Best storage devices: From USB flash drives to RAID units

Best storage devices: From USB flash drives to RAID units

Summary: While the cloud has appeared just in time to offer free and easy access to gigabytes of storage space, some people like to keep their data close to hand. Here are some of the best storage devices money can buy that will help you keep your data safe.


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  • (Source: IronKey)


    One of the biggest worries when carrying data about is loss. Sure, it sucks being down a storage device when you've left it on the train or had it stolen off you, but what sucks more is realizing that you didn't encrypt something important, and now that data is potentially out in the wild.

    You might choose to mitigate this by using a software solution, but in my experience people forget to use this at the most inopportune times. Far better to use a hardware encryption solution that forces the user to encrypt the data at all times.

    This is where the IronKey comes into play. Not only does it offer AES 256-bit hardware encryption, but it is built to resist very determined and sophisticated attack. The device will permanently self-destruct after 10 consecutive incorrect password attempts, and a ruggedized, waterproof metal chassis resists physical break-ins and is tamper evident.

    Price: The S250 starts at $110 for 2GB.

  • (Source: Western Digital)

    Western Digital My Passport Pro

    For a few years now I've been a fan of Western Digital My Passport drives. They're small, fast, and reliable. Given my happy past experiences with these external drives, I was excited when Western Digital sent me a pair of 2TB My Passport Pro.

    Unlike the My Passport drives which house a single drive, the My Passport Pro houses two drives. This makes them thicker, but the two drives have benefits. Using the supplied software you can configure these drives as RAID 0 or RAID 1 (depending on whether you want speed or data duplication) or you can set them to appear as separate drives.

    The My Passport Pro comes equipped with Thunderbolt connectivity, and the cable is attached, which is great because it means I don't have to buy one, and won't lose the one supplied! This drive delivers transfer rates as high as 233 MB/s, so it's no slouch. The drive also gets power from the Thunderbolt connector so there's no separate AC adaptor to carry (or lose).

    Price: Starts at $299 for 2TB.

  • (Source: Drobo)

    Drobo Mini 

    When you want bags of storage and a higher level of piece of mind than a single drive offers, it is time to employ the services of a bigger tool.

    The Drobo Mini fits in nicely between a single external hard drive and a full-on multi-bay NAS box. Because it takes four 2.5-inch drive – as opposed to full-sized 3.5-inch drives – the Drobo Mini has a much smaller footprint than you might expect, and can connect to a PC or Mac using Thunderbolt or USB 3.0.

    As well as the four drive, you can speed up a Drobo Mini by adding a separate mSATA solid state drive.

    A handy – and portable – solution to the problem of ever-expanding data.

    Price: Around $350 for a diskless unit.

Topics: Storage: Fear, Loss, and Innovation in 2014, Storage

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  • Re: Best storage devices: From USB flash drives to RAID units....

    Running my iMac from an External USB 3.0 Crucial M4 SSD.

    Performance is incredible.
  • Best NAS

    Alan Smithie
  • Best of the Best NAS

  • Best NAS

    Synology +1
  • NAS4Free

    For around $300 you can build your own 1 Tb RAID1 storage in a "shoe box" style case. Install NAS4Free and then enjoy. I've been running my own NAS4Free installation at home and it's been up for over 400 days without a reboot. I stream music, movies and use it as a file server.
    • I went FreeNAS

      NAS4Free behaved weirdly when I tested it. But yeah, same idea - cheaper and non-proprietary filesystem ftw.
  • Even smaller

    Even smaller, and much more rugged than the Sandisk is the Patriot Autobahn USB drive (8,16,32 GB).

    Solid metal housing, no seam on the USB connector, and the barrel end of the drive acts as a heat sink. It also tests reasonably fast for a small flash drive:

    Benchmarking performance using a Linux disk utility produced these results:

    Minimum read rate: 16.6 MB/s
    Maximum read rate: 26.3 MB/s
    Average read rate: 22.7 MB/s
    Average access time: 1.0 ms

    Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a protective cap, although I fashiioned one from an old cap that came with an iPod cable.
    • Patriot USB Write Lockout Failure

      Should google 'patriot write protected' failure before too good to be true purchase. Consumer complaints at Patriot support seem to go unanswered. Could be repurposed as a winter solstice tree ornament.
  • WD Green drives

    I have a 1TB WD Green attached by USB to my router. My version of NAS. It works fine for me, but my friend recently gave me his external USB 1TB drive to see if I could recover his family photos from it. Once I opened the enclosure I discovered it to be almost identical to my drive. Just one letter in the 8 digit WD##LLLL varied, the last digit. As nearly as I could learn after much Googling, these drives have a controller that encrypts the data and if that controller fails the only way to recover the data is to replace it (including a BIOS chip that needs to be transfered to the new controller...tiny soldered connection). My controller looks identical to his except for the additonal hardware to connect the power supply and extend the SATA connection to the outside of the enclosure. I thought about trying to use mine to access the data through my Sharkoon USB adapter (takes IDE, SATA 2.5 or 3.5") but decided not to lest I make my own data unaccessible.
  • The "Cloud is not an Option"

    For most users the Cloud is simply not an option for a very big reason. Typical home upload speeds are 1/10 the bandwidth of download speeds.

    I have 10mbs which handles streaming on 2 tvs at once as well as simultaneous internet access (although with some pausing). Decided to put about 10g on Skydrive, my pictures and a small amount of other key things I'd never want to use.

    Everything is backed up to local drives, but we had a fire and it scared the bejesus out of me, so things I can not live without were placed above.

    Took 3 days to upload. Checked or upload speeds and got max around 70kbs. I am sure there are premium plans that do better, but can't imagine even trying to put 100g up there unless I had at least 10x the upload rate. Even at that would take a long time.

    The stuff I put up there changes little so my upload is over, I did a complete restore of that data and it took many hours. BTW, while these uploads/downloads were occurring other activities involving streaming were significantly impacted.

    Such is my story.
    • agree, that's a problem

      I need to back up well over a TB, and the photos from a trip can easily be 50 GB in a shot. Internet upload speeds are simply not sufficient for users like me to use the cloud as a real storage solution. And the restore from a catastrophe wouldn't be all that fun either. I'm stuck with physically-shuttled offsite portables drives for now.
    • Cloud Can Be Useful

      The WS2012eR2 with mirrored deduplicated archive has performed well and efficiently for 8TB from 5 clients including GB's of photos and videos. Refresh backups take only minutes and in off hours. Prefer a private cloud to sneakernet vault. Local start of private cloud avoids the initial congestion for remote cloud.

      WS2012e trials available for interested with surplussed PC. Maybe overwhelming for PnP crowd.
      • DropBox Dropped The Ball

        Deciding to start trying Backups utilizing the Cloud, I had 1.5GB uploaded to Dropbox.
        Just realized since by checking their Events that my Data start Deleting half way thro' November. All gone!
        It'll take the '2-3 days' to address my concern. My brief Message to DropBox? 'Put it back.'
        I've learned not to trust the Cloud alone. Redundancy is mandatory.
        • Agree Public Cloud Not Trustworthy

          The only cloud I trust is private because I own it, both hardware and software. Too many State and commercial cyber pirates out there to trust public or commercial clouds. If your data cant be mined or ransomed, it will be deleted like your experience.

          Yes, unless there is redundancy, the data is one event from disaster as demonstrated at DropBox.
  • oh, and AK-H...

    -1 for gallery format
    • Gallery Is Dinasaur

      I read and responded to the Posts. I refuse to do those clunky, backward Gallery Formats anymore. They waste my time and just too much clicking and scrolling for me. I skipped it.
      ZDNet is backward in too many ways for a Tech Outfit. Does it listen to its Bloggers never mind its Readers? Doesn't appear to.
  • Media people - RISE!

    Will someone in the media start the ball rolling to eliminate the term "RAID 0"? There's no such thing! The first letter in RAID stands for Redundant; "RAID 0" has NO redundancy - it's LESS reliable than a single drive, and RAID was invented, PRIMARILY, to increase reliability of a storage system through improved continuity of operation through failure and improved system uptime, as well as (in some implementations), a quasi self-healing capability. We might as well say: "If you want to keep your data safe, you can keep it on a RAID 0, period!" Sheesh!
  • RAID is unreliable

    In the past 6 months the company I work for has had 2 RAID systems go down. First someone has to spot the warning light on a faulty drive and then someone has to do something about it. In both cases, removing the hot-swappable faulty drive seemed to trigger another drive failure and the RAID system we use cannot recover from 2 discs going down at the same time. Fortunately we have a rigorous backup system but my advice to anyone running a RAID system is "DON'T RELY ON RAID".
    One way of minimising the possibility of 2 drives going down almost simultaneously is to replace the component drives in a RAID system before they fail, one at a time, spread over time so that all the drives are not the same age. In our systems, all the drives were the same age so when one goes, the chances are that the others are ready to fail.
    • RIAD can be safe

      Always use drive's from different production batches, this can reduce the problem with 2 faulty drives. Also use a hot spare to make problems smaller with RAID.