A network attached external hard drive can share files and media (illustration modified from www.buffalotech.com)
The above scenario was what happened to some of my friends and me. Computers and laptops today can last for a long time (if you look after them well) and most often then not, they’re still perfectly functionable when we get a new machine so it seems quite a waste to get rid of the old machine, especially since it can serve as a back up.
And if a member of the family is on the new laptop, others can use the spare computer. So over time, working files, photos, music and video can get distributed over a few computers. At first, it’s easy to remember and keep track of which file is in which computer and do the occasional transfer using an USB thumbdrive.
But over time, as the number of files grow, things can get out of hand – the convenience of being able to work on a few computers turns into a bane.
Now that cloud computing is catching on and we can save files and media on the Internet, this mess can be ameliorated. But those personal and confidential files and humongous video files are still best kept in local storage.
The NAS solution
Schematic of an NAS solution
So over the weekend, I helped my friend rig a similar solution that I use at home – set up a simple external hard drive that can be shared and accessed by a few different computers at home over a local Wi-Fi network.
Those files that are stored on the network attached storage (NAS) drive can then remain accessible no matter which computer you’re working on. It can be used to back up the computers connected.
Some NAS drives allow you to stream media to TVs, media players and game consoles connected to the home network.
In fact, some even enable access to be opened out to the Internet, so that when you’re outstation – in the office, on the road, or overseas – you can still securely access the files stored in the hard drive. This can be done via a browser on a laptop connected to the Internet, or via an app on a smartphone or tablet.
It’s like setting up your personal cloud storage. There are many consumer NAS drives in the market from makers such as Seagate, Western Digital and Buffalo.
They’re all designed to be easily set up by the layman who does not have a PhD in computer science. These NAS drives are connected directly to the router rather than a specific computer acting as a file server.
Any computer connected to the network via the router can access the NAS drive at any time.
Because these NAS drives are more intelligent than the regular dumb external hard drive, they do cost a slight premium over the latter. The NAS drives can manage network access by computers on the network and implement security, access and rights control as well.
Seagate GoFlex Home comes in capacities of 1TB, 2TB and 3TB
Since I’m familiar with the Seagate GoFlex Home, that was what I recommended my friend, who brought home a 3 TB version from the recent COMEX 2011 for S$299.
Tomorrow we’ll see how he managed to tame his growing diaspora of media and files.