“How are things going? I just read your blog as we always do here at Maxtor/Seagate and saw that you are going to upgrade to a larger external drive. I hope that you were not thinking about going out and getting one yourself!”
Well, yes, actually, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Frye’s had a good offer a couple of weeks ago.
Jay’s message continued:
“What are you looking for? Do you want a 1TB Maxtor OneTouch III, Turbo edition with raid capabilities? Or maybe a 750Gb Seagate Pushbutton external storage solution? Or even going NAS with a 1TB Maxtor Shared Storage II. Let me know!”
I was flabbergasted. Gobsmacked, as we used to say when I lived in England. I knew I had a subscriber from Maxtor—the autoresponder system says she signed up at the beginning of July 2005. But I’d never heard anything from her except the occasional “out of the office” automated replies. I’ve mentioned Maxtor and Seagate products and initiatives occasionally in the newsletter (as well as the merger which joined the two companies), but certainly had no expectations from them.
I said as much to Jay, who responded with:
“Well Sallie, you have covered our programs such as Backup Awareness month and for that we are grateful. But mostly because you preach what we preach…Backup your data! We feel that you have a great site and we want to help get the word out so…to the good stuff…I run the World wide reviews program for Maxtor and Seagate Branded Products and you have your choice of anything we make. Let me know what you want to look at and I will send it out.”
As it happens, I’ve been coveting a baby NAS drive since I first read about them. Given that there are a whole three computers in this household (two for me, one for my housemate), I don’t have a pressing need for such a device, and I would probably have bought a less extravagant hard drive. The Shared Storage II retails for over $700, and while my nearly-full 80 GB 2.5″ external drive was no longer sufficient to back up my new 160 GB laptop, a 300 GB USB 2.0 drive would have done just fine.
Given a chance to get my hands on the NAS drive, though, I grabbed it. (NAS stands for “Network Attached Storage.”) A NAS drive connects not to your computer, but to your router. NAS on a consumer/small-business scale is fairly new, but companies with larger IT setups have been using $10,000 NAS devices for years.
Apart from having a drive that I could use for both computers at once, and that my housemate could also use, the real appeal of a network drive was for storing drive images of my old laptop. That machine, Astarte, has one measly USB 1.1 port and no FireWire, and making Ghost backups was always a painfully slow process. And while I no longer keep data on that machine, I still don’t want to have to go through reinstalling it from scratch if something goes wrong with the system. Even a 100 megabit ethernet connection is faster than USB 1.1. The Shared Storage II has gigabit network capacity, though my laptop doesn’t, and neither does our router.
Seagate shipped my new drive out Monday and it arrived on Tuesday afternoon. (I thought the water-soluble cornstarch packing peanuts were a nice touch.) I’d had time enough to figure out where to put it and to think of a name for it. “Teras” is Greek for “monster” and is the root from which we get “terabyte,” the size of the drive—a little obvious, but certainly appropriate.
Teras resembles nothing so much as a car battery. At four inches in thickness and six pounds in weight, it’s got about twice the heft of ordinary external drives and utterly dwarfs Bluelight, my 2.5″ XHD. Like a car battery, its purpose is to be solid, reliable, and powerful, rather than beautiful.
The basic setup, which creates the drive’s public folders, is very simple: connect the network cable to the router and plug in the power supply, then install the software and reboot. Voila! A new machine appears under “My Network Places.”
I definitely recommend reading the user’s guide in detail before you start transferring massive quantities of data over to the drive, however. And going through the administrative interface to check things out, too. Since the box said “Automatic RAID 1 mirroring,” I assumed the drive defaulted to RAID 1 configuration, but I was wrong: it was set for “Spanning” instead of “Mirroring.” There are two drives inside that gray-and-black box, each with 500 GB of storage space. “Spanning” means they imitate one big drive. “Mirroring” (RAID 1 to the geeks out there) means that the second drive automatically and exactly duplicates the first, and if the first drive fails for some reason, the second will take over.
I’d already moved about 40 GB over to Teras before I realized that it wasn’t in mirror mode. That meant moving it off again before switching modes, which reformats and thus erases the disks. And if I ever decide that I want to switch back to spanning mode so I have more room, I’ll have to move all the data off and back again, and I’m not looking forward to trying that. (Of course, it will be years before I have to worry about it, since I’m not creating video or high-res poster-sized images like the artist friend who complained that Seagate should have given the drive to her instead.)
The other little hitch was in creating user accounts. In addition to the public share (in which the folders have names like “Our Software” and “Our Photos”), you can create separate private accounts on the drive. I’ve set up one for each of my computers and one for my housemate, but it took a couple of tries. This is because the user name the software suggests violates its own rules. When I went to set up a new user account, Maxtor EasyManage suggested “Sallie Goetsch” as a name. Logical, and probably pulled from Windows, as that’s my logon name. But spaces aren’t allowed in user names, as the manual told me when I went back to consult it in detail. Instead of refusing to create an account with an invalid name, EasyManage created an account and mounted it as my Z: drive—but wouldn’t let me put any data onto it.
Once I figured out the problem, deleted that account, and created a new one with an appropriate name, it worked fine. Except that I still see that supposedly-erased user name when I use EasyManage or Windows Explorer. And since switching to RAID 1, Teras shows up as both the Y: and the Z: drive on my other laptop. I’m thinking one might better call it Not-as-easy-as-it-looksManage. Of course, if I had RTFM (that stands for Read the F***ing Manual) ahead of time, I could have avoided most of that hassle.
I set up the EasyManage file backup on Astarte mostly to see how it works. It exactly duplicates the directory structure surrounding the folders you’re backing up, rather like an old freeware backup program I used to use (and now can’t remember the name of) before I latched onto Karen’s Replicator. That means that if you check “My Documents” as something you want backed up, it appears in the “My Backups” folder as “C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\My Documents.” That’s pretty limiting, and there are no filters to say, for instance, “Don’t back up X type of files.” Plus the schedule is limite
d to once per day, though you can go in and press the “Back up now” button at any time. On the plus side, it offers “Historical Versions”—you can save several different instances of the same file. Overall, I’d class it as “better than nothing, but nothing to write home about.”
The Ghost backup over the network using my Bart-PE CD worked a treat, though. I had to go through an extra step to map the network drive within the PE environment, but it was fast. In fact, I’m going to go make another one right now, because there’s a ton of software I forgot to install before making the last one.
The story will continue next week—by which time I expect to have things figured out a little better.