SHCC WYSIWYG Article from December 2003

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This article appeared in the December 2003 WYSIWYG newsletter.

D-Link Home Drive

by Don VanSyckel

I'd like to take some time this month to acquaint you with some new technology coming along for consumers that's built from various pieces commonly available. This is the first unit that I've heard of for consumers and is from D-Link. It called the "D-Link Central Home Drive". So what is it? If you need more storage for all those pictures and other digital stuff you're collecting, this might be an alternative you should consider.

This unit is Network Attached Storage (NAS) for the consumer. NAS has been around for a while but until now has always come in pricey large units for businesses. A NAS is just what it's called. It's storage (disk drives) that are attached to the your computer via the network.  You might say why not just use an old computer and stuff disks into it?  For the same reason you might buy a TiVo instead of using an old computer with a cable ready video card or buy a DVD player or some of the high end video games. Sometimes a box designed to do a specific function can do it better and be easier to maintain.

What are some advantages that a NAS has?

1. The NAS is available to all the computers on your home network. Your spouse and kids can also use it from their computers at the same time.  If you have a laptop you can share the data there also.

2. The NAS has security which you can choose to use or not. If you use the security then each user can have their own private area, you can share an area between multiple people without allowing everyone to have access, or you can simply protect it from others if stolen, etc.

3. If you want to 'lock up' your data because of being away on vacation or business travel, you can easily secure the NAS. This is a lot easier than securing your home computer.

4. If you travel between sites and have your old computer 'up north' or at you winter hideaway in the south, you can carry the NAS with you to connect to the computer at the other site.

5. The NAS is available to Windows PCs, MACs, and Linux computers.

The only real disadvantage is that the per Gigabyte cost is higher than the IDE disk you can pick up at the store with rebates. But then you're getting more features and functionality. Also like with everything else as this product catches on, the cost will go down.

The NAS is a rather small device for all that it has in it. D-Link is able to do this by using notebook type hard disks. These are quite a bit smaller than PC hard disks but also add to the price. The NAS is actually a computer running Linux as an OS and Samba. Samba is a system application which allows Linux and Unix boxes to do Windows and Mac type networking. This is actually a much better solution than if D-Link had attempted to write the NAS software from the ground up.

The NAS is different than external USB disk drives which are becoming popular now. At a glance they look the same but the external USB disk attaches to one computer only. True, you can use the computer that has it attached to share it out and use it from other computers. The issues with this is if the computer the external USB disk is attached to is turned off or crashes the other users are in trouble. External USB disk drives doesn't integrate real well across the different PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. Also external USB disk drives have no security at all which can be a real issue.

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