There’s a word so dirty that most computer users don’t even want to think about it. Even people who should know better, like IT techs or hardened tech journalists, quake at its mention. Backup: it’s one of the most hated words in the computer lexicon because it conjures up nothing but worst-case scenarios. Apple’s Time Machine does a decent job of backing up your stuff (if you’ve turned it on), but what if you primarily use a laptop? Or worse, what if your basement floods, claiming your camping gear and your backup drive as victims? Dolly Drive tucks your Time Machine backups into the cloud, giving you Apple’s built-in simplicity paired with the security of offsite storage in the event of a disaster.
We remember when 80GB seemed like an unbelievably huge amount of storage for our Mac. But of course, 80GB now barely covers our collection of Simpsons episodes, not to mention all the other stuff we’ve got crammed in there. But your Mac can only hold so many hard drives. If you’re constantly pushing up against its limits or you want to add a heavy-duty backup, turn to an external RAID (redundant array of independent disks). These boxes let you expand storage with additional hard disks, even backing themselves up by writing the same data to multiple drives.
Someday we’ll magically enjoy all our media whenever we want, wherever we want—and without compromises. That day will probably also involve puppies riding rainbows. But until that dream comes true, we’ll play our music and movies over cloud-based services or hardware like Verbatim’s MediaShare network drive. It streams files to local computers and game consoles, exports photo albums to social media sites, backs up your Macs with Time Machine, shares connected printers, and—wait, there’s more!—lets you access your files over the internet from computers and iOS devices. Despite this Swiss Army streamer’s strengths, we were disappointed by its cumbersome setup and the need to maintain a subscription to use MediaShare’s most powerful features.
It’s been less than a year since I acquired my trusty MacBook Pro, but it’s already filled to capacity with important documents and precious photos. Since I can’t physically expand the disk space within the computer, the search was on for a Mac-friendly hard drive that offers the holy trisect of features: speed, capacity, and reliability. I put three of the most promising new external drives to the test to see which one could live up to my demanding storage requirements.
We still miss our now-defunct local video store, but yes, Netflix movies beamed right to our TV is a pretty fair trade. And if Netflix streaming hasn’t found its way to your TV yet via a game console, Blu-ray player, or TiVo, the WD TV Live Plus (the fourth iteration in Western Digital’s line of home media players) makes a great purchase. After all, who doesn’t want to pipe their digital videos, music, and photos to their existing TV and stereo these days? If that’s a superpower your living room lacks, the Live Plus can be your radioactive spider with minimal hassle and none of that messy biting.
Recently, Sony announced that they were killing the 3.5-inch floppy disk. Which is fine, as far as we’re concerned. Macs haven’t used floppy disks in well over a decade, and with the internet, who needs ’em? But sometimes you just need to move files from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss, which is where the USB flash drive comes in. Plug it into your Mac, copy some files, plug it into another Mac--boom! File transfer done. While we usually use flash drives to move images, Word docs, and maybe a few ripped MP3s between machines, Kingston’s new Data Traveler 310 is made to carry a lot more--256 gigabytes, to be exact.
The Dualie is a portable hard drive and a docking station for your iPhone or iPod. It connects to your Mac via USB, enabling you to sync or otherwise manage either device while it’s in the dock. But it’s also powered via AC adapter, so you can recharge your phone or audio player even when your computer’s switched off.
Backing up your hard drive is important. But even the most rigorous backup plan isn’t going to help if your house floods--or worse, catches on fire. In a true disaster, even your triple-redundant RAID backup system isn’t likely to be much help. With dark days like that in mind, ioSafe’s line of fireproof, waterproof externals might be big and bulky, but they promise to withstand even the toughest data disasters.
You know you should be backing up, right? And still, the dirty little secret of modern computing is that most of us--Mac|Life staff included--don’t back up as much as we should, and in some cases, not at all. And even if you do back up, using that old drive you purchased in a fit of Y2K preparations isn’t much protection. Drives fail, and it’s always a question of when, not if. Data Robotics, the makers of the Drobo, hope to make rock-solid backup simple and foolproof with their line of external drive enclosures.