Friday, August 28, 2009

Wired and archaic to wireless and modern

So I've been burnt. After years of supporting the underdog (or getting dodgy gear), I've finally made the move towards a solid setup for all my storage and internet needs. Unfortunately it was out of necessity, but I somehow knew the day was coming.
As my external harddrive collection mounted to a frankenmonster twist of cables and cases, full of backups and downloads, all was going smoothly albeit messy. I guess that's expected when multiple harddrives are involved along with the internet and a network, cable mess is the order of the day. But then, yes wireless has been around for at least a few years now. I've just neve had a need for it. My downloads were going onto the mighty Noontec GigaView, from where I could play media too, which was handy. My backups were going onto what I thought was a good and reliable Barracuda 40Gb. The most crucial backups go online to, something that hopefully won't break anytime soon. Then the day came. Whether it was a solar storm or a statistical anomaly, both of my harddrives died on the same day. So I lost all my downloads and backups. Downloads are always on the internet so I didn't care that much, backups are still on the old reliable laptop so that was just plain lucky. But it gave me a kick in the butt and a heart palpitation so I thought I'd better get my ish in gear and sort something out. The living room floor looked a mess and my brain was on the verge of a digital collapse.
Drawing on my years of network maintenance and modest knowledge of systems, I decided "right this is it".
1. Get an exact same model harddrive that's in my laptop, put my laptop image onto it.
2. Get a RAID1 external drive. (preferably NAS)
3. Get a wireless router. (to get rid of the mess of cables on the living room floor)
So off to get the bits. Getting the same harddrive as in my laptop was relatively easy, and as soon as I got it, I put an image of the windows build onto it using a trial version of TrueImage (it works fully for 30 days and I only needed to do this once). When that was done and I could swap the harddrive in and out of my laptop with the same windows booting up fine, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now for the storage solution. Looking around for a RAID1 external drive was looking daunting at about US$200 for a base model RAID1 case was the norm. And with a NAS addition, this started becoming prohibitively expensive. Somehow during my research I stumbled across what is called a 'storage link' included with some wireless routers. This is simply a USB port in a router that takes a USB storage device and makes it available on the network. Awesome. Seeing that I needed to get a wireless router anyway this seemed like a winner. So all I needed now was to find the right devices. From the officeworks website I was able to find a RAID1 Western Digital MyBook Mirror. A reasonably priced device that was purchased locally, came packed with features and a 3 year warranty (and it looks kinda cool with that black casing and a blue pulsating gauge). Next was the router which was a tad more difficult to locate. For some reason there's not that many wireless routers out there with a 'storage link', and the ones I found were either not available or not being made anymore... bizarre. Eventually I stumbled across a Belkin N+ router. Sweet. Again, sweet black and blue look with features bursting out of the box and that elusive 'storage link' things couldn't be sweeter.
Once both of the devices were inside my door, quick set of configuration and I was ready to move the great cable knot of 2009 out of the living room. I did have a few issues setting up the router where initially the set configuration would not work, but then it worked fine. The modem settings were rejected then they were accepted, then I couldn't connect to the networked drive, and then I could (with no changes). Yep the self-healing computer network strikes again. It's bizarre how often that has happened to me in the past. Anyway, after the whole adventure I was able to take the ADSL modem, router and harddrive and put them all in another room, reclaiming living room floorspace. And the piece of mind of having a RAID1 terabyte of storage and an imaged laptop system drive, is golden.

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