Category Archives: storage

Upgrading An Old MacBook To An SSD



One of the machines I have is a 6 year old 13” white plastic Intel MacBook. In recent years I’ve used it as a backup machine just in case I needed it. It has a 2 gigahertz Core 2 Duo processor and is maxed out at 2 gigabytes of RAM.

Solid State Drive prices have been dropping lately, so I figured making the swap to a solid state drive and the performance boost it would bring would be worth it. I ended up buying a Crucial 128 gigabyte SSD for around $104 dollars with Amazon Prime picking up the shipping cost.

This evening I made the installation. I started out by installing the new SSD in an external Firewire enclosure and installing OS/X onto it first. After a very smooth, painless installation process, OS/X asked me what I wanted to transfer from the old drive to the new one, and though I left out most of the documents and other clutter, I did tell it to move the applications over, which to my surprise it did a stellar job of copying over to the new SSD drive.

After rebooting into the new drive while it was still connected via Firewire, I copied over a few miscellaneous files I needed and then shut everything down. Next, I swapped the new drive into the MacBook.

The results are nothing short of amazing. The old 7,200 RPM hard drive made the machine seem sluggish and non-responsive. With the SSD in the same machine, things seem to happen almost instantly. The conclusion I take away is that conventional hard drive performance has been a bigger performance bottleneck than we realized.

The days of the conventional spinning hard drive are numbered. The conventional hard drive will one day be going the way of the cathode ray tube monitor and floppy discs.

If you are tempted to shell out big bucks for a new machine just to get a performance boost, if you have an older machine that has otherwise good hardware, consider upgrading to an SSD for an incredible performance boost at a fraction of the price of a new machine.


Buffalo Launches Thunderbolt Portable SSD



Buffalo LogoFollowing on from GNC’s review of the MiniStation Air earlier this month, Buffalo have a launched the MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD. As you might guess from the name, it’s a portable SSD with a Thunderbolt connection so it’s ideal for connecting up with Apple Macs.

Combining the SSD with Thunderbolt, the MiniStation has a read performance of more than 370 MB/s and a write performance that exceeds 250 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book. And I think those are Bytes and not bits. PC users aren’t left out with a USB 3.0 connection too, though it’s not as fast as the Thunderbolt connections.

MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo, said: “The MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD combines a highly robust and aesthetically pleasing design with exceptionally fast data transfer speed. We have seen how Thunderbolt hard drives have transformed the available speed for read and write to storage devices, but with the additional of SSD in the Buffalo range, the speed stakes are raised again providing astounding performance.

The drive is bus-powered and will be available in two storage sizes, at a recommended price of £229.99 for the 128 GB product and £349.99 for the 256 GB version. There’s a .pdf spec sheet here.

Hopefully GNC will be bringing you a review of the MiniStation Thunderbold SSD in the not-too-distant future.


Buffalo MiniStation Air Review



Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo MiniStation Air is “wireless streaming storage” for smartphones and tablets that provides 500 GB of extra space. Simply, it’s a 500 GB portable hard drive with wifi and complementary apps for Android and iOS. The idea is that the MiniStation Air connects to your PC or laptop via USB 3 and gets loaded up with stacks of music and video which can then be played via an app when out-and-about. It’s a great idea, but how does it stack up against “the cloud” and other solutions such as Pogoplug? Let’s find out.

Buffalo MiniStation Air Box

The MiniStation Air itself is a small black and grey unit, 130 x 84 x 23 mm. The top is a polished black surface with four pinprick status LEDs embedded in it and the sides and bottom are a silvery-grey with buttons and connectors on two of the sides.

Buffalo MiniStation Air

This is a USB 3.0 device which is immediately apparently from the shape of the connector. (Apologies for using stock photos but my own photos were all rubbish).

Buffalo MiniStation Air USB3

Connecting the MiniStation Air to the PC was simply a case of plugging it in with the device appearing as a removable drive. Copying media files took no time at all thanks to the USB 3 connection. It works with USB 2 as well, things just take a bit longer.

Once the Air is loaded up, it can be disconnected from the PC and then powered up on its own. At this point, the MiniStation Air is broadcasting a wifi signal (802.11n/g/b) and it’s easy to connect to it using the SSID and passkey details provided on the bottom of the Air.

Browsing the MiniStation Air

To get the MiniStation Air to work fully with smartphones and tablets, Buffalo provide an app for both Android and iOS which can be downloaded from the application app store. I was only able to test out the Android version, but once installed, it’s easy to browse the files and folders on the Air.

Music PlayerPlaying music or watching videos is just a case of tapping on the file. Photos and music are handled within the app, but videos are handed over to the default video player on the device. Movies started up within a couple of seconds (if that) and music started almost instantly. The music player is basic and as with many of these devices, doesn’t correctly pick up track tags, so albums are arranged alphabetically rather than in track order.

There isn’t a full “HD” app for the tablets, but there is some differentiation between tablets and smartphones. For example, on a tablet, pictures are previewed alongside the folder but this doesn’t happen on a smartphone, even when rotated to landscape. However, the four expanding arrows in the toolbar at the bottom shows that this isn’t a native tablet app.

Tablet Preview

The Edit part of the app allows files to be up- and downloaded from the MiniStation Air. It’s the usual check-box / select operation affair but for the small numbers of files that are likely to be transferred this way, it’s fine.

The Settings area provides access to the SSID and passkey plus other details such as hostname and workgroup. Nothing particularly unexpected here but the MiniStation Air has one last trick up its sleeve. The Air can be connected to another wifi network, preferably one that has a connection to the Internet. This means that although the smartphone is connected to the Air’s wifi, an onward connection to the Internet is provided for other queries or web surfing while listening to music. It’s pretty slick and very handy. It’s also something Buffalo should make a bit more obvious.

Performance-wise, it says that the Air can support eight simultaneous connections with three HD streams. I tested two HD simultaneous streams and it worked flawlessly. Battery life is claimed to be “up to 4 hours” and I wouldn’t disagree – I saw over three hours with a mix of video and music. The Air is powered and recharged via USB so it’s easy enough to hook it up for extended operation.

Any problems? Not really. A couple of wishes, though. First, a Windows / Mac app to use the MiniStation Air wirelessly would be good. Second, some kind of security on the device would be handy as being portable, it’s going to be awfully easy to lose. Finally, an SSD version with longer battery life but perhaps less storage would be interesting but probably too expensive to be considered.

Overall, the MiniStation Air is a good product that will appeal to those smartphone and tablet users who need more-than-average storage…much more than average. The Air is available now from all good retailers with a street price of £100-£120.

The MiniStation Air app was tested on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a Motorola Xoom 2 ME tablet.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the MiniStation Air.

 


D-Link Cloud Storage 2000



D-Link Cloud Storage 2000D-Link Cloud Storage 2000 is the newest addition to D-Links’ line of cloud storage options. It offers remote sharing, streaming and management capabilities. You can download, upload and delete files and folders either remotely or locally. It will allow you to access files stored on the ShareCenter from any computer via the mydlink.com portal. At this time this does require that you have Java 6 installed if you are using Chrome on a Mac. You can also access the same files via the free app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. With the free app you can view photos and stream music and videos from the ShareCenter directly to your mobile devices from anywhere. The D-link Cloud Storage 2000 also has a DLNA capable server which streams music, photo and video to compatible media players including the Boxee Box and PlayStation(r). It has a Photo Center which allows the administrator to create photo albums and view them with a side show. It also has a built in web file server and secure FTP server. With the USB port you can add an USB Drive or printer. It supports, local backup, Apple Time Machine backup, Amazon S3 backup, and PC backup among others. You can schedule it to power off at a certain time and it will automatically notify by email of the Device Status.

The Cloud Storage 2000 replaces D-Links DNS–320 storage device with a faster CPU and a gigabit Ethernet port for high speed data transfers. It can support up to two 3.5 inch SATA hard drives. It supports multiple users streams simultaneously. It is easy to install and is equipped with Raid 1 technology for security. The D-Link Cloud Storage 2000 will be available for $149 both online and in retail outlets in North America.


ioSafe Announces “Disaster-Proof” NAS Device



Having a NAS (network attached storage) device in your home is a smart solution for backup, but it’s far from all you need.  Obviously, in the event of a disaster like fire or flood, not only can your home computers be wiped out, but in-home backup will be gone along with it.  Now ioSafe is looking to solve that problem with a new piece of hardware that is being billed as “disaster-proof”.

The ioSafe N2 is both fire and water-proof storage for the home and small business.  The hardware can store up to 8 terabytes of content, contains a 2 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, SD memory card slot, provides local and remote access and can be used as a media server and email server.

The product is being brought to market via a crowd-funding site called Indiegogo.  “Interesting point to note: the NAS project is to be funded via crowd-funding site Indiegogo. ioSafe is a small, 20-person company and this will help with the costs of bringing the product to market.”

To find out more, you can head over to ioSafe.  I still recommend a second, cloud-based, storage solution for a fail-safe, but you can certainly rest a bit easier with the ioSafe N2 in your home or office.


Upgrading My NAS…Yawn



Hard DriveLast weekend, I upgraded my NAS from 2 TB to 4 TB and it was all too easy. The NAS is a Buffalo LinkStation Duo but as the drives are mirrored, I only get half the total 2 TB capacity, i.e. 1 TB. I was getting pretty close to having the full terabyte of data on the unit, so I decided it was time for a storage upgrade. However, the last time I upgraded another model of NAS, it involved much chicanery and re-installing of firmwire via USB, so I proceed with trepidation.

Not so this time. It was mostly lots of waiting interspersed with a few minutes of activity, followed by first time success. Disappointingly little geekery was required.

Step 1. Buy a pair of SATA 2 TB hard-drive. The LinkStation already had Seagate drives installed, so I played it safe and bought some Seagate Barracuda drives. Wait a couple of days for drives to arrive in post…

Step 2. Backup the data from the NAS to an external USB drive. My favourite tool for this is rsync because it simply copies files (no archives or zip files) and you can stop and start the backup as you like. You can even keep using the NAS up until the last minute before running one final rsync to copy the latest changes over. Leave the backup to run overnight…

Step 3. Shutdown the LinkStation via the web interface.

Step 4. Remove hard drives, insert new ones.

Step 5. Power up the Linkstation and log on via the web interface.

Step 6. Format drives in turn. Configure as RAID 1. Wait for best part of a day while array synchronises….

Step 7. Restore data from external USB hard drive. Leave to run overnight….

Step 8. Job done!

It was pleasantly straightforward to upgrade the NAS and a big change from the last occasion I had to swap a disk. For sure it takes a couple of days to do the swap, but the time is spent shuffling data around, not actually working on the unit. Definitely a recommended upgrade.

[Disclosure: this is my personal NAS and not a review unit.]


Dropbox Vs. Google Drive




Google recently released Google Drive. It is the newest cloud storage device. Dropbox is a cloud storage device that has been in use for quite some time. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two.

Price

Dropbox:
* Up to 18 GB is free. You can earn 2 GB + 500 MB per referral.
* Pro 50 Plan costs $9.99/month or $99.00/year. Gives +1 GB per referral, up to +32 GB
* Pro 100 Plan costs $19.99/month or $199.00/year. Gives +GB per referral, up to +32 GB
* Teams plans start at 1 TB. Costs $795/year for the first five users and $125/year for each additional user.

Google Drive:
* Store up to 5GB in Google Drive, 1GB in Picasa, and 10GB in Gmail for free
* There are several monthly plans to choose from. Yearly plans are not yet available.
* Plans include: 25 GB for $2.49/month, 100 GB for $4.99/month, 200 GB for $9.99/month, 400 GB for $19.99/month, 1 TB for $49.99/month, 2 TB for $99.99/month, 4 TB for 199.99/month, 8 TB for $399.99/month, 16 TB for $799.99/month.

Upload Limits

Dropbox:
* Files uploaded to Dropbox via the desktop application have no file size limit
* Files uploaded through the website have a 300 MB cap
* The files you upload to Dropbox must be smaller than your account’s storage limits.

Google Drive:
* An uploaded file or folder can be up to 10GB

Compatibility

Dropbox:
* Can be used with Windows, Mac, or Linux
* Can be used with iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android

Google Drive:
* Can be used with PC and Mac
* Can be used with Android
* Cannot be used with iPhone or iPad at this time (but is coming soon)


Buffalo TeraStation at The Gadget Show



Earlier in the week at Gadget Show Live, I spoke with Fabian Rousseau, Buffalo‘s Director of Product Marketing about the TeraStation network storage units. The TeraStation range is being revamped with a new numbering scheme to make it easier to understand the different models and the number of drives in each one. On display was the TeraStation 5800, which has eight drives, making it a fairly substantial unit as you’ll see in the picture below. The 5600 will have six drives, 5400 four drives, 5200 two drives. R will indicate rackmount.

Buffalo TeraStation

The TeraStations are generally aimed at the small business market: the full feature set and redundant / failover components mean that they’re more expensive than the consumer products. However, some prosumers are purchasing the two and four drive units for home servers. The new TeraStations are expected on the market in a few months and will be priced competitively.

[Disclosure – Buffalo gave me a free Lego Buffalo which will appear in a future post.]


LaCie 5big Network 2 Professional NAS



LaCie today announced the 5big Network 2 professional RAID network storage unit in a range of new capacities, including diskless, allowing it to be scaled upwards as the needs of the businesses demand. Styled by designed Neil Poulton, this is one device that doesn’t need to be hidden in away in a server room.

LaCie 5bigLaCie 5big back

With the option to purchase the diskless version and then install already available disks, the 5big is a cost-effective way of getting into professional storage which can then grow as funds and storage needs dictate. Hot-swap is supported too, meaning that in the event of a drive failure, the faulty unit can be replaced without downtime.

In addition to taking 5 SATA drives, there’s a good range of connectivity round the back including a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports, two eSata connectors and two USB (2.0) ports. Protocol-wise, the 5big supports a wide range including SMB, NFS, AFP, FTP, SFTP, HTTP(S) and iSCSI. It also works with Bonjour, Time Machine, iTunes and BitTorrent. The full details are on the specification page.

The remote access features of the 5big cater for off-site staff and there’s a complementary app, MyNAS, for iPhone and iPad owners.

Prices start at $349 for the diskless version up to $1,699 for the 15 TB version.


Dolly Drive Cloud Backup for Time Machine



Dolly Drive Time Machine Cloud DriveApple’s Time Machine has been a lifesaver for many people, especially when they’ve accidentally deleted an important file. However, it doesn’t protect against fire, flood or theft when everything is lost. Enter Dolly Drive, a Time Machine-compatible cloud-based backup service.

Available as a subscription service based on data usage, Dolly Drive looks like another Time Machine target to OS X and once setup, will store revisions and changes to the cloud, giving the security of off-site backup.

Included as part of the deal, subscribers are sent a hard drive via courier to return and seed their Dolly Drive for the first time. This avoids a lengthy upload over broadband when the service is first started and the whole disk is copied.

Prices start at $5 per month for 50 GB but a more representative subscription is $10 pcm for 250 GB. As a bonus, 5 GB is added each month for free.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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