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 Post subject: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:57 am 
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Is there anyone who have already tested it?

If in case, does it worthy improve the real world performance of a mean green desktop drive (or notebook one too)?

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Last edited by quest_for_silence on Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HHDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:20 am 
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Obviously it can make a huge difference. It depends on your usage. But you can also set up a separate SSD and HD yourself to get even better performance (depending on your usage again).

The problem here is: would you trust your data to this thing? I wouldn't. Not without researching technical details, something I don't want to do.
Ideally, you would do it in software with a filesystem that supports it like ZFS. You could also use a battery-backed controller. Another solution might be to use something like Intel's Z68 chipset if you're on Windows. But none of these solutions are very reliable on a small budget.
It's straightforward enough to implement a read cache (in many cases your RAM will be sufficient however). But implementing a reliable write cache is fraught with issues.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HHDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:58 am 
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HFat wrote:
Obviously it can make a huge difference. It depends on your usage. But you can also set up a separate SSD and HD yourself to get even better performance (depending on your usage again).

But if the SSD fail all the data are (should be) mirrored on the hard disk, with the HDDBoost.
Almost as much as the cache feature of the Z68 chipset, if I'm not wrong.

HFat wrote:
The problem here is: would you trust your data to this thing? I wouldn't. Not without researching technical details, something I don't want to do.

AFAIK it's basically a RAID 1 controller (no cache on board), but there's not so much about it around (maybe just a review at Hardware Canucks).

I have to decide whether or not it makes sense to retro-fit some three-four years old pee-cee for about 70 euros each (a 40-60GB 3rd gen. SSD and this SS box).

Eventually I can't afford ZFS: they're all windows-based.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:14 am 
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So it's not a way to use a SSD for cache (like Z68, something that could be useful) but a backup device for the SSD?
That would be silly. You can backup your SSD with software. It would be more reliable than a hardware solution unless you were willing to slow to your SSD to worse than HD speeds (and the hardware would also have to be well-designed, something I don't trust Silverstone to do).
Maybe you should explain exactly what you want to do and why you are not satisfied with regular backup procedures and software.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:26 am 
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HFat wrote:
So it's not a way to use a SSD for cache (like Z68, something that could be useful) but a backup device for the SSD?
That would be silly. You can backup your SSD with software. It would be more reliable than a hardware solution unless you were willing to slow to your SSD to worse than HD speeds (and the hardware would also have to be well-designed, something I don't trust Silverstone to do).

Maybe an image may work better than any of my words:

Image

HFat wrote:
Maybe you should explain exactly what you want to do and why you are not satisfied with regular backup procedures and software.

A mid-life upgrade mainly aimed at performance improvement, which doesn't requires too many efforts and workmanship (and no or little reliability hassle).

EDIT: I was wrong, there're lots of review to dig into.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:37 am 
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Yeah but why don't you simply replace the HD with a decent SSD like a 40G 320? What more is needed?
If you need more storage, you can leave the HD and use it only for for movies or whatever large files you've got which wouldn't fit on the SSD.

According to this picture, they use the SSD as a cache. But like I said, I wouldn't trust their implementation. It looks terrible.

The simplest way to get more cache is to add more RAM. But if you're on Windows, can't you use ReadyBoost? It's probably not very reliable but I'd sooner trust that than Silverstone's hardware implementation.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:58 am 
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HFat wrote:
Yeah but why don't you simply replace the HD with a decent SSD like a 40G 320? What more is needed?
If you need more storage, you can leave the HD and use it only for for movies or whatever large files you've got which wouldn't fit on the SSD.

According to this picture, they use the SSD as a cache. But like I said, I wouldn't trust their implementation. It looks terrible.

As a matter of fact I'm looking for some hands on experience in order to better evaluate their implementation.

HFat wrote:
The simplest way to get more cache is to add more RAM. But if you're on Windows, can't you use ReadyBoost? It's probably not very reliable but I'd sooner trust that than Silverstone's hardware implementation.

They're old XP SP3 machines (no Vista, God damn it), with AMD 4850e, IGP, 2GB DDR2 and 500GB first generation Caviar Green.
Adding 2GB DDR2 would cost as much as a basic SSD and won't work on XP 32bit, while a faster modern green drive may not improve performance enough, I think.

Performance wise the SSD boot disk is surely a better (and 18 euros cheaper) option, but I have to back-up all data, re-install at least four times OS and apps (so time consuming hassles), moreover currently only two of four machine have a back up system (Seagate GoFlex drives with automation sw, and I don't like to risk a typical SSD unrecoverable issue on a production machine).

So that hw cache would look like (to me) a decent trade-off among performance, reliability and lazyness, for a mid term update (estimated working life: a couple of years more). For about 18 euros more per seat.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:17 am 
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You can clone. There's no need to reinstall.

If your boxes need backups with an SSD, they need a backup *now*. Hard drives aren't much more reliable, you know.
Turning an internal drive into the equivalent of your Seagate externals (that's what they are, right?) should cost you around 15-20 euros.

This Silverstone device may be cheap but it won't give you SSD performance and using it would be courting disaster.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:32 am 
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HFat wrote:
You can clone.

Cloning doesn't align. At least with the software I am used to (Acronis TI 2009).

HFat wrote:
If your boxes need backups with an SSD, they need a backup *now*. Hard drives aren't much more reliable, you know.

You are right: everyday is the int'l back up day.
When I have a couple of hundred euros spare on budget I will buy a couple more of Seagate boxes.
But now I have a performance problem on four pee-cee, which I'm trying to address with limited resources.

HFat wrote:
Turning an internal drive into the equivalent of your Seagate externals (that's what they are, right?) should cost you around 15-20 euros.

And it will leave me with the performance problem.
However those critties (GoFlex) are not easily replicable: easy, silent, efficient, fast and small. And with a 5-years warranty.

HFat wrote:
using it would be courting disaster.

Up to know I think that I should just loose that alleged performance improvement. But who knows...

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:43 am 
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There's no excuse not to backup. A couple hundred euros? You could back up for free if you wanted. You make really cheap externals with old drives and an adapter cable if you wanted.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Cloning doesn't align. At least with the software I am used to (Acronis TI 2009).

Then align yourself. Or use some other software if it doesn't let you. Cloning is not rocket science. And alignment isn't required unless you want the best performance.

HFat wrote:
However those critties (GoFlex) are not easily replicable: easy, silent, efficient, fast and small. And with a 5-years warranty.

They're easily replicable. If they're 2.5'' externals, get any cheap 2.5'' drive (30-35 euros I guess, less if you're buying used) and a 5 euros chinese enclosure.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:13 am 
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HFat wrote:
There's no excuse not to backup. A couple hundred euros? You could back up for free if you wanted. You make really cheap externals with old drives and an adapter cable if you wanted.

Sometimes I think you can't resist to show contentious (with some reasons, of course).

You don't know the scenario I'm looking at: these are production machines, but this isn't an industrial location.
These are the working PCs of four secretaries of a small law firm: I can't leave spare drives with adapter cable around on their stylish but minuscule operation desk.
Moreover they wanted at time a cute and sleek enclosure on such tables: the Antec Minuet, because looks classy in piano black and silver profiles.
To me it means an annoying TFX PSUs (butquiet enough for an office environment) and cramped space to work in: there's only 1 (one) hard drive bay, and I would exploit the (useless) front floppy bay to host the SSD (or HDDBoost, if in case).
The tiny GoFlex perfectly fit that ambient and their way of working: it's piano black, it's silent, it's fire and forget (with a reassuring white activity LED).

HFat wrote:
And alignment isn't required unless you want the best performance.

Which is why I'm thinking to SSDs...

HFat wrote:
They're easily replicable. If they're 2.5'' externals, get any cheap 2.5'' drive (30-35 euros I guess, less if you're buying used) and a 5 euros chinese enclosure.

You don't know them: they're double muffled 1.5TB drives, with modular connectors and proprietary software, no chinese enclosure works. Are they pricey? More probably that not they aren't inexpensive (as any other commercial product), but they fit the needs better. But it's not the current question.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:47 am 
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quest_for_silence wrote:
Sometimes I think you can't resist to show contentious (with some reasons, of course).

I'm trying to save your butt. I'm only telling you this because you seem well-meaning. You do whatever you want with your data. Saying "I don't have a budget for backups" is totally irresponsible when you're talking about other people's data.

A law firm without backups! Are you kidding me? They can afford 200 euros.
I hope you're also doing online backups. If they have data on their workstations (as opposed to a server), you want both online backups of the data and cloning to external drives. RAID1 on top of that could be justified as well.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Which is why I'm thinking to SSDs...

The advantage of SSDs for random access is so huge alignment hardly matters. If you don't want better random access performance, you shouldn't be using SSDs. If you do, you don't need alignment to get a huge improvement.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:02 pm 
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Are those machines networked? If they are, you don`t need one external backup drive for each since you can copy the data through the network. If Seagate`s software cannot do this, a batch file using the xcopy command (and the appropriate switches depending on your needs) will do the job.

Back to the core issue, I have to agree with HFat, I would install an ssd and then manually clone or reinstall the OS, it`s just a cleaner solution Even without aligning the drive, I would expect performance to be better compared to any ssd caching solution. Besides, who guarantees you that HDDboost will properly align the ssd? It could also complicate matters when it comes to using trim on the ssd. Talking about trim, keep in mind that not all drives support this on windows xp so you`ll need to look into it. OCZ does(did?) provide a tool to do this manually in win xp, don`t know which drives are supported though, other than the original vertex which I`m using.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:24 pm 
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On second thought, the backups might actually fit on a USB Flash drive if you're willing to use other software than Seagate's. It's something you usually recommend to laptop users but it seems it would fit the requirements in this instance as well. You'd need a decent Flash drive and they aren't free but they wouldn't be remotely close to 100 euros either unless the secretaries have a lot more data than most.

Intel's got a utility to TRIM deleted sectors on XP. Not in real-time of course but on schedule. Their drives work well enough without TRIM that you only need to schedule it often if you've filled the drive (which would hurt performance and reliability even with a TRIM-enabled OS).


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:53 am 
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HFat wrote:
quest_for_silence wrote:
Sometimes I think you can't resist to show contentious (with some reasons, of course).

I'm trying to save your butt. I'm only telling you this because you seem well-meaning. You do whatever you want with your data. Saying "I don't have a budget for backups" is totally irresponsible when you're talking about other people's data.

I'm sorry, I didn't want to be offensive.
I just wanted to say that you're often strong and aggressive supporting your beliefs/experiences.
So thanks, even from my lazy butt. ;-)

That said, the firm is already well informed by me what they have to do for their workstations back-ups (JFYI they don't rely just upon them however, there's also a centralized backup - nightly tape - on top a RAID-1 server for the relevant shared folders, local backup is meant for day-by-day working before finalized documents are stored over the shared folders, as too much often the secretaries works on local copies instead than on networked ones, against my general recommendation).
Eventually I simply can't take decisions which other people have to do: I can just make some strong suggesting, and it's what I've done (about their storage policies and working practices).

HFat wrote:
A law firm without backups! Are you kidding me? They can afford 200 euros.
I hope you're also doing online backups. If they have data on their workstations (as opposed to a server), you want both online backups of the data and cloning to external drives. RAID1 on top of that could be justified as well.

No online backup (if you mean backup onto Internet storage space), IP links aren't adequate to them (generally speaking xDSL links leave a lot to desire, here).

You're right, in absolute terms the amount of money required for that additional protection is small but, as already said, actually I cannot force them to cope to my given recommendations (to buy two more backup units, and at least to work only onto networked folders).

HFat wrote:
The advantage of SSDs for random access is so huge alignment hardly matters. If you don't want better random access performance, you shouldn't be using SSDs. If you do, you don't need alignment to get a huge improvement.

Do you mean random access IOPs or just random access time ("isn't affected by a proper alignment")?

My own past experience with XP (and Vista) not-aligned SSDs talk about evident stuttering (using Intel X-25M and OCZ Vertex 2, not to mention far worse benchmarking figures).

ntavlas wrote:
Back to the core issue, I have to agree with HFat, I would install an ssd and then manually clone or reinstall the OS, it`s just a cleaner solution Even without aligning the drive, I would expect performance to be better compared to any ssd caching solution

The core issue is that I've been requested about so (summarizing): "our secretaries complain that working (they mean: boot time and editing files with MS Office) has become more sluggish: can we address those complains with a very small amount of money (they mean: including my handwork)? If yes, do it: if not, let them work same way as before".

So, what I will do is going to buy (for me) a single HDDBoost (for those mere 18 euros), and do some tests on my own workbench using a spare OCZ Vertex 2 50GB. And see: as no-one can easily predict how it will work, even if I have appreciated very much your very educated guessworks, I think it would be a good thing to do my own direct experience about it.
So that, in the worst case, if it shouldn't prove itself enough effective, I would have spent 18 euros for some form of additional personal expertise.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:01 pm 
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Testing things yourself is not always a solution. I'd say the main thing you need to test about that Silverstone gadjet assuming it has no glaring flaw is integrity and specifically what happens to concurrential sequences of writes in case power is lost. No offense but it you can test that competently, getting alignment right should be a piece of cake for you.

quest_for_silence wrote:
I'm sorry, I didn't want to be offensive.

You weren't. Don't worry about that.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Eventually I simply can't take decisions which other people have to do: I can just make some strong suggesting, and it's what I've done (about their storage policies and working practices). ... I cannot force them to cope to my given recommendations (to buy two more backup units, and at least to work only onto networked folders).

You can influence their decisions (with phony managerial rhetoric about risks or with dirty tricks if need be) and you can offer solutions that work around the issues with their working practices. It's your responsibility.
For instance, there's software that will back up all the files that have been changed on workstations to a central server. That takes care of people who don't want to work from shares at a lower cost than backing up every workstation (but you need workstation images and/or spares anyway).

quest_for_silence wrote:
IP links aren't adequate to them (generally speaking xDSL links leave a lot to desire, here).

Using incremental or differential backups and compression, you can squeeze a lot of backup value out of a slow link.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Do you mean random access IOPs or just random access time ("isn't affected by a proper alignment")?

I didn't say "isn't affected", only that it'd be a huge improvement over hard drives anyway.
Forget phony benchmarks and specs. It's not that they're necessarily irrelevant but you want real-world performance. Hard drives work well when accessing a single large file per drive. But if you try to access several things at once or to access a bunch of small files, performance compared to SSDs is terrible. So affordable SSDs do speed up boot time and work with heavy office apps and/or processing many files (assuming I/O was a bottleneck to begin with).

I've used a 320 with XP and I recall it worked perfectly without alignement or tweaks.
But if you experienced stuttering with the X-25M, I suspect it's not primarily because the old controller is worse. The problem could be with the kind of loads you put on the drive. If you write large files, affordable SSDs can have performance problems compared to hard drives. I imagine misalignement can make it worse, especially when there's little available Flash (no TRIM can get you there fairly fast).
Another possible problem is misbehaved malware or anti-malware software which scans a bunch of files as fast as it can. Windows is prone to IO-related unresponsiveness with any kind of drive.

quest_for_silence wrote:
our secretaries complain that working (they mean: boot time and editing files with MS Office) has become more sluggish

"has become more sluggish" = imaginary problem, office politics or software problem (misconfigured anti-malware junk? useless junk running in the background? software upgrades which should be rolled back?)
Software problems can sometimes be solved by throwing hardware at it but that's not necessarily the most efficient way to solve them. As to imaginary problems, they're best solved with placebo upgrades.


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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 12:28 am 
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HFat wrote:
No offense but it you can test that competently, getting alignment right should be a piece of cake for you.

No offense taken, I cannot test that competently.

The only things I would look at is how mirroring works, what happens if I disconnect the cache (to simulate a definitive SSD fail), and whether or not there is any (enough) noticeable performance difference (over an SSD boot drive).
About power loss, the SS system has no battery back-up, so any power loss may be disruptive (if it involves writing on the mechanical drive, and providing the SSD is an Intel one with its cap protection): but every workstation has its own 300VA UPS, so I hope it won't be a problem.

HFat wrote:
For instance, there's software that will back up all the files that have been changed on workstations to a central server. That takes care of people who don't want to work from shares at a lower cost than backing up every workstation (but you need workstation images and/or spares anyway).

Which software are you think at?

If they were Windows 7 (or even Vista) machines, I could use the integrated AIK's Windows Backup to create images remotely. But they are XP ones.
So I think I should upgrade the existing Acronis software to their corporate license, in order to have a distribuited backup capabilities (again, at a cost).

HFat wrote:
"has become more sluggish" = imaginary problem, office politics or software problem (misconfigured anti-malware junk? useless junk running in the background? software upgrades which should be rolled back?)
Software problems can sometimes be solved by throwing hardware at it but that's not necessarily the most efficient way to solve them. As to imaginary problems, they're best solved with placebo upgrades.

Any small firm (not necessarily a law firm) environment is sort of a nightmare, here.
Italy is "no country for IT men" (pun intended). I think you're far away from our (or just mine) reality, HFat (to say, there're no swiss banks here).

Just to a last chat, one of the latest (major?) coolprit is... Google Desktop (and the need to access the corporate collaborative environment with mobile devices). It's really terrible on an old gen dual core seat having it in the background.
Then they come such attitudes as working with the wrong instruments: JFE there's an employee who works on an around 70MB single spreadsheet file (full of complex formulas), just because she doesn't know how to use a database, and her employer doesn't will to pay for her (probably long but necessary) training, and for the (probably more complex but necessary) software (as, however, he gets what he wants, currently, so why bother about?).

I just need more nerve and some phony words? It may be, I will try to gear up for this purpose.

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 Post subject: Re: Silverstone HDDBoost
PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:22 am 
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quest_for_silence wrote:
Which software are you think at?

Lots of software is used to do that sort of thing. Different tools do different things. No doubt Acronis can do this. Bacula would be one of the free products which is able to make use of Windows' non-standard features. You can also roll your own of course. I usually use rsync. Some fairly polished online backup software also allows you to backup to your own server.

quest_for_silence wrote:
Google Desktop

Well, that's a problem that should solve itself: it's been discontinued.
You should be able to configure such software so that it stops being a nuisance. Worst case, you should be able to deny it enough permissions so that it stops misbehaving.


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