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NAS, it’s the only way to be sure

Lovely black box of storage goodness!

Okay, so one of the coolest bits of hardware I own, apart from my iMac and my car, is this: the Synology DS418J NAS. As appears to be the norm with these blog entries, I’m going to wistfully cast my mind back to the heady days of the 80s…

Back then, I was at college, doing a National Diploma in Computer Studies. I’d gone to a grammar school, a boys’ one, and drifted into A-Levels and then realised I was utterly hopeless at A-Levels. I chose Biology, Physics and Mathematics. A mate of mine decided he was going to drop out and applied for the college course. I’d had absolutely no idea what it was I’d wanted to do. Being at a decent grammar school meant that you were either an academic or a sportsman. I was neither. I remember one morning sitting in a physics class and this chum of mine rocked up in his civvy clothes and proudly announced that he had left. He’d applied for the college course and had been accepted. I left the next day.

We thought we were so cool, us computer students, but looking back we were total nerds. We competed with each other to see who could amass the most 5¼” floppy disks and would proudly walk around campus with our huge disk boxes on full display. Okay, I’ve just realised how weird that sounds…

Fast forward a few years and 3½” disks were the norm. I wasn’t working for a while after I’d left education and so would save up for a single one of these beauties every week. They were five quid each! I used to while away my evenings copying and organising my various files whilst my peers went out, got drunk and met women. I had a Macintosh SE, which I absolutely loved and spent hours and hours mucking about with HyperCard stacks and designing icons on a 320×240 resolution black and white screen.

Every few years, storage capacities went up. After floppy disks came the Iomega Zip disks, then CD-RW, then DVD-RW, then Blu Ray. The Millennials won’t know the trials of trying to get a file on to a single floppy disk; WinZip, and StuffIt for the Mac, were the utilities to have back then.

As I continued to amass pretty much all the files I have ever collected, even Blu Ray storage became inadequate. I still have 50 blank Blu Ray discs bought a few years ago that I simply haven’t used, though I may well need to for archiving Documentalist projects in the future.

Of course, storage increased exponentially whilst the device size decreased. I still remember spending £40 on a 64Mb compact Flash Card for a digital camera. Now, one can pick up a 64Gb Micro SD, something about the size of a postage stamp ripped in half, for about a tenner. Mad.

For a couple of years now I have been looking towards investing in a small NAS (Network Attached Storage) solution and I finally bit the bullet this year by investing in the very very awesome Synology DS418J.

This little cubic beauty takes four conventional 3½” SATA drives, has a 64-bit dual-core 1.4GHz processor and pushes data down the Ethernets at (apparently) 625Gbps. Mine contains three 4Tb Western Digital ‘Red’ drives and a 3Tb Western Digital ‘Green’.

Just for larks, 15Tb can hold the equivalent of 10,416,666 of those 3½” disks I used to save up for back in the 80s…

For a non-IT guy like myself, the NAS is incredibly easy to set-up (though I did have a problem with a faulty WD Red drive when I bought it), has many different RAID options and admin is done through a very well thought out browser-based portal. Apps can be downloaded from Synology’s site to handle everything from a file and media video server to email, notes and even web. Companion apps for iOS and Android allow you to view your media and even administer the drives.

So I’m recommending NAS to people who, like me, have a ton of files but no real practical back-up option. I was originally going to go for a 2-bay option but spent a little more for the 4-bay. When buying kit, I always recommend to spend a little more for the next option up, especially where storage is concerned. And certainly, with newer PCs, and especially Macs, not having very flexible upgrade options and the pain of transferring huge files from one platform to another, a NAS is absolutely the perfect route to go.

You can buy from Amazon but I went to a local supplier, the very excellent CCL Online, where I was able to purchase the enclosure and the disks on the same day. They also replaced the faulty drive after verifying that it was faulty. The enclosure costs between £250 and £300, the 4Tb Western Digital ‘Red’ drives about £100 each, though the cost of these drives is falling all the time.

If you want to expand your storage, then definitely think about NAS!”