*See story developments in the addendum at the foot of the article.
If I were to ask you what your fears are in photography, what would they be? Let’s set aside the genre-specific issues for a moment, and if we do so, I would be comfortable putting my money where my mouth is by suggesting a hard drive failure is going to be on that list…maybe right near the top. It’s why we spend so much time and part with hard earned greenbacks on redundancy measures in some form or another. Reliability is king when it comes to storing your images, your bread and butter. So it’s concerning then to find out, as reported by TechSpot, there’s a class action lawsuit being filed against Seagate for rather severe reliability problems.
Seagate is a popular name in the storage game, and many of us have, or still currently use, their products so this could potentially directly affect you. This particular lawsuit is based upon the reliability of the 3TB variants like the Barracuda 3TB HDD, and the Backup Plus 3TB HDD, so if you have those, it would seem wise to take necessary precautions at this time, even if to-date you’ve had no problems. In fact, if you have any Seagate drives, it would seem pertinent to do so.
So what’s going wrong and to what extent? Well, ‘reliability’ as a term is a little bit vague, but the numbers provided by Backblaze are anything but. The Seagate Barracuda drives were among the very least reliable drives according to their tests and data from a collection of nearly 50,000 drives. We’re talking about an extremely high failure rate here, even higher than 100%, and in some cases above an astonishing 200%.
If those numbers make little sense to you, just consider that it’s an annualized rate of failure, so if a drive fails in under a year that’s 100%, and if its replacement also fails within a year, it’s 200%. One of the problems seems to be, too, that the drives provided to consumers as replacements were indeed failing at no lower rate. With numbers like that, it’s not hard to see why a lawsuit is taking place.
Speaking of ‘place,’ this lawsuit is only for the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, essentially stating the complaint as being the drives “failed at exceptionally high rates, leaving consumers with broken hardware and significant loss of data.” This all seems to point to a sort of encompassing violation of consumer law and Seagate’s warranties. Even though the suit is Cali-based, those who suffered from this plague of Seagate’s creation are being urged by the law firm, Hagens Berman, to contact them to possibly join the suit.
At this point, the natural reaction is to wonder what drives to get, and what brand to trust. You can find a lot of information within our article archives, but Western Digital, as far as typical off-the-shelf-at-Best-Buy drives go, seem to fare well. But those are sort of basic, and typically very slow. For personal use, and that means small studio use, I favor using Samsung SSD drives like the 850 EVO; we love the G-Tech stuff like the G-RAID 8TB; and Pye and I both adore and move around with the Samsung T1, which is about the best portable solution I’ve ever used.
It’s understood these things are never cheap, but the cost of failure can be, at times, incalculable. You can see the full review of the Samsung T1 here, as well as a sort of inexpensive but useful solution for using internal drives externally with a docking bay. Also, check out the video below.
This kind of news is always sure to get a lot of attention, just given the nature of it, and that kind of attention means it also won’t be immune to scrutiny. Having a conversation with our resident SLRL Technical director just now, the question of reliability came up not just with drives but information, and that sort of lends to how information is interpreted. Tom’s Hardware, a rather established tech resource, has published a post that scrutinizes the legitimacy of the suit, or if not legitimacy, provides food for thought regarding its viability and dare I say, integrity.
According to the post on Tom’s Hardware, it appears a major point of contention is the fact that the, “lawsuit cites the Backblaze reliability reports as proof that the units were faulty (only the 3 TB Barracuda models).” They go into quite a detailed look into the Backblaze practices and how they test, shedding light on some particulars which may prove to bring their own information’s validity as the basis for a lawsuit into question. See the full post here.