Posts tagged hardware
Not so long ago families only had the one computer and housed little in the way of our lives outside of each other’s work.
The only real pressure on the storage of this humble home PC was exerted by video games, the family copy of Encarta (oh how the internet usurped thee) and any musical projects by aspiring artists.
But with the stellar rise of digital cameras, camcorders, DVR’s and mp3 players all plugging into multiple computers and devices around the home, the need for more space has developed into the requirement for shared storage.
This is where Network Attached Storage (NAS) is finally making some serious headway in the consumer market.
While many early adopters had been playing around creating their own using old computers stuffed to the brim with hard drives and packing an install of something like FreeNAS, the consumer products have been doing a little more evolving from these Frankenstein creations.
Slimming down from a PC crammed with hard drives; consumer NAS devices such as the Thecus N2100, Buffalo Terastation and Drobo with the network addition are embedded systems with a RAID array of hard drives connected to them, reducing energy consumption and granting smaller physical sizes. Some are merely small form factor PC’s such as HP’s MediaSmart server based on Windows Home Server, though WHS goes well beyond the features of most NAS boxes by providing extensive backup of windows PC’s, synchronisation of passwords etc.
Getting back to the point of shared storage, reducing their size isn’t the only improvement since many come packed with extras focused on media sharing.
A common feature is the web based gallery for sharing your photos across HTTP rather than browsing the folder, although I’ve never found myself using this functionality over simple folder browsing. This could change though, with the rise of RSS reading wifi picture frames, the family portrait wall could become extremely dynamic with something fresh to look at every day.
One feature that shows more usefulness would be music on the NAS appearing as a shared library in any computer running itunes. Where photos tend to be a once in a while viewing, a music collection will be hammered with use and it makes sense to keep it all in one place rather than fragmented across multiple computers.
The only downside is that Apple doesn’t support true network syncing of ipods from a central store, so it rapidly gets quite messy and is hardly suitable for the average home, definitely needs more work – hint, hint apple.
Then we have the truly killer feature, the ability to stream your music and video files to any device or application that supports the Universal Plug n Play or newer DLNA protocols. This allows the pickup and streaming of content from your NAS box onto any supporting device such as your PVR set top box, games console or HTPC.
Imagine having your entire DVD collection in a central library, accessible through a few clicks in a menu system on any device in the house.
No more hunting round for misplaced discs and get to claw back the self space you sacrificed to the almighty collection. It also means format wars like the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray one of the past couple of years can pass you by as a blip on the radar. Why bother with a physical disc when you have the digital file?
So far I have only mentioned use on a home network, the rise of the laptop means we might not even be in the house anymore.
Well, that hasn’t been ignored, much to the ire of ISP’s, since devices such as the MVixBox from MVi and LaCie’s Internet Space NAS box will make use of the much ignored upstream portion of your net connection by providing a web portal for remote users to log into.
Not only can they stream your media and access documents from anyone’s net connection but it even allows them to upload files. Because this is happening across the net, friends and family can be given logon accounts so they can check out your home movies and pictures too, maybe even let them upload their media to you – sharing memories and creations between each other.
With all of our memories becoming digitised, the safety of this data becomes paramount too. Most home PC’s and laptops tend to have a single hard drive, which means if it were to die so will those pictures and videos of Timmy giving Muffy the cat a shave. NAS boxes tend to be set up in what is called a RAID 1 or a RAID 5 configuration depending on the number of hard drives it can take. This means should one of the drives fail, your data is still there.
It doesn’t secure against data corruption and deletion though, but not to worry as this too has been licked by allowing the backup of data to an external USB hard drive connected directly to the NAS device. Which means if something were to become corrupt or deleted it can be restored from the backup. It also allows you to get into the habit of making regular backups and storing them off site should the worst happen to your home.
In the space of 10 short years, the home has exploded from our media sitting in a largely physical analogue world, excluded from our computers, to being connected with everyone we love whenever we want it regardless of where we are.
Home storage has taken a massive leap towards a converged central point. It’s not there yet in terms of syncing that data to portable devices, but once it has that cracked the days of worrying about a single computer failure taking your library with it will be a thing of the past. This leaves us to get on with making, sharing (within legal allowances, of course!) and using without the pain of figuring out the how.
Someone I know quizzed me about how windows would handle being installed onto a machine that was running RAID, so I thought that it might be worth making a video where I cover very basic info about what RAID is and then answered his question towards the end.
RAID is something you’ll see more and more of in consumer devices, particularly because it can provide you with very good fault tollerance, which means should you suffer a hard drive failure you won’t lose all of them one off pictures and movies that you have taken of your friends and family.
However, do bear in mind that you can still lose them to corruption and accidental deletion.. the best ways to get around this is to store your important data in multiple locations – external hard drives are often coming with backup software now adays.
Download (26mb wmv)
yup, was crawling under the bed when I stumbled across this old tape I still had kicking around that came with a stick of ram I once bought.