition to solid-state drives (SSDs)

By contrast, SSD shipments increased by 11% in the fourth quarter of 2021 and seem on pace for further growth, but there’s a silver lining for HDD manufacturers.

At, we perform professional recovery services on all types of digital media (along with Betacam tapes and select other analog media formats). Over the last decade, personal computers have relied more on HDD technology for long-term storage — but for server applications, HDD remains the standard. Here’s why.

Hard drives are slower than SSDs, but they’re better attuned to the needs of cloud computing.

The term “cloud” is ambiguous enough to generate debate (and derision) in IT circles. Essentially, the cloud is just servers — albeit complex servers with multiple layers of redundancy. 

Of course, these servers require physical storage media. Hard drives have slower read/write speeds than solid-state media — a standard hard drive can attain speeds of up to 160 MB/s, while an SSD can reach speeds of 550 MB/s. In personal computing applications, this makes SSDs a clear winner.

However, that advantage becomes less important at scale. Servers use RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) to distribute data across multiple hard drives, allowing server administrators to overcome typical HDD speed limitations.

In a performance report from ZDNet, RAID 5s with four hard drives achieved sequential performance of  218 MB/sec (1.744 gbps) read speeds and 193 MB/sec (1.544 gbps) speeds. 

And since the workload is distributed across the media, more hard drives typically means faster speeds. Cloud environments routinely utilize systems with dozens of drives. 

Hard drives have other benefits for large-scale applications: 

  • SSDs have a limited number of read/write cycles, and servers need to write data constantly. While hard drives also have limited operating lifespans, they don’t have this exact limitation. 
  • Hard drives are inexpensive. Even high-performance HDDs built for server usage are less expensive than SSDs per gigabyte.
  • On average, hard drives support larger capacities per device. This isn’t universally true: The largest SSD, to date, can hold 100 terabytes — but has a price tag of $40,000. 

While hard drive shipments are slowing, the global cloud computing market is growing.

The cloud computing market is expected to pass the $800 billion mark by 2025. For HDD manufacturers, the writing is on the wall: Consumers will continue to switch to HDDs, but there are still plenty of opportunities for growth.

In the future, engineering challenges will need to be overcome to maintain the dominance of the HDD in the cloud computing space. Manufacturers will need to create more reliable drives with higher capacities and better read/write speeds — but for engineers, these challenges are hardly new.

To put that another way: The hard drive market won’t disappear anytime soon. It’ll change significantly, but the storage device that made the digital revolution possible still has an important role to play in its future.

If you’ve lost data due to a hard drive failure, server failure, or for any other reason, we’re here to help. provides free media evaluations, and our no data, no charge guarantee provides peace of mind as your case progresses. Get started by calling our team at 1-800-237-4200 or submit a case online.