SSD Erasure: What Enterprises Need to Know

Sep 25, 2019 Blog Article

Solid-state drives (SSDs) can be used alone in a single device, such as in a laptop. Often, however, they are used in tandem with hard disk drives (HDDs) in single machines, or alongside them (in data centers, for instance) to meet the data storage needs of an entire enterprise. This mixed environment can introduce confusion over how to address data destruction for these two very different types of drives.

Russ Ernst, Blancco VP of Products & Technology

Russ Ernst As Blancco CTO, Russ drives product strategy and execution across our Blancco solutions suite. At IT and data security industry conferences, he addresses data lifecycle management, end-of-life IT management, and data sanitization best practices. He also covers how organizations can reach their sustainability goals and fuel the circular economy through secure disposal processes. In addition to the Blancco website, you'll find his insights in Recycling Today, Security Boulevard, Data Center Knowledge, Business Insider, and The Fast Mode, as well as in the upcoming book, Net Zeros and Ones: How Data Erasure Promotes Sustainability, Privacy, and Security.

Since the beginning of personal computing, tech enthusiasts have been interested in expanding and innovating how data is stored. Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) have essentially remained the same since they appeared on the market in the 1950s. But while HDDs are still popular, newer, faster and more efficient technologies are being used in everything from personal notebooks to large data center servers.

The most prevalent of these new technologies are solid-state drives, or SSDs. According to Transparency Market Research’s SSD market research, the global solid-state drive (SSD) market is expected to reach $229.5 billion by 2022—more than the entire 2018 gross domestic product of Iraq, Peru, or Greece.

SSDs can be used alone in a single device, such as in a laptop. Often, however, they are used in tandem with their HDD counterparts in single machines or alongside them (in data centers, for instance) to meet the data storage needs of an entire enterprise. This mixed environment can introduce confusion over how to address data erasure for these two very different types of drives.

Pros & cons of SSDs (and how HDDs compare)

SSDs are available in a variety of interface formats, but the three most popular are SATA, PCIe and NVMe.

SSDs are more expensive than HDDs, but they are getting more affordable each year. For enterprises, New Egg Business reports that a terabyte of storage on an SSD can easily be five or six times as much as as the same capacity on an HDD. SSDs can lower overall total cost of ownership, however: They have lower latency, faster read/writes, and support more IOPS (input/output operations per second). They also use less power (leading to lower operating costs), weigh less and, because they have no moving parts, are more durable.

When it comes to SSD erasure, though, there are some risks.

Data destruction risks with SSDs

Unlike hard disk drives, SSDs do not use a spinning disk to store data. Instead, they store on flash memory chips. While this leads to both greater durability and data density, it means they’re more difficult to sanitize through traditional methods. In fact, their unique data sanitization requirements can cause data security issues when it comes time for data erasure or destruction.

Types of data destruction and how they affect SSD erasure

Each of these methods vary greatly in the kind of verification they can provide, with many providing little to no verification at all. This is a critical piece for enterprises across industries, as many regulations require verification of erasure to comply with data privacy, protection and security policies.

A note on disk defragmentation and SSDs

Disk defragmentation software typically comes pre-installed on personal computers and is promoted as a way to increase a machine’s performance. Running disk defragmentation on HDDs will allow you to see a distinct difference in performance because data is rearranged to move related file fragments closer together. This technique is only for HDDs and does not delete data in the sense of making it unavailable. Regardless, disk defragmentation isn’t effective for SSDs and can seriously damage them over time.

Why secure data erasure is the answer for SSDs

Disk management tools, along with the other data destruction and erasure methods above, must evolve to meet the needs of SSDs even as they continue to evolve.

As your organization integrates SSD technologies into your data storage and processing infrastructure, it’s critical to consider how you will protect that data once your SSDs are ready for reuse, recycling, or another end-of-life destination. Secure SSD erasure overwrites the data as many times as required, erases the data all the way down into the over-provisioned cells, and provides verification that complete sanitization has occurred.

Questions to ask when choosing a vendor for SSD erasure

SSDs are the leading storage technology when it comes to speed and processing, and are expected to surpass HDD global shipments by 2021. You need to ask the right questions to ensure your SSD-stored data is protected from unauthorized access all along its lifecycle, including at the end.

Use the questions below to gauge the effectiveness of your selected end-of-life data protection method, no matter which you choose.

QuestionsOther VendorBlancco Secure Data Erasure
Does the vendor support the widest array of SSDs?Yes
Does the vendor have a patented SSD erasure process?Yes
Does the vendor have a wide array of data erasure solutions across SSDs, HDDs, laptops, files, virtual machines and beyond?Yes
Does the vendor check for and remove BIOS freeze locks?Yes
Does the vendor confirm that complete data erasure has occurred through verification and a tamper-proof audit trail to prove compliance with data retention and sanitization regulations?Yes

Want more information on SSDs and their unseen destruction risks? Download the whitepaper now.

Originally published January 26, 2017, updated and expanded September 27, 2019.