Hard Drives for Storage Junkies
"Wow, a 30GB Hard Drive...I'll never fill that."
-Supreme Med Hed circa 2001, in reference to my new Powerbook
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Alright so it was kinda silly to think that I'd never fill a 30GB hard drive, considering that I've been at the forefront of technology for 15+ years. I mean I had my first 10GB hard drive array (5 x 2GB Barracuda Drives) back in the mid 90's, but in those days that was strictly for video editing and that sucker cost me about $10k.
My current 100GB MacBook drive has about 1GB of storage left. And if you are anything like me you have countless gigs of music, photos, and movies sitting on your computer hard drive and you need to make some room.
There are a number of storage junkies out there...and they each have slightly different needs.
The Photo Junkie: This person takes lots of photos and stores every photo they have ever taken. They tend to use their computer as more of an archive than anything else.
Storage Needs: 300GB+
The Music Junkie: Has more music than anyone could possibly listen to. Measures music storage in days and hours verses gigabytes. Buys music and sometimes "borrows" a bit here and there from friends.
Storage Needs: 200GB+
The Document Junkie: Never trashes anything, and therefore can never find anything. The Document Junkie keeps every file, every email, every download that ever crosses their computer desktop.
Storage Needs: 300GB+
The Media Junkie: This person buys or records countless TV shows and rips their movies so they have them on-demand. This person needs a good dumping point as no one wants to eat their whole laptop drive with old episodes of Starsky and Hutch.
Storage Needs: 500GB+
The Pro Junkie: This user likely works in a media field like graphic design, video, or music. They like to carry a lot of files with them, but when working in their office they need reliable mass storage and need it always available. They also need speed!
Storage Needs: 1+ Terabyte
The Idiot: That would be me. I'm a combination of all of the above. I rip all my DVDs, have gigs and gigs of TV Shows, my own home movies, countless photos, professional work, every email I've ever received or sent, tons of music, and every program or pdf I've ever downloaded.
My current home storage solution is a hybrid of drives totaling almost 2 Terabytes...and it is almost full!
Since I own a wide variety of drives, I will give you an idea of what might be the best drive for you...and the benefits of each type.
LaCie F.A. Porsche
Max Storage: 500GB
Interface: FireWire 400
Cost Per Gig: $.40
Best for: All Junkies
The big caveat here is you need a FireWire port on your computer. If you are a Mac user, no problem...as a PC user, there are a number of machines out there who have FireWire ports, or you can usually get a card for your tower/laptop. This isn't that big if a detraction, cost wise, when you look at the value of this drive.
First of all, it looks great. Minimalist styling with a nice brushed aluminum finish, this is a drive you want to display. Best of all, since it is FireWire, you can stack these drives and chain them together. For a little over $400, you can stack two 500GB drives together and know that as your drives fill up, you can just add another...and they will match.
I stack these drives in my entertainment center where they store almost all my video files. They are connected to a Mac Mini which is then connected to the LCD TV. If I run out of storage, I just buy another one and plug it into the one below it.
Iomega ESATA/USB Black
Max Storage: 750GB
Interface: FireWire 800/USB 2.0
Cost Per Gig: $.60
Best for: The Document Junkie
We have the 500GB model of this drive, and we only use it for document folder backups. It is stackable, and through FireWire (or a USB 2.0 Hub) you could chain these, but they aren't what I could consider pretty. I certainly don't want one of these sitting up on my desk. Then again...I'm a design snob.
She's a fast drive, giving you access to FireWire 800 speeds, so a good solid backup drive, but cost-wise you pay for that speed. If fast backups is what you are looking for, this is a great drive for it.
Max Storage: 320GB
Interface: FireWire 400/USB 2.0
Cost Per Gig: $.94
Best for: The Document Junkie, The Photo Junkie, and for peace of mind
Coming out on top so far for cost per gig, this drive is not for the person who just wants tons of storage. With this puppy you are paying for one major thing, and that is the interface. The three buttons on the front of this drive serve as a programmable backup interface so that you can set what happens when one of those buttons is pushed.
I use this drive to backup key files located on my network at the touch of a button. However, I don't recommend this as a drive for mass storage, just because of the cost factor. However, if you want ease of use, this works pretty well. Just press and go. Perfect for locations with multiple computers that require occasional backups.
Buffalo Technologies LinkStation NAS Drive
Max Storage: 750GB
Interface: USB 2.0/Ethernet
Cost Per Gig: $.60
Best for: The Music Junkie, The Document Junkie, The Media Junkie
This puppy is the pride and joy of my fleet. In fact I have two of them for a total of 640GB. If you aren't familiar with what a NAS drive is, NAS stands for Network Available Storage. Essentially, a NAS drive doesn't require a direct connection to a computer, as it has a small computer brain built in and simply needs a network connection to be accessed.
This is THE drive for music lovers. It allows you to use your iPod for portable music and stop wasting all your laptop drive space. My home stereo system is a Sonos which can access the NAS drive 24/7. As for iTunes, it knows where to RIP my tunes and can easily play back from the NAS drive.
But the NAS drive also works great for Document Junkies in a document sharing environment, since you don't need a server to share files. Everyone can mount the NAS drive on their computer from their wired or wireless connection.
If you are a Media Junkie, this is a great drive to archive movies and shows, and with the right network backbone, streaming even HD isn't a problem. You don't want to rip movies directly to this drive because of the speed issue, but once ripped, just drop them over there.
I store all my music on one NAS drive and a lot of video files on the other.
One of the things I love best about a NAS drive is that it is perfect for laptop users who move around a lot and don't want to be tied to a FireWire/USB drive.
One extra bonus of this drive is that it has two built in USB ports. With those you can use the drive as a way to turn one of the drives up above into a network drive...OR...plug in a printer. It has a built in print server. Now your printer doesn't have to be tied to your USB port on your computer.
I've owned some of these drives for a couple of years. I haven't had an actual hard drive fail, but I did have a Buffalo NAS drive fan fail, which makes the drive inoperable until it is replaced. An annoyance for sure, but for the most part, I've been really pleased with the Buffalo drives...especially since I generally forget they exist. When I need to play music...I just play it.
As for purchasing these drives, I didn't put any links into this overview because the way to get the best price is to look around. One of my favorite places to find good deals (Mac or PC) is Dealmac. Simply plop any of the above model numbers into their site to find a bargain.