Here's the nasty – my Buffalo Linkstation crapped out after a couple of years of use. Hard to believe it, but a small, inconsequential, and incredibly cheap fan brought down a device costing a few hundred dollars. At any rate, it died and that's just not what backup should do.
Everyone should have a backup strategy that should involve what to back up, how to back it up and where to store it. For me, data is what needs to be backed up and that includes photos, music, documents and web. OS restores and application re-installations are done from original discs. While some things can be copied over to a USB flash drive, others, like mp3 files, have greater hardware requirements. How to back up can be as simple as printing out pictures or documents, or using something like Apple's Time Machine with an external hard drive. Most important is that that "the how" works, and works often. Finally, there is where to backup all that data. Trusting is to a single drive is waiting for failure. At a minimum, consider two backup places: 1) an external hard drive and 2) some sort of media, like DVD or CD. A third option that's becoming more popular is "cloud" storage. While this great works for documents or a zipped up website, it's not quite there yet for 100GB of music or movies. But using something like Shutterfly or Flickr, or Ubuntu One or Apple's Mobile Me, are increasing great backup solutions, and ones that are only going to get better in the coming years.
Now the good – a Network Attached Storage device provides a convenient way for several computers to access data storage. As a network device, the NAS is available to all the computers on my local subnet at all times. I can mount a share to my linux box at boot, which makes things like cron-ing a rsync job quite easy. Windows machines can simply map it as a network drive, while the Mac can use Bonjour and Finder to access it (note that TimeMachine is picky about network drives). A NAS also provides an easy solution for accessing a single printer across many machines as most (all?) have a USB port that shares a printer via SMB protocol.
In the meantime, I wanted to get my home solution sorted. A trip to Microcenter – armed with a printout from TigerDirect – landed me with a new Seagate NAS, the BlackArmor 110. To be honest, there was no way I was going to buy another Buffalo product, and at 1TB this doubled my capacity of the previous drive. The Seagate drive had two things going for it: inexpensive price and CIFS support. The drive also uses SMART status and carries a three (3) year warranty. And at $134 with price match, it was an auto-buy. Setup was wizard like from my PC, yet I did two things immediately: First, prior to installation, I added the NAS device's MAC address to my router so it would offer only a fixed IP address. Second, right after installation, I flashed the NAS's firmware to the latest version. The former helps with mapping printers, while the later is generally a good idea, especially before filling it up with data!
The Seagate NAS is intuitive to configure and use. Through its web interface, you can create shares, add users, manage security and set a host of options. With its gigabit interface, performance was much faster than I expected – so, yes, it was quite fast! I needed only slight modifications to my linux box's /etc/fstab and .smbcredentials to get the automount mounting, and that was just to adjust for the new share name and user. Windows machines immediately saw the drive in the network browser. The included software from Acronis is just okay; Microsoft's SyncToy is free and is a great tool for just backing up directories.
On the web:
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 110