The Quick Differences Between Flash vs. SSD Storage

December, 13 2022

The Quick Differences Between Flash vs. SSD Storage

Businesses can only grow as much as their data allows them to. Effective data management allows any business the ability to build capacity endlessly, but everything comes back to how and where you store your data.

Relying on USB thumb drives or data centers simply won’t cut it these days; the only way to ensure your data components will still be around a long time from now is through active management.

But the more your business grows, the more your data begins to perform for you, and revenue skyrockets — even with additional moving parts like new employees, remote work setups, and, of course, more data to manage.

Before we dive into every key difference between flash storage and SSD storage, take a moment to refresh yourself on the difference between memory and storage, if needed.

Key Summary

  • Non-volatile data — data that isn’t erased once the hardware is turned off — storage options commonly come down to two options: flash storage vs. SSDs.
  • Flash storage (AKA flash memory) is often a part of SSD storage, but SSD storage cannot be flash storage.
  • SSDs (solid-state drives) have practically unlimited lifespans — up to 20 years while computers generally survive around 6 years — making them the cheaper long-term option.

A USB flash drive rests on an open book.

What is Flash Storage?

Flash storage, also called “flash memory,” is a non-volatile form of data storage usually contained in memory cells on computer chips. Non-volatile in this case means that the data won’t disappear even if the power suddenly cuts out.

Flash storage got its name from being a lightning-fast storage medium small enough to fit mobile devices like cell phones and digital cameras. The name obviously stuck around, influencing more culturally-common phrases for technology like “flash drives” (USB storage devices) and Adobe’s famous software, Flash.

What is SSD Storage?

SSD storage stands for “solid-state drive,” a nod to the non-volatile data storage pathway it paved after the old-school spinning disk hard disk drives (HDDs) we used until the new millennia.

Just like flash storage, SSDs such as hard disk drives or external SSDs don’t need constant power to store data; once the data’s coded onto the disk, it’ll stay until it’s removed.

If you’ve dabbled in PC building at all, you’ve likely heard of SSD drives as a way to increase RAM (Random Access Memory). While you can upgrade your RAM, it’s not with SSDs.

Learn more about upgrading your RAM here.

An unpictured person holds a cable plugged into a small, portable memory bank (an SSD) to plug into their Playstation 5 (PS5).

Every key difference between Flash Storage vs. SSD

We’ve already covered that neither flash memory nor solid-state drives use volatile memory, but what makes the two storage mediums different?

The main difference is that flash memory is used in SSDs, but you’ll never find an SSD in a flash storage device. This comes down to basic economies of scale, where both in storage and physical space, SSDs are always larger in size than flash storage devices.

Here are more of the specific differences broken down (in no specific order):

1. Uses

Flash storage is found in almost every device you can think of: phones, cameras, laptops, computers, and even smart speakers use flash memory in their repetitive tasks.

SSDs are used exclusively for computers and PCs, as they are almost always physically larger than flash storage options and more complex in general.

2. Lifespans

All storage devices have limited lifespans, but flash storage devices are particularly consumable. Due to the way the data is physically captured onto the memory card or chip, the data can only be rewritten so many times before needing to be replaced.

SSDs, on the other hand, have an almost limitless lifespan when compared to the average computer (around five years, depending on care and maintenance).

Pro Tip: You can extend the lifespans of your computers with basic cybersecurity, protecting your devices from physical damage, and keeping an eye on your data usage. A slowing computer is a sign of a dying computer, so stay on top of your computer’s storage needs!

3. Storage

Even though both flash storage and SSDs use non-volatile memory, their storage capacities are on two different playing fields.

For reference, SSD storage options start at 120GB and up to 100TB, while flash storage options start as small as 64MB and only store up to 1TB of data. To put it plainly, flash storage options are designed for portability and will always be smaller than SSDs.

Here’s where it gets complicated: SSD storage typically is flash storage. Or at least most SSDs are made up of Negative-AND (NAND) flash chips, which are functionally similar to the chips in USB drives and flash cards.

Technically, you could add as many high-speed memory chips to create the ultimate flash-based SSDs computer, but that would be beyond any basic computer user’s needs!

4. Performance

As you can imagine, flash storage options perform worse than SSDs on average — simply because they’re smaller devices.

That said, amping up your flash storage is still the better option for high-performance needs in general, as we just covered. Flash storage is technically faster and newer than SSD storage; it just wouldn’t be nearly as cost-effective to run on flash memory alone.

5. Price

In general, it’s best to approach technology spending decisions with an investor’s mindset. SSDs are bigger, more complex devices; for that reason alone, they’ll be more expensive.

Flash storage devices, of course, are the exact opposite. However, because they aren’t nearly as long-term as SSDs regarding growing capacity needs, flash storage options are replaced more often.

Pricing out the two storage options, then, comes down to a single choice: Do you need more storage space to grow into, or faster technology to perform alongside?

The answer for most businesses is the former, which is why SSDs are more popular than their flash counterparts.

An old floppy disk sits on a desk.

The future of Flash Storage vs. SSD

Whether you’re in need of a new flash storage or SSD storage device today or not, the future of flash storage will maintain in SSDs. As physical data storage — and anything using mechanical components to run programming write cycles — begins to phase out of our daily lives, SSDs will continue to get cheaper and more accessible.

Specifically speaking, SSDs are far more compatible with existing hardware than flash storage options, making them easier to adopt into your existing business without headaches. Cloud data options are also becoming more popular as businesses continue to move 100% online.

That said, relying 100% on any data storage solution is generally a bad idea.

Your data is your greatest asset

As we continue down this winding road of technological development, hybrid cloud storage solutions, and metaverses on all sides, remember: your data is your greatest asset in today’s world.

Harnessing that data — watching it, understanding it, and then building strategies off of it — starts with simply being aware of all the ways you’re interacting with data around you (or perhaps helping your employees see this for themselves).

Don’t overdo it, though. Avoiding data overwhelm starts with small habits that build off of each other over time. And when it comes to starting small, there’s no better place to start than the devices you’re already habitually using everyday.

If you’re struggling to identify where you need to start with your data storage solutions after reading through this, feel free to give us a call or let us help you get started — no strings attached.