In today's fast-paced digital life, we are flooded with devices - computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes for the televisions. All have the capability to stream content from a storage device and to access data, be it movies or presentations or images or sundry files.
So how can you watch a movie that is on the computer hard disk, via your tablet device, say, or your mobile phone? Or display a PowerPoint presentation from your laptop on your TV?
One way is to put things on a portable hard disk and lug it around. But in this case, only one device can access data from it at a time.
Another solution is to get a Network Attached Storage, or a hard disk that connects to your home network. This you can access from any device that is on your network: movies from the set-top box to your computer, for instance, or documents from a computer to your tablet, and all without lugging around and rewiring stuff. We tell you how you can do this.
A wireless router with a USB port
A lot of wireless routers now come with a USB port, to which you can connect a USB hard disk, thus making the hard disk accessible all over your network. This is a workable solution, but it is not feature-rich. But if you are looking to enable one of your existing USB drives to be able to talk to your home network, this solution works.
Make sure that your router allows the port to use hard disk/pen drives, not just a printer. Of course, these routers are slightly more expensive than your basic wireless routers. Not a lot of routers have USB port.
Recommended Model: Belkin N600 @ Rs. 4,154/Rs. 7,885
Use an old PC
This can be a great option if you have an old PC lying around. Just install Linux on it, put hard disks (a typical PC can hook up to four hard disc drives directly, plus additional USB drives) and connect it to your network.
The downside is that the PC will need to be managed separately, and you may not have a 24 x 7 power supply to keep it going. Also since the PC is not really a dedicated device it will need to be managed and maintained. The advantage is that you get more control on what gets shared what not, and of course the old disused computer now has some use. Cost? Nothing extra!
Get a wireless hard disk drive
When Seagate announced the GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless, they changed the way we look at connectivity. This small mobile hard disk drive with 500 GB memory broadcasts its own wireless network. Any device that connects to it will be able to read and stream content.
There is a downside, of course. When you are connected to this drive, you may not be able to use the Internet. Also, it limits connectivity to Wi-Fi, so devices that don’t have Wi-Fi are out. Moreover, there is a cap on number of devices.
But if you need to access data on multiple devices and don't want to set up a wired network, this is a good solution. Kingston too has wireless solutions, but they are low on memory (16-64GB, priced at $128-228 (Rs. 7,168-Rs. 12,768).
Recommended Model: Seagate GoFlex@ Rs. 10,908
Network attached storage (NAS)
The price will make you wonder, should I do this? But a Network Attached Storage (NAS) is your best move if you really need sharable storage. It works as a stand-alone file server (network computer) that lets you stream content to various devices. Typically an NAS comes with a backup software that lets you backup your computers automatically to this device.
Some of these drives also come with additional USB ports, so that you can add your old USB portable drives to the NAS. Some devices come with a RAID feature, which allows you to have your hard disks mirror each other so that in case one drive fails, you don't lose data.
The upside is that these are available anywhere from 1TB to 4TB for home users. The downside obviously is the cost.
NAS drives cost Rs. 9,000 (1 TB) to Rs. 35,000 (4TB).
Points to remember
If your data is precious, make sure you buy external drives with the RAID option
Whatever is the storage you are using today, budget for at least twice if not four times the capacity
Be aware how many devices you can attach with the storage
You may need to be able to access the data from multiple devices simultaneously
Remember, just because you are storing data on the drive does not mean you are secure — keep additional backups, especially if your data has crucial stuff.