I’ll try not to be too nostalgic here, but I can’t help mentioning that my first PC, a 12-MHz 286 I bought in college, was equipped with a spacious 32-MB hard drive. I could fill that drive today with just a few photos from my Canon G9. In contrast, the iMac I have a home has a 750-GB drive. That’s a mere 23,000× increase in capacity.
I have a few hundred CDs at home, and I wanted to to make sure I had them available on my home network. Rather than encode them in a lossy format like MP3 or AAC, I decided to use Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) format. Using Apple Lossless produces only modest compression of about 50%, but it retains full audio fidelity. I only have a couple dozen DVDs, but thanks to Handbrake I can make digital copies of those too, and each weighs in at about 1.5 GB. In an era of cheap disk storage it seems like a good compromise.
The iMac disk eventually got full enough that I couldn’t back it up to my 500-GB external drive anymore. After keeping my eye on them for over a year, I decided to upgrade to a Drobo and loaded it up with three 1-TB hard drives. The result is a cool 1.8-TB of redundant storage.
The most attractive aspect of the Drobo is that it’s practically infinitely expandable. As larger drives become available you simply pop out one of your existing drives and replace it with a larger one. The Drobo automatically arranges all of the data and spans to the new drive to maintain the redundancy. I didn’t need all four drives to get started, so I just put the 1-TB drives in three of the bays.
I plugged the Drobo into the iMac using the Firewire 800 port for maximum copy speed. Even with the fast interface it took several hours to move a few hundred gigs of data to the Drobo.
The final step was moving the Drobo to my hall closet and plugging it in to the USB port on my Airport Extreme Basestation. This makes the Drobo available on my network so that any machine in the house can access the media or backup files to it. So far so good, but I have to admit that that the backup speed is only mediocre even over a Gig ethernet wired network. I suspect the so-so performance has a lot to do with the relatively slow USB 2.0 interface. It’s plenty fast to stream media for Boxee on the iMac though, and since I run the backups over night, the speed doesn’t really matter.
Stay tuned for a description of how I’m using my old MyBook external drive to store encrypted data off-site.