Thursday, July 31, 2008
Toolbox: External Storage Solutions
Smart image backup solutions for home and on the go
At home, capacity rules. All of the drives listed here have room to spare, and many can be daisy-chained for even more storage as your needs grow.
Apple's Time Capsule is a dual-purpose device. It's available in either 500 GB or 1 TB configurations, and is an NAS that requires Ethernet. Unlike any of the other NAS devices though, Apple built an Airport Extreme wireless router into the unit. This gives you a full 802.11n wireless network along with a USB port to connect a shared printer or another external hard drive. The Time Capsule works with both Mac and Windows systems (XP or Vista) and is an excellent option if you're just getting a network setup. Of course, Apple's Time Machine backup software works well with the Time Capsule, but you can also use other backup programs. List Price: $299 (500 GB); $499 (1 TB).
The Western Digital My Book series is available in a number of configurations. Most interesting for digital photographers is the My Book Studio Edition II, available in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities. With USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800, and eSATA ports, the drives are initially set up in a RAID 0 configuration, which you can reconfigure to RAID 1. The drives are advertised to use up to 30 percent less power and run quietly with no fan. The case is easy to open for upgrading drives later and includes backup software as well as compatibility with Apple Time Machine. List Price: $339 (1 TB); $599 (2 TB).
The Data Robotics Drobo is unique in that it's the one product that you can configure to your heart's content since it's basically a smart box to which you add hard drives. You can use two, three or four garden-variety SATA I or SATA II drives, mixing and matching capacities if you like (unlike normal RAID devices that require exactly the same drives for all components). Drobo handles all the management issues, as well as allocating to the disc on the fly. It sets aside a certain amount of space for backup. If you install four 1 TB drives, you'll have 2.7 TB available for data, with the rest used for protection. The Drobo is a USB 2.0 device, and is fully compatible with both Windows 2000 and later, and Mac OS X 10.4 and later. Drobo is compatible with Apple's Time Machine backup software, as well. Also available is DroboShare, a network connection that allows you to share up to two Drobo units on your network; it connects to the network via Ethernet. List Price: $499 (Drobo with no drives); $199 (DroboShare).
LaCie is well known for stylish products that work well. The d2 Quadra Hard Disk is a USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800, and eSATA drive in capacities of 320 GB to 1 TB. Fully compatible with Apple Time Machine, it also includes the Retrospect backup program for both Mac and Windows. The case has a fanless aluminum heat sink that's ideal when noise is a concern. Also available is a unique desk rack that holds up to four d2 Quadra drives. If you need more capacity or you're looking for a RAID configuration, the Bigger Disk Extreme is a 2 TB drive with a storage capacity of 1 TB in RAID 1 configuration. List Price: $159-$399 (d2 Quadra); $569 (Bigger Disk Extreme).
Buffalo Technology has a wide range of external desktop drives, from the DriveStation Turbo USB in capacities of 320 GB to 1 TB, to the DriveStation Combo 4 with USB, FireWire 400 and 800, and eSATA in capacities of up to 1 TB. For large storage needs, the DriveStation Quattro Turbo USB uses four drives in a RAID 0, 1 or 5 configuration of up to 4 TB. The Quattro has USB 2.0 and eSATA. List Price: $99-$461 (Turbo USB); $349-$579 (Combo 4); $499-$1,899 (Quattro Turbo USB).
The Seagate FreeAgent Desktop and FreeAgent Pro external drives are available in capacities of up to 1 TB. The Desktop series has a USB 2.0 interface. The FreeAgent Pro adds FireWire 400 and eSATA interfaces to the USB 2.0 port. The slim design of both models offers a small footprint for avoiding clutter on your desk. FreeAgent Software, included with FreeAgent Pro, is Windows only and includes backup along with other utilities. The drive itself can be used with Mac or Windows. List Price: $109-$279 (FreeAgent Desktop); $139-$299 (FreeAgent Pro).
All the drives featured here are compact and bus-powered, meaning no external power supply is needed (assuming your computer has power to the USB ports, which most do).
Buffalo Technology has the highest-capacity portable drives currently available, ranging in size from 120 GB to 500 GB. All are shock-resistant and have faster transfer rates than the typical portable drive. List Price: $95-$230.
Available in 120 GB to 500 GB capacities, the LaCie Rugged Hard Disk basic model uses USB 2.0 only, while the 500 GB version supports USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800. LaCie Rugged drives have a rubber bumper to help protect against drops and other mishaps. List Price: $110 (120 GB); $380 (500 GB).
The Western Digital My Passport line is available in capacities of 160 GB to 320 GB. The My Passport Studio is made for Mac and includes FireWire 400 as well as USB 2.0, while My Passport Elite is a USB 2.0 drive. The Elite comes with synchronization and backup software for Windows and is available in several colors. Both models support Apple Time Machine. List Price: $150-$220.
The Seagate FreeAgent Go USB 2.0 drives are available in capacities of 120 GB to 250 GB. Like Seagate's desktop drives, the Go series is compatible with Mac and Windows, but software is Windows only, and includes utilities to encrypt and synchronize data. List Price: $75-$130.
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