As technology demands continue to grow in the home, consumers face an increasing number of technology challenges and find themselves functioning as household “IT Directors". With the advent of downloadable music, digital photography and video from multiple sources, as well as the growing number of files stored on computers for work, school or household management, ensuring this data is stored safely and easily accessible can quickly become another chore.
Central to this issue is where should data be stored? Should it reside on local disks on desktop or laptop computers or on a centralized shared network storage device? And what about all the data stored on smart phones and tablets?
Local storage happens almost by default. Today’s desktops and notebooks ship with a significant amount of storage capacity. It is not uncommon to find desktops with disks larger than 500 GB. Even the least expensive netbooks feature 160 GB disks, while the average tablet ships with 32 to 64 GB. With so much storage capacity available, it is easy to slip into the belief that data should be stored on local disk drives. After all, it’s right there at your finger tips. Plus, both the Windows and the Macintosh operating systems support simple file sharing and provide security with user logins and passwords.
However, storing data – like those precious memories from a family vacation or a video of your child’s first steps – on your computer’s local drives is fraught with a number of risks:
- Computers may be compromised by computer viruses that can corrupt or destroy data.
- Computers are not indestructible. Dropping or spilling liquids on a laptop can severely damage its hard drive.
- Computers don’t last forever. If the single drive found in most computers should fail, company data that is not properly backed up could be lost. A recent study by Google indicates an average of 1.7 percent of hard drives fail within a year, and that over 8.6 percent of three year-old drives failed.
- Computers in homes (or cars) are rarely physically secured other than being behind locked doors and can easily be stolen by an intruder.
- Should locally stored data reside on a notebook, the risk for theft or loss increases dramatically when traveling. A recent Ponemon Institute study sponsored by Dell discovered that up to 12,000 notebooks are lost weekly in airports. Forty two percent of the respondents said that they do not backup their data. Amazingly, 65 to 70 percent of notebooks are never reclaimed.
To avoid these risks, you should consider a centralized data storage policy.
As consumers, we rarely consider the sophisticated network sharing system we experience in the workplace as something to add in our home. But that is beginning to change as more and more homes are installing devices to stream programming and games on television sets and setting up wireless routers to allow for more mobile computer use, such as in the backyard.
But how does that relate to centralized storage, you ask? Centralized storage involves setting up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) hard drive to your wireless router. In doing so, you are creating a central network drive with which you and other members of the household can connect to from their individual computers or tablets. This drive can be used to store large amounts of data (we’re talking terabytes where 1 TB = 1000 GB) that can be accessed from any computer or device attached to the network. Especially with tablet computers that feature such a small amount of storage space, centralized storage is a great place to store music, photo and video files, which you can then access from an Internet connection – even if you are away from home.
The benefits of centralized storage include:
- All files can be stored on a common device that can be backed up by centralized backup software and/or hardware, which usually ships with many consumer NAS devices.
- Files stored on in a central location can be shared with other individuals and groups, or can remain private for individual users. This eliminates the “sneaker net” of sharing files on USB flash drives.
- Centralized storage is easier to physically secure than all of the client computers. If your computer is stolen or damaged, your files are still safe on the network drive and can be restored on a replacement computer.
- More advanced technical users can set up RAID arrays for data redundancy, which means separating the multiple hard drives within a NAS device to be separate instead of one full hard drive. For instance, if your NAS device has two hard drives installed that consist of 1 TB of storage, a RAID 1 array means that each 500 GB hard drive will contain the same information. So while you only have 500 GB of storage, if one hard drive fails, the other one can be used to restore lost information.
A Network Attached Storage device (NAS), which is optimized for storing and serving files, can provide the benefits of centralized file storage but presents unique advantages and disadvantages.
- NAS devices are available in many different sizes, capacities and configurations.
- NAS devices typically operate on a Linux operating system that provides several advantages:
- Linux is a stable operating system that rarely requires patching.
- It has no licensing fees.
- Viruses and other malware rarely target Linux.
- The NAS operating system runs in flash memory that cannot be infected by viruses.
NAS devices are easily configurable by non-IT professionals. User-friendly web interfaces and installation wizards ensure that a NAS can be fully operational in about 15 minutes. Additional storage capacity can be added to an existing network by deploying a NAS. Since the NAS device is being added to the network, there would be no downtime. NAS devices can integrate into an existing network environment. Virtually all NAS products provide cross platform support for Windows, Macintosh and Linux/Unix clients. No special configuration is required.
For the growing IT needs in your home, centralized NAS storage offers a number of advantages over a local storage model, and today’s NAS products provide a very cost-effective and scalable alternative for local storage.