This is the story of how I made my own pretty bamboo USB SSD disk expansion support for my laptop, hereby possibly inventing the gadget category “disk expansion laptop coaster”
As a photographer, I need a lot of storage space. As a travelling photographer, I also need it on my laptop. My current 13″ MacBook Pro is plenty fast, but it only has a 512GB SSD drive. I quickly found out that is way too small. So I bought an external SSD disk. The Samsung Portable 500GB version is affordable and it’s almost as fast as the internal drive. But it’s only 500GB. So I bought a second and a third. Now, travelling with 3 USB disks and a USB hub (since my MBP only has 2 USB ports, and I need one for reading CompactFlash cards) is quite a hassle. There’s cables everywhere, you’re always afraid you’ll drop one, or forget one. So I decided to kind of tape them together.
After travelling for months with this beta version (made out of a plastic table cover and lots of tape), I decided to make a real one, a version 1.0. Here’s what happened:
Storage vendors should come to me for heavy duty testing, I have way too much hard disks break down on me. Last year my 4TB Lacie drive died. It’s a good thing I’m paranoid about data storage and I had 2 copies of my photo archive (now about 1.4 TB) elsewhere. Although my Lacie drive had ‘protected’ storage, after repair it came back reformatted. I decided to never buy Lacie anymore – I have had a 1TB, 2TB and a 4TB drive and they have all broken down at some point. My next storage solution would be a stand-alone NAS with 4 disks!
After reading some reviews on QNAP and Synology, I decided on the Synology DS410. I ordered it at Memoryshop for a decent price and some days later it was shipped to me together with 4 Samsung 2TB drives. Installation is swift and uneventful. I configured it as one big 6TB RAID-5 volume and started copying all my pictures, music and movies. The device comes with the shares /music, /video and /pictures preconfigured, and copying to these folders makes sense, because then the music appears in the handy iTunes server, and all media shows up in the DLNA Media Server.
The advantage of a Linux-powered NAS is that it comes with a number of easy-to-install applications (Torrent Client, MySQL, LAMP stack web server) and you can even install, through ipkg, lots of standard Linux packages. On the QNAP server at the office, I have file sync tasks running at regular intervals and it works flawlessly.
If you’re serious about your storage (because you need it for your work), don’t be content with just an external USB drive. Invest a bit more to have a NAS you can trust. And also: never trust it 100%. I now have +- 16TB of storage at home so that I have multiple copies of everything and I also use Mozy cloud storage for my exported pictures (‘only’ 12 GB for the moment).
One of the most popular pages on this blog is about a storage device that has a lot of enemies and few defenders, the SC101. It’s Windows-only, uses a proprietary filesystem and when (not if) it starts crashing, just say bye-bye to your data. The product didn’t do much good for Netgear’s reputation. So when Netgear offered me the opportunity to test a real NAS solution, I agreed. So they sent me the ReadyNAS NV+.
After having Lacie, Maxtor, Iomega and most recently Netgear StorageCentral external storage fail on me, I am now the proud owner of a broken Western Digital My Book Pro II 1TB. I bought it less than a year ago and used it as a mirrored 500GB drive for my music, movies and images. It first failed 3 months ago (broken mirror) but after a full night of rebuilding it worked again. But now one of the drives has fallen victim to the infamous ‘click-of-death‘ and the drive would not show up anymore via USB nor Firewire. I disconnected the broken (SATA) disk, and then I could see the other one show up again as a lone 500GB drive. I quickly started copying to a 2 x 300GB FreeNAS system I had set up on an old Dell system (you don’t want to know how many old hard disks I have lying around). During the rescue operation the solo disk gave up twice, but by restarting the My Book device, it came back. So now I have an extra copy of all my data, most importantly my 80GB of photographs (quickly growing thanks to my Canon350D) and 120GB of iTunes music (mostly ripped CDs, not purchased, but still).
First thing is to see how Pixmania handles the warranty. They are supposed to send me a replacement for the broken drive, but I haven’t heard back from their customer support yet.
And then I have to make a decision about an alternative for reliable storage. Do I go for something semi-pro like the Buffalo Terastation Live (2TB, Raid5 for +- $1000) or do I build my own storage server with an old PC, a hardware RAID card and something like FreeNAS or Ubuntu. Decisions, decisions …