Choosing Between SAS and Fibre Channel Hard Drives

When you shop for a new piece of storage hardware, learning the basic terminology before evaluating your options can be helpful. For instance, when browsing for a new hard drive, you may initially feel confused by terms like “SAS,” “Fibre Channel” and “SSD.” But once you learn what these terms mean, it becomes easier to select the hard drive for your current data storage and retrieval needs. It can also be helpful to gain a basic knowledge of how hard drives perform and what their main characteristics are (for instance, performance speed, durability, capacity, security) before making a purchase.


Understanding Hard Drives

Unless you work in technology, you may take for granted the presence of hard drives and your daily need for their services. For instance, every time you want to store a document, you use a hard drive to do that. Every time you press “save,” you are sending a piece of data to be stored on a hard drive. And when you want to access that data again, you go to the file where you have stored it, click on it and your hard drive brings the document up on your screen. Hard drives accomplish these tasks in various ways. Two of the newest and most effective ssd storage technologies hard drives use to do this are serial-attached small computer system interface (SAS) and Fibre Channel.

SSD Explained

The SSD, or “solid-state drive,” is a more recent innovation in the world of hard-drive technology. Essentially, the SSD drive stores data without the use of moving disks. This makes data storage and retrieval performance faster and more durable. SSD hard drives are the best choice if you plan to travel with your data and/or you need to store and retrieve data quickly.

SAS Hard Drive

The SAS hard drive differs in several significant ways from its closest hard-drive competitor, Fibre Channel. The main difference comes in two areas — storage capacity and distance.

  • SAS technology uses copper wire, which transmits clearly over shorter distances.
  • SAS speeds are fast outpacing other competitors, including Fibre Channel.
  • SAS systems are quickly becoming the lowest-priced option in the hard-drive market.
  • SAS hard drives offer more setup flexibility for smaller computer systems.

Fibre Channel Hard Drive

Fibre Channel hard-drive technology was for many years the industry leader, but today many consider SAS and Fibre Channel to be neck and neck. Often, the choice comes down to whether you already have one system in place and are simply adding to it, or whether you are installing an entirely new storage-and-retrieval system. Consider these characteristics when deciding to use Fibre Channel:

  • Fibre Channel technology uses fiber optic cable, which transmits clearly over longer distances.
  • Fibre Channel technology is a stable and time-tested technology.
  • Fibre Channel provides a near-seamless level of integration management.
  • Fibre Channel has been the industry leader for years.

Other Important Hard-Drive Options

When selecting between SAS and Fibre Channel technology, evaluate the hard drive for additional important characteristics. The following is a checklist of features to evaluate, regardless of which system you select.

  • Performance. For performance, you want to look first to the speed. Higher speeds mean faster transfer (retrieval and storage). However, with greater performance you may sacrifice some capacity so be aware of what your primary needs are.
  • Durability. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are generally considered to be the most durable hard drives on the market today. This is because data is stored across a number of fixed drives. With no moving parts to break down, SSDs are the hard drive of choice for travelers as well.
  • Security. Some hard-drive models are now self-encrypting, which provides the highest level of security during data transfer (retrieval and storage).

Using this guide, you can evaluate whether to select an SAS or Fibre Channel–based hard-drive system and select any additional features you may require. 

About the Author: Marilyn Huang is a technology reviewer and blogger. She gets hundreds of questions from readers each year asking her to review certain product types and offer recommendations.

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