FreeNAS USB boot volume degraded again - switch to SD card?

Went checking my servers this morning and found that the boot volume on one of my FreeNAS servers is degraded again. I run it as a mirror with dual Sandisk 32GB USB 2 drives and got about 3 years out of this latest drive. Now time to replace it:

Do I just buy another pair of USB2 drives?

Do I use “Endurance” style micro SD cards in USB2 readers?

Something else I’m not thinking of right now?

I don’t have any space or ports to connect SSD drives inside or I would have switched to those the last time this happened, it’s a little 1U server with 8 data drives. Kind of stuck with USB until I can actually cycle that hardware out for something newer. It’s a SuperMicro X9 based mainboard, been a good machine since I put it in on FreeNAS 9.0, so been a few years now. Been cruising along with eight 2.5 inch 1TB RED NAS drives for a while now, have at least one drive on the shelf for failures (might be two of them).

I did just pull a backup, I know I have one from a few months ago, but always good to pull a fresh one when you see a problem.

And I mention the “endurance” versions of the micro SD cards because I go through about 1 card a year (or less) in my dash cam recorder. Recently bought an endurance branded Samsung Pro card, but much too early to know if it will actually last longer. The Micro SD card is a strong option right now due to the marketing of these “endurance” cards (might be snake oil for all I know).

Also I should mention, I’ve tried metal USB 3 drives in the past… As most will recommend, USB 3 drives get far too hot for use in a FreeNAS system. I learned that the hard way. Even the extra cooling from the metal case was not enough to save the drives. Ended up with an unbootable system and no backup. It was a mess. I finally waited long enough for the drive to cool and got a clean boot, made a backup, and added SSD drives to that server (mirrored) after a fresh install of the same version OS. I did not have luck mirroring the USB with an SSD, the SSD did not boot after the mirror completed. That’s why I did a fresh install. Sometimes you need to learn the hard way!

I have had good luck with the SanDisk Ultra Fit USB drives. They work well and seem to hold up.

That’s what I’m running right now and the one that failed is probably 5 years old now.

I might have thought of the something else, anyone use something like a PCI to dual mSATA card for this function? Seeing this device for around $70 retail and 32gb drives should be really cheap. Funds are extremely limited right now, the admins are looking at every dollar before approving anything. We are in a huge fiscal hole right now, and so far they haven’t laid anyone off so trying to do my part and keep the purchases to a minimum.

Obviously the cheapest choice is just buy a couple of $10 USB drives and swap them out, but wondering if this mSATA might be useful as a way to add cache drives to other machines…

I decided to be somewhat fiscally responsible and went with two 32gb micro SD cards that came with cheap USB readers. I’ll probably regret this, but need to try something different and see if it is viable. Going to be about 2 weeks before they arrive, so I’ll have to use a spare of the current drive for now to get the mirror back running.