As I was swept along in this flood, however, I fetched up against a headline from Computer Technology Review which caught my eye: “TRITTON Simplifies Network Attached Storage for SOHO Users.”
According to the Webopedia, a Network Attached Storage (commonly known as NAS) device is “a server that is dedicated to nothing more than file sharing…NAS allows more storage space to be added to a network that already utilizes servers without shutting them down for maintenance and upgrades. With a NAS device, storage is not an integral part of the server. Instead, in this storage-centric design, the server still handles all of the processing of data but a NAS device delivers the data to the user. A NAS device does not need to be located within the server but can exist anywhere in a LAN and can be made up of multiple networked NAS devices.”
Got that? Let’s try it once more in English. What it means is that if you’re already running one kind of server, you can slap one of these babies onto your network and get more storage.
For most independent professionals and other small or home office users, traditional NAS is not just too complicated, but too expensive. An individual NAS appliance (like “device,” that’s a favorite geek buzzword for “piece of computer hardware”) can set you back $1000 at the low end—and you need a $10,000 server system to plug it into. Not to mention a place to put the server, and a security guard to watch over it.
But while traditional NAS is out of our range, consultants and other sole proprietors might still have networks, even if only to share an internet connection between two computers, or in order to provide ourselves with a hardware firewall by means of a router. Having more than one computer might mean having to have more than one backup solution, and that can become confusing, unwieldy, or both. It’s not that hard to carry your jumbo external hard drive from one room to another and back up your computers in sequence, but it could be just inconvenient enough to make you skimp on backups for one or the other machine.
Storage manufacturers have not been slow to recognize this need for a new kind of NAS. It turns out that TRITTON Technologies’ Simple Network Attached Storage enclosure (sold with or without a drive of up to 300GB) is not alone on the market. SimpleTech has its SimpleShare Office Storage Server, Iomega the 160GB and 250GB Network Hard Drive High Speed Ethernet (there’s a cumbersome name for you), Ximeta its NetDisk and the rather charming 40GB NetDisk Mini 2.5” drive, and Buffalo Technology its LinkStation Network Storage Center.
These drives are all designed to be plugged into the back of your router and to allow automated backups over the network. Most can also be connected directly to your computer like standard USB 2.0 external hard drives. Iomega’s version is wireless-compatible: “Beam me that backup, Scotty!” They take up about the same amount of space as a 3.5″ external drive and are designed to stand on their narrow side. They all cost around $250-$350, depending on the drive’s capacity, which is pretty similar to comparable non-ethernet-capable XHDs. They’re available from major online and offline dealers like Tiger Direct.
For those who already have an external hard drive, or more than one, there’s another possibility: a network storage adapter. You plug the adapter into your network and then plug the drives into the adapter. These too come with network backup software, and are manufactured by your friendly neighborhood network hardware companies, D-Link (the DNS-120 Express EtherNetwork Network Storage Adapter) and Linksys (the Network Storage Link), and cost about $100 each. (In Europe, you can also get them from Sitecom.)
For some reason these network adapters don’t support FireWire. USB 2.0 is just as fast, but if you have a FireWire only drive, you won’t be able to it with them.
If any of you are already using any of these drives or adapters, I’d love to hear about your experience with them. Post your comments here on the FileSlinger Backup Blog.
If you’ve got a backup and recovery horror (or success) story to tell, send it to me and I’ll be glad to publish it. But first, grab those disks, connect those cables, and back up your data!