External Storage

LACIE

Known for storage solutions with an eye toward design, LaCie‘s HardDisk MAX is a dual disk drive that provides 2 TB of RAID storage in a sleek black case that looks more like modern sculpture than a hard drive. USB 2.0. List Price: $219.

SEAGATE

Want to share your backup drive with multiple computers? The GoFlex Home Network Storage System connects to your WiFi router and lets you share and back up files from multiple computers wirelessly. It also allows you to share a USB printer over the network, and you even can access your files via the Internet when away from home. Available in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities. WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet. List Price: Begins at $159.

WESTERN DIGITAL

Available in RAID 1 mirrored capacities of 500 GB and 1 TB, the My Book Mirror Edition is an ideal solution for easy, instant backups. The drives are user-replaceable without tools—just open the case and swap out the drive. The system features WD GreenPower technology for cool, quiet performance designed to use less power than comparable systems. USB 2.0. List Price: Begins at $167.

DRIVE CONNECTIONS

When selecting a drive, you need to choose one that offers connectivity compatible with your computer. USB 2.0 is the most common and transfers data at up to 480 Mbits (60 MB) per second. Practically every computer today ships with at least one USB port. Many Apple computers and high-end Windows machines also include FireWire in addition to USB. FireWire 400 is an older standard, though still an option for many drives if you have an older computer, with speeds similar to USB 2.0. FireWire 800 has data rates of about 800 Mbits (100 MB) per second, giving it a considerable speed advantage over USB 2.0.

The transfer rates with these connections, while very fast, are still significantly slower than the transfer speeds you’d get from an internal hard drive. That’s where eSATA comes into play. eSATA delivers speeds of up to 3 Gbits (300 MB) per second—much closer to internal drives than USB 2.0 and FireWire. The only problem with eSATA is that it isn’t as common as the other two formats. Most computers don’t have eSATA ports, meaning you’ll need to install an eSATA card in your computer before hooking up a new hard drive.

Meanwhile, USB 3.0 is on the way, with speeds comparable to eSATA. There are a few drives already on the market that support USB 3.0, but your computer likely doesn’t have a compatible port. We expect to see it gain broader adoption in computers and peripherals in 2011.

If you want to share your data over multiple computers, you may want to look at a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. These devices work through your network via Ethernet or WiFi, so you can back up all of your computers on a single device. Speeds will vary based on your network, but this can be a convenient option for multi-computer households.

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