Here are the things I look for in desktop storage devices:
1- Connectivity: Of course, network connections that support Gigabit Ethernet are Priority Number One, but the ability to connect to multiple external storage devices is One-A. USB 2.0 support is taken for granted, and I couldn’t imagine a device lacking it; the focus is shifting to USB 3.0, which will become useful in the months to come. Interfaces such as eSATA are nice to have as well, but for reasons we can’t quite fathom, that one’s never caught on for portable storage. FireWire connectivity, which used to be essential, is becoming less so thanks to the ubiquity of USB 2.0. I also want devices to be available as an iSCSI target, to allow their use in clustered or virtualized environments.
2- Capacity: More is always better, and it’s become increasingly common for a workgroup to have several terabytes of data spread across computers and miscellaneous storage devices. Always buy twice as much as you think is necessary, because inevitably, data expands to fill the available space.
3- Redundancy: RAID support to levels 5 and 6 is far preferable to a JBOD installation. RAID 6 is much less well known than RAID 5, which preserves data integrity in the event of a failure of one physical drive in the array; it provides twice the protection, by preserving data even if two physical drives go bad. Just a Bunch of Disks might maximize the device’s capacity, but provides no protection against drive failure.
4- Security: Even if only one person is going to be using the device in the ordinary course of business, it’s still a good idea to implement encryption features if there’s any sensitive material that might be stored on the device. For multiple-user scenarios, security becomes exponentially more important; is there any way that a rogue user, especially one with trusted credentials, can get at data that he or she has no need to access?
5- Manageability: How easy is the device to manage? Can it be remotely managed without compromising security? Are protocols such as SSH and SFTP implemented by default, or easily enabled?
6- Environmental: Noisy fans and drives make even the most attractive desktop storage unit an obnoxious companion. Can the thresholds for fan speed be adjusted through the management interface? Can the device’s power consumption be reduced through Wake-on-LAN or scheduling drive spin-up and spin-down? How easy is it to add support for a UPS?
7- Built-in Applications: Does the device offer any suggestions or tie-ins to an online backup service, and if so, how well is that implemented? Can the storage device be more than a box of rotating brown media? Is it possible to host internal network services on the box, and how easily are they managed?
8- Warranty and Support: If a drive needs to be replaced, how easy is it to get parts? Does the manufacturer offer next business-day replacement service? Can user-supplied drives be used when official replacement parts are no longer available?
We’d like to hear your ideas on what matters in desktop storage, feel free to leave a comment below.