I Added Four Terabytes to My Personal Cloud

Click on the above image to view a larger version

In the past 18 years that I have been writing this newsletter, I think I have written the following statement at least a dozen times: “The price of disk storage keeps dropping.” Today I am writing that statement one more time. This weekend, I purchased a four-terabyte NAS hard drive and added it to my in-home network. I now have even more space for my backups and those of my family members. Best of all, the price was so low as to be undreamed of only a few years ago. You can do the same.

I elected to purchase a network-attached storage (NAS) drive, not the normal USB drive.

Most external hard drives are USB drives. That is, each of the drives is built into an external case, has a built-in power supply, and plugs into any modern computer’s USB connector. USB drives are great for adding disk storage space to any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer, all without requiring anyone to open the computer’s case. External USB drives are very popular for good reason: they are inexpensive (compared to only a few years ago) and they allow you to back up ONE COMPUTER easily or to add more disk storage space to one computer. If you and your family members only own one computer, a USB drive is an excellent solution.

The biggest disadvantage of sharing USB drives is that the computer it is plugged into must be left powered on and running whenever someone else wishes to access the shared drive. I believe there is a better way.

In fact, if your home computer is on a network, such as an in-home network created by a router that connects multiple computers to the Internet, it is possible to a network-attached storage (NAS) drive on the network and let other family members who are on the network access storage space and even shared files on that same drive. Most of today’s network-attached storage drives also allow for accessing the data from remote locations, protected by user names and passwords. You and other family members can access your files stored at home by connecting over the Internet, even when on a business trip or when visiting Aunt Mildred. Yet your files remain under your tight control and stored at home; you don’t have to upload them to some corporation’s servers where you lose control.

Most people who use broadband Internet connections already have a network in their home; however, I find that many people do not know that. If you have a cable modem, DSL modem, satellite modem, or fiber optic modem in your home, look on the back of the Internet modem/router to see how many connections are available for computers. Most of these routers designed for in-home use have four connections. The connectors look something like the plug-in telephone connectors used in North America except that they are larger. These are ethernet connections and are commonly referred to as RJ-45 connectors.

If your Internet router has two or more RJ-45 connectors, you have an in-home network. Most of the in-home routers I see have four such connectors. This means that you can plug up to four computers or other devices into such a router.

NOTE: You can also add an ethernet switch to connect even more computers or devices, but I will cover that topic in a later article. For the moment, let’s assume you have four connectors. The same router also may provide wi-fi wireless signals so that you can use even more computers.

Instead of purchasing a USB external drive that only connects to one computer, I purchased a NAS (network-attached storage) drive that can be shared among multiple computers on my network. Instead of having a USB connector, it has an RJ-45 ethernet connector that plugs into the router in my home. Note that it does NOT plug into a computer; instead, it plugs into the router. I can then share this one drive among multiple computers in my home, including tablet computers and “smartphones,” even though I might have my primary computer(s) powered off. The router and the NAS drive must be powered on, however.

The NAS drive looks identical to a USB drive. The only difference is the connector, a bit of different electronics inside, and roughly a $20 higher price tag.

I purchased a Western Digital “My Cloud Live” NAS drive with four terabytes of storage space. The retail price of this drive is $249.99 but the “street price” price is about $219 from the discount houses. I purchased mine at Amazon at http://goo.gl/Br0StM although you can find the same device in many computer stores.

Most all disk drive manufacturers sell NAS disk drives of lesser capacity for lower prices. However, if you calculate the cost per terabyte of each drive, you usually will find that the biggest drives provide the lowest prices per gigabyte of storage. In this case, the current price of the Western Digital My Cloud 4 Terabyte Home Network Attached Storage Drive is about five and a half cents per gigabyte. That was unheard of a few years ago or even last year!

I attached the NAS drive to the router in my home and immediately started backing up files from my primary desktop iMac computer. A few minutes later, I turned on my MacBook Air laptop computer and started backing up files from it. Then one of my family members connected to the big disk drive from her Windows computer and started her own backups. If I had more family members with more computers, we could back up still more files. It will also back up files from Linux computers and most any other operating system as well.

Of course, backups are not the only purpose of this disk drive. We can save any files we wish on the NAS drive. Even better, we can (optionally) share files. I gave each user their own space and protected it with user names and passwords. Then I created one more section called PUBLIC, and I allow all in-home users to access it without entering a user name or password.

I use the PUBLIC folder to store pictures, music, and video files that I wish to share with the family. Using the Mac, I can even stream the videos through the television set in the living room and stream music through the hi-fi system in the same room.

Now for the best part: the Western Digital drives as well as some other brands allow you to access files on the drive from other locations. Because my new disk drive is attached to the router, it is (optionally) possible to access some or all of the files on that device through the Internet. In effect, I have my own cloud storage on the Internet.

NOTE: Computer experts will protest that this isn’t true cloud storage. This one disk drive does not distribute its contents across multiple data centers in different locations, so it does not provide the redundancy expected of cloud storage. It has a single point of failure, unlike a true cloud service. If the one disk drive fails, my “personal cloud” stops working. It is also susceptible to disasters in my home; if a fire or flood or burst water pipe or other in-home disaster destroys my computer, it will probably also destroy the NAS disk drive. Therefore, it is not true cloud storage. However, I can use it in the same manner as cloud storage.

This one disk drive will never replace a true cloud-based backup service. I still believe in multiple backups, stored in multiple locations. I still back up my files to an online storage service in addition to the Western Digital NAS drive in my home. This NAS disk drive is only one of my backup locations. Never, ever depend upon only one backup stored in one location.

Whatever the configuration, I can use this four-terabyte disk drive on the Internet in much the same manner as a cloud storage service. For example, if I am traveling and find that I forgot to copy an important word processing document to my laptop computer, I can use my laptop (or any other computer) to log onto the Internet, connect to the NAS disk drive in my home, enter the user name and password, and then copy the needed document to the laptop. In a similar manner, I can also connect to the same NAS disk drive from my computer, iPad, iPod Touch, Android device, or iPhone and stream my own MP3 music files so that I can listen to my own music, all without commercials.

You can do the same. I was impressed with the simplicity of installation and set-up of the Western Digital “My Cloud Live” NAS drive. After unpacking the drive, I found two connectors on the device. One is for the ethernet cable that plugs into my Internet router, and the other is a “wall wart” that plugs into a power outlet. Simple. The required software is downloaded from Western Digital’s web site. The users manual is also available on the same site as a PDF file. The software quickly located the NAS drive on the network and allowed me to create user names and passwords, assign disk space, run diagnostics, and more.

I then installed the same software on the MacBook Air computer and the Windows version of the same software on my family member’s Windows system. The Windows set-up procedure was almost identical to that of the Mac. The Windows system was on the network and using the NAS disk drive within minutes.

As I write this, I am copying several thousand MP3 music files to the Public folder on the new shared disk drive. I also have a few videos I plan to copy as well. Then I will make a backup of both Macs and of the Windows computer. My computers automatically make new backups every hour, even if I am sleeping at the time. The computers do need to be powered on, however, in order to make backups. I know that I can access these files in the future from any Internet-connected computer or tablet computer or iPhone, if I allow.

Not bad for $219!

You might elect to use a different configuration or to use a disk drive of less capacity. Not everyone has a need to share a disk drive among multiple computers in their home. Whatever your needs, I would suggest you think about your own requirements and then plan accordingly to have sufficient storage space to meet those needs.

“The price of disk storage keeps dropping.”

22 Comments

Great article Dick! If you had two of them, could you use the second as a backup to the first or would just a regular external hard drive of the same size be best for a backup of the NAS?

Like

    —> If you had two of them, could you use the second as a backup to the first or would just a regular external hard drive of the same size be best for a backup of the NAS?

    I probably would never buy two of them unless I had some unique need to store a LOT of data. Perhaps professional photographers need to store terabytes of digital images but I don’t need all that much storage.

    Backing up any hard drive to another hard drive that is sitting beside the first one is false security, in my opinion. One in-home fire, lightning strike, burst water pipe, hurricane, or other disaster will wipe out BOTH external hard drives, along with the computer(s). I prefer to keep the original files on my computer plus one backup in an external hard drive of some sort near the computer plus at least one, perhaps more, copies stored off-site.

    The backups stored off-site might be on Google Drive or Dropbox or Backblaze or Mozy or any other online backup service. Another method of making off site backups is to purchase a second external hard drive and make second backups to that drive, then store the external hard drive in a safe deposit box or in a desk drawer at the office or some other place for safe keeping. One person I know owns two external hard drives. At any given moment, one drive is in his home, connected to his computer, and making backups every hour. The second hard drive is stored in a bank’s safe deposit box. Once a month, he swaps the hard drives.

    The exact method of storing backup files off-site is not important. The important thing is to have SOME method of storing files in a location where they will not get damaged if a disaster happens in the home.

    Like

    The better choice would be a NAS that supports Raid so there is redundancy without extra management.

    Like

Really comprehensive and useful advice. I will act on it! Many thanks.

Like

Dick, I really appreciate the timing of this article about the NAS storage. I have been considering this as a solution to a problem at church. I wanted to share with the other tech person so hit the print button. You talk about saving paper, so your people need to design a printer friendly system, because to print this took eight pages becasue it included all the right side stuff and not just the article.

Like

    I would never print that article.

    You can copy and paste just the amount of info you want and then print only that. To do so, use your mouse to highlight only what you wish to print, select EDIT from the pulldown menus, then select COPY. Then open up your word processor or text editor, click the mouse inside that program, select EDIT from the pulldown menus, and then select PASTE. That copies only the text you want into the word processor or text editor. Then select PRINT.

    Of course, an even better way is to not print anything on paper at all. (smile)

    Follow the above instructions except paste the text into an email message and send that message to the person(s) you wish. That doesn’t require wasting any trees for paper or wasting toner or ink for printing.

    I find that printer toner and ink are quite expensive. I try to avoid printing anything for a number of reasons.

    Like

    OR you can use Evernote and/or Evernote Clearly, select only what you want, and print that.

    Great article Dick, thanks

    Like

    There are a number of Firefox addons that will allow you to print only the portions of a web page you want. Try Print Edit:

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/print-edit/

    Like

    Robert E Pentecost July 21, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Donald,

    I use a Windows computer and have saved on my hard drive and in Dropbox a Word document that I name “Template Portrait or Landscape”. I’ve set the font, size and margins of what I like. When I see a article/blog/document/recipe/posting etc. I do as Dick previously instructed. I scroll over and highlight what I want hit Ctrl and “C” so I copy then highlight a portion on the template and hit Crtl “V” and paste it in place and then merge what I’m pasting with what was there and it takes on the form I desire. If I want I can bold, italicize, underline or anything else in the way of making it noticeable for me. I then “Save” as and give it the title of the item and save it where I want. I always try to include any address where I found the item. Later on when I look in my Genealogy folder under another sub folder I can find what I want, know where I found it. It works great for my purposes and use it all the time. Like Dick, I try to avoid printing, but if I have to I try to use fast draft quality which with my printer is good enough for most things I do. Try it and see if doesn’t save ink, paper, time and the grief of what you experienced.

    Like

    You could simply select the text of the article, press CTRL+P (or bring up the print window the way you normally do) and on the left side choose “selection” instead of “all”. Then it only prints the text you have selected. Works on any Windows computer that I have ever had.

    Like

A very interesting article, Dick. I actually learned many things that I did not know.

Like

Your post does an excellent job of explaining the features and benefits of NAS on a home network. But I am very concerned about the WD product based on so many unfavorable reviews (223 one-star, almost as many as there were 5-star) on Amazon. The comments seem to be legitimate concerns by seemingly competent reviewers. Your post did not mention how long you have been using the drive. Perhaps a long-term followup is appropriate. How did you rationalize your purchase of the WD with so many negative reviews? Based on reading the reviews, I would not personally risk the experience.

Like

    I have owned several Western Digital drives over the years. What I wrote about yesterday is simply the latest and the biggest storage capacity I have purchased. I have never had a problem with any of the Western Digital drives.

    Having stated that, I will also say that I never depend upon ANY hard drive or any other computer device to last forever. Regardless of the brand of manufacture, all devices will fail eventually. That is one of the reasons I never depend upon only having one backup copy.

    —> Your post did not mention how long you have been using the drive.

    I have only been using the four terabyte drive for a few days. After all, Western Digital only started selling this model a few months ago. However, it replaced a one-terabyte Western Digital USB hard drive that has been in use since I purchased this iMac five years ago. That five-year-old Western Digital hard drive is still working perfectly but I filled it up. I will probably let it sit here for a few months, gathering dust, just in case I ever need to retrieve an old version of some file. Eventually, I will “repurpose” it for some other use.

    I also have a 500-gigabyte portable Western Digital USB hard drive that I use with a MacBook Air laptop computer that I have owned for several years. It has been jostled back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean in my backpack 6 or 8 times as well as all over the U.S. and Canada as I travel to various genealogy events and elsewhere. It still is working perfectly.

    I used to fix computers for a living. I found there are several brands of hard drive that have been proven to be very reliable, including Western Digital and Toshiba. Whenever I go to purchase a new hard drive, I always look for Western Digital or Toshiba. I am sure there are other brands that are just as good, but I have less experience with them so cannot speak from experience.

    Like

    I also checked Amazon and saw the flood of negative reviews about this product. The gist seemed to be that it initially worked out of the box but went buggy after a while, like losing network connectivity. Or even losing all data. Various tech-savvy purchasers spent many hours of frustration trying to get it to work, but to no avail. Many just give up. They also commented that they had been satisfied users of other WD products for many decades, but this item turned out to be a stinker. Over the past few years, I have looked into NAS devices and have yet to find one that the consumer reviews show to be consistently reliable. So for now, I will continue to use USB external drives.

    Like

The NAS connection may be more than a 20 dollar premium. I purchased a Western Digital 4 terabyte external harddrive with a USB connection almost a year ago, from a competitor of Amazon, and it cost me less than 150 dollars, even including the state sales tax.

Like

A very interesting and informative article. The reference you gave to Amazon shows a “My Cloud” 4 TB, NAS version. You listed your version as “MyBook Live” NAS Drive. Today I found at Costco the 4TB My Cloud version for $199 (no tax in Oregon). If they are equivalent I’ll buy one there.
If possible I would appreciate a reply within the next two days. I am on a trip and will be able to visit Costco in three days.
I have spent may dollars on your recommendations over the past few years, and have no complaints.
Keep up the good blog.

Like

I purchased a drive as you recommended. I, too, have read your blog for many years and remain satisfied with your recommendations. And I have begun to back up my Family Tree Maker CDs. My question is, how do I access the data? When I try, it looks for a CD.

Like

Great article, and one of the things that makes it a great article is the timing. Our daughter hired me to combine all of their digital photographs, which currently reside on three laptops, and two external harddrives!
My question to anyone who might know this answer: One of the big selling points is that you can move all your photo’s to this networked drive, and have them available on any device on the network. But when I try and use iPhoto, it wants a specific library, one that resides on that mac! How do you get the Mac or iPad to look at another drive for the photo library?
And second, it you direct your Mac or iPads or Window’s machines to look at this networked drive, what happens when you want to show your latest old photo scans at the family picnic? If all photos are the networked drive, how to you take them with you to country church two states away?
Thanks for any insight.

Like

    —> One of the big selling points is that you can move all your photo’s to this networked drive, and have them available on any device on the network. But when I try and use iPhoto, it wants a specific library, one that resides on that mac! How do you get the Mac or iPad to look at another drive for the photo library?

    Don’t use iPhoto.

    There are a number of very good photo viewing and organizing programs available for the Macintosh. I don’t use iPhoto as I found it forces the user to organize things the way iPhoto insists upon using. I prefer to organize things differently.

    —> And second, it you direct your Mac or iPads or Window’s machines to look at this networked drive, what happens when you want to show your latest old photo scans at the family picnic? If all photos are the networked drive, how to you take them with you to country church two states away?

    You have multiple options. You can take the photos with you on a flash drive and view them from a laptop computer. Another option is to use a wireless flash drive (see my earlier Plus Edition article at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/03/05/hands-on-with-a-wireless-flash-drive/ ) and view the photos on an iPad or Android tablet. Still another option is to keep duplicates online in Google Drive, Dropbox, or any of the other online storage services and access the photos via a wireless network connection in the iPad, Android tablet, or cell phone.

    Like

I’ve had nothing but issues with the MyBook Live – I can’t access it from any other computer – it is NAS. Have you been able to successfully connect to MyCloud away from home on a regular basis? That I understand is one of the differences between MyBook Live and the MyCloud products. I admit I have not been a fan of WD HDD – only because they keep crashing on me with less than a year of service but need NAS that is truly available away from home.

Like

    —> Have you been able to successfully connect to MyCloud away from home on a regular basis?

    Yes, I do that frequently when I am traveling. Every time I have attempted a connection to the NAS hard drive in my home, it has worked. That’s true whether I am in a hotel room or at an airport or anyplace else. In fact, I purchased a smaller capacity MyCloud device a couple of years ago and it is still in use at my winter home. It worked so well for remote access that I decided to purchase another Western Digital NAS device with four terabytes of storage space for use at my other home. I have only had the second one for a short time but, so far, it has also worked well. The menus on both devices are identical so I don’t have to memorize different menus.

    You can do that easily with the My Cloud drives. You cannot do that with the My Drive products unless you obtain some sort of VPN product or some other software from another company. There are several ways of obtaining remote access to disk drives you own that are manufactured by various companies, but the My Cloud drives from Western Digital simplify the process.

    Like

I purchased the WD NAS drive from Amazon (returned product-reduced price). It had old software on it and showed many of the problems noted on the Amazon evaluations. Updating to current software fixed most of them.

Like

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,378 other followers

%d bloggers like this: