By Craig Ellison  |  Posted 2005-10-21 Print this article Print

When you bought your new computer, that 80GB or 160GB drive probably seemed like more storage than you could ever use. Now that youve ripped all your CDs into MP3s, downloaded all that content from the Internet, shot thousands of digital photos, recorded an entire season of your favorite TV series, and started editing digital video, youve suddenly realized youre out of space. Oh, by the way, are any of these digital assets backed up?

The Netgear Storage Central, Model SC101 ($149.99 list) offers consumers a new option for storing, backing up, and sharing data and media content on home and small-office networks. Until now, youve had three ways to add a hard drive: internally, externally via a USB or FireWire connection, or externally as a network-attached storage (NAS) device. All have drawbacks.

Internal drives are certainly affordable and improve performance, but many consumers hesitate to open their computers, much less install a critical component. Beyond that, the extra drive adds no fault tolerance or future expandability, and sharing the drive on a network can prove a technical challenge.

Adding an external hard drive is a simpler option in many ways, and performance will almost certainly be quite good if your computer has USB 2.0 (most recent models do) or FireWire. External drives cost more than internal units, but you dont have to open up your computer to install one—just plug the drive in and voilà. You still dont gain fault tolerance or future expandability, though.

Your only other alternative, until now, has been connecting a NAS device. Most are fairly simple to set up—you just plug them into your network and configure them. You dont get the performance of locally attached drives, but NAS does facilitate file sharing—especially if youre comfortable mapping drives using Windows Explorer (and presumably, if you set up a network, you are). The catch has been that without spending a lot of money for a high-end NAS system, you still wouldnt get expandability and fault tolerance.

Storage Central gives you another alternative. Read the full story on PCMag.com: Netgear Storage Central Model SC101

Craig Ellison is PC Magazine Labs' director of operations. The Labs staff, in consultation with PC industry experts, develops procedures and scripts for the independent and impartial testing underlying all PC Magazine reviews.

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