As preppers we pride ourselves in preparing our families not only for the tough times (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes) but possibly even the unimaginable times (EMP, economic collapse) and we do it with steadfast enthusiasm. What we seem to gloss over in doing so is to also prepare ourselves for everyday emergencies, such as a dreaded computer crash.
Not what you were expecting? Yes, I do consider a computer crash an "emergency" of sorts. Given our society's reliance on computers and the internet, I figure most people would agree.
Besides malware and internet connectivity issues, one of the more devastating computer "emergencies" is the temporary or even permanent inability to retrieve your personal data due to hard drive errors or, worse yet, a hard drive crash.
"That's not a problem," you say! "It's not like anything on my personal computer is necessary information like business files." Oh yeah!? Ignoring the presumably hundreds of dollars in operating software and office suites, take a moment and contemplate all of your personal files, pictures, videos, music and more. More importantly, contemplate all of your WIFE'S files, pictures, videos, and music! There's probably quite a bit there. More than you might realize at first.
A little over a year ago we had one of those "uh-oh" moments with our computer (not the first one either) and after some frustrating moments and realizing that I needed some help, I finally decided to call a buddy of mine who specializes in these problems. After deliberation, he finally convinced me to change my strategy. No more relying on a single computer and lonely hard drive... I had to upgrade my computer preparendess.
Unfortunately for our pocketbook he suggested the "nuclear" route, as I like to call it, which consisted not only of a complete computer rebuild (actually a new computer) but a Network Area Storage (NAS) device as well.
"What in the heck was a NAS," I asked? And more importantly, "why do I need to spend money on one?"
Long explanation short, a NAS is simply a device that stores data. In this case our personal files, music, pictures, and videos. It is not intended to store or run computer software such as Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office. Just data.
With regards to personal data, why is a NAS more reliable than a regular computer hard drive? The answer is two-fold. First, depending on the unit you purchase you may have anywhere from two to six redundant hard drives that will store your personal data. In fact, it is the NAS's job to ensure each hard drive is perfectly in sync with up-to-date copies of all your files at all times. Second, the only job the NAS needs to do is it access and update personal files, not operating system files, internet cache, and whatever else goes on in the background. This takes a huge load off of the NAS hard drives, drastically improving their lifespan as well as to lessen the likelihood of a hard drive failure. And, even if one drive did fail there will be at least one redundant drive to save the day.
Re-read that last paragraph if this is your first exposure to the NAS concept. It's important to fully grasp WHY having one is really a good idea.
But that's not all that a NAS does, not by a long shot. Depending on the NAS you choose to purchase you may find that your NAS can do A LOT more than expected. Take, for example, the NAS that I purchased (pictured left).
The QNAP NAS TS-259 Pro+ is a seriously cool device. Yeah, I know, I know... don't let the price give you sticker shock; it's actually one of the lesser expensive models they make AND has come down in price by at least $100 since I purchased mine a year ago.
Anyway, this QNAP NAS can do a lot if you let it. It can act as a server to your home network for music and movies, stream media directly to your television when properly connected, act as a surveillance station, download files automatically from the internet, act as a website server, and more that I don't even understand.
The beauty is that the NAS is pretty self-sufficient and requires very little (if any) intervention from you once setup. And, yes, there is some initial setup required as well as the purchase of two identical internal hard drives. At the time I went with 500GB drives, which my friend told me was a mistake. I should have purchased at least 1TB drives for expansion. Eventually I'll need to swap out my drives for something larger but they work well for now.
After over a year with my NAS I've had no problems with this unit. It's performed flawlessly, quietly, and reliably. Even if you don't purchase this unit, I firmly believe that a NAS is a must-have for most home networks.
Now, what if a NAS is too costly? What else can you do?
If a NAS isn't the solution for you right now there are other options that can be utilized to avert such a catastrophe, including automatic online backup services (both free and paid for) as well as manual backup options such as Google Docs as well as external hard drives. While these alternatives are a possibility, they depend on one of two potential failure points: internet connectivity and human action, neither of which will be as reliable as a NAS.
Look for Part 2 to come next week where we discuss the other computer "emergency" topic: power!