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- Network Attached Storage -
01/06/2011
 

 
Commonly referred to as NAS, network attached storage is a very inexpensive and simple method for both backing up all your important data as well as sharing that data among computers on your local network, either at your home or your office. Its very similar to a file server except it does not require the use of a computer at all....instead, the drive enclosure (such as the one pictured above) houses a logic board which helps manage your data seamlessly. I use the Iomega product pictured above and have not had any problems with it at all. At the time of this publication, the 1 terabyte model is selling at Fry's for $129 and the 2 terabyte model sells for $199. For larger office environments, there is also a 4 terabyte model for $479.
 
Here are just some of the advantages of using a NAS to store, share and backup your files:
  • It will perform much the same function of a file server but does not require the use of a computer.
  • It's small size make it easy to setup almost anywhere in your home or office. It only requires 120v A/C power and a cat 5 network cable.
  • Its small size also makes it easy to conceal so it is less likely to be stolen by burglars or tampered with by employees or family members.
  • If desired, your shared files can be accessed over the internet by those who possess the proper credentials.
  • Automated backups can be performed on almost any schedule that meets your needs.
  • Network drive mapping is performed automatically by a small utility program that comes with the drive (see details below). This process is completed automatically any time you reboot your computer, so you don't have to worry about  not being able to access the networked folders.
  • You can save multiple copies of your backed up files if you wish, and this is highly recommended. If you are backing up corrupt files, you really don't have a backup at all.
  • You don't have to use the backup utility software that comes with the drive if you prefer to use your own. You can even drag and drop files directly to the NAS to perform a manual backup of your own any time you like.
  • Unlike tape drives or other backup programs that create libraries during your backups, this drive contains exact duplicates of your backed up files so it is very simple to view the files to be sure the backups are working properly.
  • You can restore your files from the NAS by simply dragging and dropping them into the proper folders.
 
Of course, a network attached storage drive is not much use to you if it is not properly mapped to your computer. And as you may know, mapped network drives often have a way of mysteriously disconnecting themselves from your computer. How often have you seen this message?

Network path not found. This connection has not been restored.

The Iomega NAS comes with a small utility program that will automatically map the network folders to your computer every time it is restarted. It will create networked drives to any folders contained on the NAS, including those you add yourself. If you open "My Computer", you will see something like this:

The folders labeled music, public, movies, activefolders and photos are created automatically by the installation software. You can add additional folders as necessary to meet your needs, i.e. "backups". This mapped drive structure will be automatically recreated every time you reboot your computer.

Alternative backup software

If you would prefer to use more flexible backup software, I recommend Second Copy by Centered.com. It is inexpensive ($29.95 as of 1-6-11) and will do almost anything you need to do to maintain effective backups. As I mentioned above, it is highly recommended that you retain multiple copies of your most important data files in case you discover data corruption when you need to restore from an archived backup. You could be backing up your Quickbooks data file, for instance and discover several months later the data for the first 10 months of the year is corrupt! And you won't find this out until you need the data the most, such as after you have been burglarized. Since the large hard disk drives are now very inexpensive, I recommend you retain at least 30 different copies of your most important data. And this is where Second Copy really simplifies things for you! You can quickly create a backup profile to store you important data in a different folder every day for each different day of the month, or even each different day of the year if you so desire. Assuming you have sufficient disk drive space to store the data, this could give you up to 365 different copies of your data, so data loss due to corruption would be almost totally eliminated! If you choose to create different backup files for each day of the month, the program will create a new folder for each day, numbered 1 through 31. That makes it very easy for you to view the data and begin the restore process if necessary. If you choose to backup to a different folder every day, the program will create a new folder containing the date of the backup, one new folder for each day of the year.

Your backups can be simply copies, compressed copies, folder synchronizations, file moves, etc., depending on your needs. And you can enter your outgoing email server information to have the program send you an email any time the scheduled backups are not completed successfully.

Offsite Data Backup

Even with the most reliable, sophisticated backup software and hardware running flawlessly in your home or office, there is always the chance of data loss due to theft, fire or similar disaster. If all your computers and your NAS drive are stolen or damaged, you have no backup. And that is where offsite backup becomes very important. I currently use and recommend Carbonite offsite backup. For a flat rate of $54.95 per year (as of 1-6-11), you can automatically backup as much data as you like, no limit and no additional charges. You can quickly and easily setup your account online, download the free software and begin backing up your files offsite immediately. There is no complicated user interface where you have to configure your backup and set all types of options. Once installed, it will automatically configure itself to backup all your documents, pictures, music, etc. And you can add any other files or folders to the backup routine by simply navigating to the folder in windows explorer, right click on the folder, select "Carbonite", then click "Back this up". Very simple. And the program marks the folders that have been selected for backup with a colored do so it is easy for you to identify them. A green dot indicates the files in that folder have all been backed up successfully. And orange dot indicates there are new or changed files pending backup. If you have lots of data to backup, it may take several days or even weeks for your initial backup to be completed, so be patient. If you need to restore your data, you can simply click the Carbonite backup drive in My Computer and select the files to be recovered. Or, if there is a lot of data to be restored, Carbonite will copy the data to DVD's and mail them to you for a very small charge.

Click here to visit the Iomega website.
 
Click here to visit the Fry's website for the Iomega NAS drive.
 
Click here for more information about Second Copy backup software.
 
Click here for more information about Carbonite offsite backup.
 
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact me at the number below or send me an email.
 
 

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