In our house we have a desktop and laptop computer, iPads and now WiFi-connected televisions. I’m working to digitize our collection of photos, slides, music and movies while we build another collection of our own digital home movies. My external hard drive is getting close to capacity so I’ve been looking for options.
I’m fascinated with the cloud-based storage options like Apple’s MobileMe which can easily move files between our computers, iPads and tvs. Dropbox is already a staple here since not only can I access files between devices, I can make files available to family and friends. These systems are fabulous, but there’s one problem . . . I have a lot of files I don’t want to store on public servers – regardless of the security options they offer.
What’s my solution? I’m getting a WD My Book Live as an early birthday present. Several things make this drive different from other external drives. It isn’t just an external hard drive, but something called network attached storage (NAS). This has been around the business world for some time and is now making its way into the home. It has some software built into it which gives it capabilities a simple external drive doesn’t have. The most obvious difference is that it doesn’t plug into your computer. Instead, it plugs into your router and is available to all your computers as virtual drives.
The built-in software will allow me to use Apple’s Time Machine to backup both computers to the NAS and use iTunes to stream movies, music and photos to any of the iThings – including Apple TV. I can have public and private folders. I can even encrypt some of my folders if I want. And, with a 2TB capacity (that’s 2,000 GBs), I have room not only to digitize more of my stuff, but room to work on projects.
While I wait for my birthday – and my birthday present – to arrive, I’m working on a storage plan. This one will be a bit more complex because there will be multiple users and devices connecting to it. I will need to set up private areas and shared areas as well as backup areas for each computer. The smart thing would be to create a central photo photo library and have our iPhoto libraries connect to it. It sounds good on paper, but we’ll have to experiment to see how well it works in reality. The same holds true for music and movie libraries managed by iTunes.
Then there’s the iThings. It’s a challenge to manage files on these portable devices because they don’t have a centralized file management system. I have a growing number of archived eBooks and eMagazines that I want to make available to the iPad. How will this NAS drive work with apps like iFiles? Although I can make folders available across the Web, I’m not ready to go there and will probably continue to rely on services like Dropbox and MobileMe to files for “on the road” access.
One of my biggest issues is managing my growing collection of family history projects. As my collection grows, having the working files mixed in with the finished ones is becoming cumbersome. Even if access to a NAS drive is faster than a USB-connected drive, I’ll probably still continue to keep my working files on the computer’s drive. I don’t want to get rid of the working files because I do go back and make changes on occasion, but I will need a plan for archiving them.
I do have a lot of duplicate files – especially photos and project files – and this reorganization effort will help me get that under control too. I’ve been experimenting with iTunes and iPhoto to see how best to manage my libraries so those lessons learned are about to be put to work.
My goals – besides having more room for more stuff – is to get my personal archive cleaned up, improve our local and off-site backup systems, make more work space on my desktop for projects and give us access to our files from all our digital systems. This isn’t going to happen overnight or over a weekend, but I’m sure the results will be worth the effort. I’ll keep you posted.