The recent floods in Thailand have had an immense cost in terms of infrastructure and, sadly, lives. It’s tough to put anything into proper context with that as a result, but it’s worth bringing up first before I write about the effect that the floods will have on the world of technology.
In the technology sphere, there will be serious repercussions in terms of the prices we pay for technology goods, especially those that require mechanical hard drives. Thailand sits (or sat) as the second largest producer of hard drives internationally, and the factories that supplied those drives (most notably those manufactured by Western Digital) were inundated with water; right now there are a few factories back up and producing, but recovery will be slow.
What does this mean at a consumer end level? It’s already being seen with some vendors putting up prices for hard drives significantly in recent weeks. That’s both internal drives and external enclosures that connect via USB, SATA or Firewire. Some of that in the early stages was nothing more than profiteering, as most places had a certain amount of stock on hand, but now there’s some genuine shortages coming through and prices are starting to rise. The practical upshot of that is that if you’re thinking about buying more storage, whether it’s just to expand capacity or to aid in backup (you do back up your files, right?) then the time to buy is right now, especially if you spot a bargain. The chances are extremely high that the bargain won’t last, as it’ll either be snapped up by others or simply adjusted to reflect the new cost of mechanical data.
There’s also been some evidence to suggest that larger PC vendors may be hit by the hard drive shortages in terms of the speed with which they’ll be able to deliver new PCs and notebooks. It’s all largely anecdotal at this stage; no major vendor has come out to say that they’re expecting mass delays, but it’s somewhat inevitable that machines — especially those where you require a less than off-the-shelf kind of configuration — will be harder to put together if mechanical hard drives are harder to source.
The one IT winner in all this may be solid state drives (SSDs). We’ve covered those before, and it’s anticipated that SSD shipments will continue unabated, and therefore may be easier to source. That may make them a more attractive proposition for PC vendors to start including in all types of machines, but then again there will be a tradeoff. SSDs are still comparatively more expensive and of smaller storage capacity than their mechanical counterparts. As such, you may be able to get a PC or laptop with SSD quite a bit faster — but you’ll pay more for the privilege of doing so.