Getting started with our massive Media Tank home storage project

Summary:Over the course of the next few articles, we're going to take you through the full Media Tank project, including all the tricks that were necessary to cram so many inexpensive drives inside one box and make it all work.

That server would become the Media Tank.

Here’s some of what we store on the tank now:

  • Audio, particularly audio we’ve created, along with audio books. We have a complete share dedicated to just non-album audio
  • All our music, nearly 1,500 albums. We keep both lossless (flac) and lossy copies (MP3)
  • All the books we’ve managed to scan, along with all the manuals for all the products we have, have had, and use
  • Nearly all of our bookkeeping records, including all our corporate records going back to before the turn of the century
  • My very large collection of licensed loops and music clips, which I used in the composition of as-yet-unpublished music tracks
  • Our picture library, containing all our photos, including all of my wife’s snapshots, which she scanned in over the course of a few months, numbering in the tens of thousands
  • Our software library, containing ISO images and installers for almost all of our software, replacing the DVDs and CDs they were distributed on
  • My client work project center, containing organized, structured, encrypted, and secured client files for the clients I’ve done work for over the years (this is not complete – I have certain “special” client files that have highly secured, regulation-specified homes)
  • All my studio video production content and assets, including all the templates and media assets necessary to create broadcast quality video
  • Five separate video shares, containing our extremely large video collection
  • A special virtual machine share that hosts and runs all the VMs I use across all my projects
  • A backup share that backs up the servers that serve our various Web sites, including the more than 100,000 articles published by ZATZ since 1998
  • A private “My Documents” share each for my wife and me, containing our own, individual documents that we use and organize for our own projects
  • And a central, highly useful EasyShare storage unit that contains most of our operational documents for both running the house and our business interests.

There’s actually more, but that gives you a reasonably good picture of how we use the tank.

Over time, we became rather expert in organizing and digitizing our information.

I’ll tell you about some of it in future articles. We’ve done a lot of it ourselves, and we’ve jobbed out some of it to local service providers. There’s one local service provider we used that scanned in more than a decade of business documents, shredded them, and returned to us a perfectly formatted set of PDFs.

Having the Media Tank made it possible to very comfortably downsize our home.

We no longer had to rent thousands of square feet merely to warehouse physical media. When it came time for us to buy a place, we were able to buy an awesome place just about half the size of the monster rental house. Because it was a fixer-upper, we had the opportunity to tune it for our lifestyle. That meant gigabit Ethernet in every wall, a super energy-efficient cooling system, a gym/dance space, a combined media room and office in our great room, and a space for the broadcast studio in a small room.

Part of the reason we’ve been able to add these interesting function rooms is that we’re no longer warehousing all our media. Even though we’ve yet to go fully paperless, most of it is stored on our Media Tank. Instead of thousands of square feet going to waste holding up paper and plastic discs, we now have a 20-inch tall tower that takes up 1.17 square feet (and a second one in a closet that we use to back it up).

We now do most of our work directly on the tank.

We open files that live on the tank, we edit files remotely and store them back to the tank. While that’s no big feat for something like an article like this, I host all the VMs I use right on the tank, and even edit video straight on the tank. That’s why the gigabit Ethernet became so important.

So, now you know the back story and the amazing benefits we’ve derived from our Media Tank. In subsequent articles I’ll describe how we built the tanks, how we managed to stuff 10 drives inside one mid-sized tower, how we were able to build our massive Media Tank for around the price of a nicely-equipped MacBook Air, some of the software we’ve used to store our information, and more.

It’s been a fun and rewarding journey, and you’re invited along for the ride. Stay tuned for Part II.

UPDATE: Here's Part II .

Topics: Storage

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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