- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It’s just what you need in your living room: 1 terabyte of storage - that’s 1,000 gigabytes or 1 billion bytes - attached to your home network, backing up your family’s computers. All for just $229.

That’s the premise of the new storage device called My Book World Edition, made by Western Digital, which is touting the unit as a necessity for homes where there’s an ad hoc CIO, or chief information officer, someone who can handle more than basic plug-and-play tasks.

It’s a bit of a sound notion, at least on one level: We’re all digital people now. We keep our photos, videos and music on a computer, and most of us - myself included - don’t always back things up the way we should. We think CD-ROMs will do the job or that backing up on a different part of the same hard drive in the PC will do the trick. Online backup? Great notion, but not nearly enough of us do it.

So what’s the answer? Western Digital, one of the pioneer hard-disk makers, thinks it’s in putting this white box next to your wireless (or wired) home network router, which is sometimes integrated with a broadband modem. The My Book World Edition drive is, in techspeak, “network-attached storage,” a hard drive visible to all computers on the network but not tied to a specific computer. That means, in theory at least, that you can access data on the drive when the computer is turned off.

It also means a cross-platform solution for households where Mom has a Mac and Willie has a Windows PC. Using Western Digital’s software, you can create and maintain backups of as many computers as will fit data into that 1 terabyte. (Need twice as much storage? Western Digital will sell you a 2-terabyte My Book for $449. If you need more than that, you’re not a home user.)

Installing the device on my network wasn’t overly complicated, but there were a couple of hitches. The drive is externally powered, so you need to plug in a power adapter; also, it’s vital to reboot your computer after installing the drive and accompanying software. Otherwise, everything on the network won’t “see” one another properly. The My Book drive will work with network devices that connect using Wi-Fi, the maker says.

My home computer, an Apple iMac, has a 500-gigabyte hard drive that is about 50 percent full. I thought it would take about five hours for a full backup, but when I left things running one night and returned the next morning, the backup was only about 60 percent complete. There seems to have been a five-hour gap in backing up, but I might have read the computer log file the wrong way. Regardless, plan on a good long time for the first backup using the device.

Future backups should go faster. These “incremental” backups will store only those items that have changed or been added since the last backup. During a demonstration Feb. 10, Western Digital’s marketing vice president, Dale Pistilli, said backups using a wireless connection should move as quickly as wired ones.

But wait, Mr. Pistilli adds, there’s more. Store your photos and documents on the My Book drive, and you can access these anywhere via the Internet; store music, and the songs will show up in iTunes and play there or sync to your iPod if you have the proper permissions.

The implication of this can be huge for those of us who are shutter-happy. A few thousand photos, especially in high resolution, can swallow acres of disc space. Ditto for your music library or subscription podcasts. (Those items were taking up about one-third of my notebook hard drive before I did some massive deleting). Dedicate a part of your terabyte to such files, and you can free up tons of room on your computer, which in turn should run faster and happier.

Moreover, you can set up parts of the network drive to be accessible to anyone you choose, making this a great gateway to distribute work to colleagues or bosses, again, something useful for road warriors.

I haven’t tested these functions yet - I was waiting for the backup to finish. If all works as advertised, this could be a nice harbinger not only of protecting family photos and videos, but also taking the burden off your computer while keeping data available.

• What are you storing? E-mail mkellner@washington times.com.