Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and digital prophet, years ago predicted that the personal computer would become the “hub
of our digital lives.”
He was right, of course, as digital still cameras have proliferated like weeds and
even young kids are shooting, downloading, and editing video on their home computers. So we go about our days, recording video
and taking pictures, loading them in ever-increasing number and volume onto our computers and rarely taking a moment to think
about the long-term effects of this practice.
But pause for just a moment to consider it, and a couple of facts
will become immediately clear.
First, there is an ever-increasing need for additional storage space for all of
our digital content. On our home computer, for example, we have more than 20,000 photos that have been taken over the last
several years. Since the price of storage seems to go down by the week, this is a relatively easy problem to overcome: Simply
add additional storage space through something like a new internal or external hard drive, or perhaps network attached storage.
While relatively easy, it gets complicated when you try to migrate from one internal hard drive to another—or
you need to configure the storage to function correctly. As a result, it can remain above the heads of most "normal"
The second point is just as certain but one that most people are relatively unaware of, which makes
it more insidious.
Hard drives are mechanical marvels that are in nearly constant use; they spin in the neighborhood
of 7,000 rpm (and more) and are the main storage container for all of these things that are so important to us.
But they are notoriously fragile.
In fact, hard drives fail. Almost all of them, at one point or another.
It’s not quite catastrophic; it’s not like losing a child or having your house burn down, but it’s
extremely painful to lose all of your photos, all of your videos, your documents—everything. The pain is exaggerated
because you can’t escape the notion that you could have prevented it from happening in the first place.
was the look on my brother-in-law’s face when he told me about his experience. He was having trouble with the computer
so he took it in to get fixed. Turned out the hard drive had failed. They replaced it and he headed home. It wasn’t
until later when his wife asked, “What about all of the kids photos that were on the old computer?” that the enormity
of it sunk in.
So you know you need to have back-ups of your stuff. But back-ups are a little clunky to set up
and keep up with—and restoring your data from them can be complex. There are exceptions to this, but most people I know
(including me) perceive the issue to be too complicated, so they ignore it. With my brother-in-law’s experience fresh
in my mind, though, I finally decided I couldn’t avoid it any longer. So I bought a Drobo (
How can I best explain what a Drobo is? It’s like a miracle without divinity. It’s a simple solution
to a complicated problem. It will keep your spouse happy. Your children will thrive. All will be right
with the world.
Well, that might be overstating it. It’s a data robot in a little black box that could save
all of your stuff (and your day, as well).
Essentially, it’s a small cluster of hard
drives that you can use as your primary storage device. You hook it up to your computer with an included
cable and use it just like the hard drive inside the computer. You can put up to four hard drives in
the case (no tools required, by the way, just slide them into the bay) and the Drobo will use the storage
space to save your data redundantly across the drives. This means one of the drives can fail (and it ultimately
will) without losing anything. You simply slide a new drive in its place, Drobo rebuilds the data, and you continue without
error, loss, or issues of any sort.
Unlike the hard drive in your computer, the redundant nature of the data storage
is the key. Instead of one point of failure, the Drobo automatically saves all of your data in a way that protects it. This
type of storage (called RAID) has been around for a while, but the true genius of Drobo is its dead-simple set up. You truly
just plug it in and go; there’s no complicated configuration, very little set up, and it monitors itself to tell you
when to add additional storage or if a drive is experiencing any issues.
If it can, it even automatically repairs
any damage it finds. If not, it will let you know ahead of time so you can take action. Even if the drive fails, your data
is still protected.
I probably can’t urge you enough to look into a Drobo to help protect the files that
are most important to you. Do it soon, before disaster strikes, and I promise you’ll be thanking me later.
Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use
of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at [email protected]inc.com.