Leo says companies have all had different problems with their drives, and now because of acquisitions there's only a handful of hard drive manufacturers. Leo recommends Western Digital though. They have the Caviar Green and the Caviar Black. If he just needs a backup drive, Leo would get the Caviar Green. It's slower, but uses less energy. If Rick really needs the speed, he should go with the Black.
It's not necessary to defragment a solid state drive. Traditionally, on a spinning hard drive, when data is written to the drive it's faster if all of the sectors are in order rather than scattered all over. Spinning drives have something called "seek time", which is the amount of time it takes for the read head on the drive to move to the next sector. If the read head has to move around a lot, that seek time adds up and the drive gets slower.
The software will have to support distributed rendering, and Leo doesn't believe that Handbrake will do this. Apple's Compressor (in the Mac app store) that comes with Final Cut Pro can do this, and higher end pro products will allow the use of multiple machines to speed up the process. Rendering, or transcoding, can be sped up by distributing bits of the render to multiple computers across the network which they call a "render farm".