January 23, 2012
Last year Thailand experienced the worst monsoon season in 50 years with hundreds of lives lost and over two thirds of the country swamped by the end of October. The tragic images of flooded towns showed the extent of the immediate damage to the region but the long-term impact of that flooding will be felt for some time.
One way in which the flooding has affected the rest of the world is in the supply of computer hard disk drives (HDDs). Apart from being the second largest supplier of complete HDDs after China, Thailand also manufactures individual components which are used by HDD manufacturers in other parts of the world. For example, there is Nidec, a Thai company that supplies more than 70 percent of all HDD motors worldwide. All of the leading hard drive brands, including Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Toshiba, and Samsung, use motors produced by Nidec. Many of these companies were impacted by the floods and as a result, the global supply of HDDs slowed to a trickle. Most of the affected manufacturers are only expecting to have their production rates back to normal by the end of the second quarter of this year, which is still a long time away. Until then we face a severe shortage of HDDs around the world, which our office has actually experienced over the last few months.
At present, some HDD models and capacities are simply not available. Those wanting to purchase HDDs will have to choose from a very limited range of drive capacities and at much higher prices than before; over double the usual price in many cases. Prices are still climbing and that is expected to continue for a few more months. Of course there is little consumers can do about this but if you're planning to purchase any HDDs within the next few months, don't delay.
Your options may become more limited in a few weeks and prices may climb higher. There is one possible upside to all of this and that is the impact it will have on the adoption of Solid State Drive (SSD) technology. Because SSDs don't have any moving components, the manufacturers have been able to continue production of SSDs while HDD production was hampered. As the crisis continues, many consumers will be forced to purchase the more expensive SSD drives instead of traditional HDDs. In fact, the effects of this are already being seen, with SSD manufacturers like Sandisk expecting higher profits on the back of rising SSD sales. This accelerated adoption of SSD technology will help to make these units more affordable, and that is a good thing for all of us!