STORE: Data storage holiday gift ideas

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But, then, what do you want for $30? Indeed, this product is one of the biggest bargains out there, and a great gift for your friends in the intelligence community - or anyone looking for a little security for data on the go. Highly recommended!

- Craig Mathias

StarTech S2510BU3PW Encrypted Hard Drive Enclosure

$77 (Amazon)

Here's a very clever idea - a USB 3.0 disk drive housing that features built-in security. Once you set this up (keep in mind this involves installing a disk drive or SSD in the unit), the user enters a four-digit code via a built-in keypad on the case to access the data stored within.

The data itself is encrypted with 256-bit AES, so a thief would be at worst frustrated - at best, completely locked out. Forgetting the 4-digit code, however, is fatal, as you'll lose the data as well. Just don't use 1-2-3-4.

Setup is easy for any techie - open the unit (they even include a little screwdriver), install any 2.5-inch SATA II drive and then plug it in. After a brief initial setup, your PC will see the unit as a new drive. Format the disk (this worked great on Mac OS X), and you're off.

The housing itself is a little pricey, and perhaps you're thinking that a subscription to a cloud-based storage service might be a better choice. The cloud is probably secure and certainly convenient - as long as you have connectivity. Being able to securely carry up to 1TB of data with you anywhere - that's priceless.

- Craig Mathias

Seagate GoFlex Slim for Mac (500GB)


If you're really into slimming down your technology products - let's say you have a MacBook Air or other small notebook - the last thing you want is a bulky external storage drive weighing you down (and your laptop bag). Fortunately, the Seagate GoFlex Slim is there to lighten your load without compromising serious storage capacity.

This version is specifically formatted for the Mac, letting you write files to the drive from a Mac. While you can read those files via a Windows PC, writing to them requires an additional software download from Seagate (although, you could also just buy the Windows version and then download the software for Mac writing).

When you plug the unit into a free USB port on your Mac, a pop-up window asks if you want to use the drive for Time Machine backup purposes. No harm if you don't - you can use the drive and do the old-fashioned drag-and-drop to backup important files.

The unit I tested came with a USB 2.0 port - but if you have a newer Mac with USB 3.0 ports or if you prefer transferring over Thunderbolt or FireWire 800, the GoFlex nature of the drive lets you attach one of those adapters (sold separately) to the unit. This basically future-proofs the drive - you don't need to buy an additional one if the data cable transfer speeds increase.

The super-slim size of the drive creates one downside - you can only get this in a 500GB capacity - if you want to go up to 1TB, you'll need to add some bulk by looking at other models (from Seagate or others). But for the most part (unless you're doing lots of videos), 500GB should be enough for most users.

- Keith Shaw

G-Technology G Drive mobile portable hard drive

$180 (1TB, USB 3.0)

The G Drive mobile offers a very portable hard drive unit formatted specifically for Macintosh computers - it offers a whopping 1TB of storage space in a very compact and slick silver finish. The style and design go hand-in-hand with the silvery finish of the MacBook Pro and other Apple notebooks, but it's more than just a nice-looking drive.

Out of the box, the unit has three ports for data cables - two FireWire ports and a USB 3.0 port. Three cables are included as well, so you don't have to buy a separate cable if you want to use one port over the other. Because it's formatted for the Mac, the drive pops right up on your computer screen after you plug it in - also, no additional power source is needed.

The drive works with Apple's Time Machine for providing backup for your data, or you can just open the drive and drag-and-drop files and folders as you please. With 1TB of storage capacity, you'll have a very hard time filling it up with content. Believe me, I tried.

While the unit is larger than some other portable drives I've tried, it's still not so big to be a nuisance in your travel bag. If you need the protection of data backup while traveling, this certainly wouldn't be a detriment.

A 500GB version is also available, and you can also downgrade to a USB 2.0 unit with 1TB of capacity - just check the G-Technology website for other models and configurations.

- Keith Shaw

LaCie RuggedKey

$40 for 16GB; $70 for 32GB

The LaCie RuggedKey is a nifty portable USB thumb drive designed with extreme durability in mind. The mechanical drive is contained within an airtight orange silicon case that provides protection from the elements. LaCie advertises the drive as being able to withstand 100-meter drops, as well as being water, heat and cold resistant.

I tested the drive by dropping it from typical, everyday heights, and indeed it held up to all the abuse I threw at it. That's only applicable when the unit is ensconced within the case, however, and that's where the rub comes in: you're paying a somewhat hefty premium for that protective silicon case.

The drive is USB 3.0 compatible, which makes it much faster than its 2.0 brethren - provided you have a computer with a USB 3.0 port - but beyond that it's a fairly typical USB drive. If you find yourself transmitting sensitive information, it's worth noting it also comes with security software to encrypt the data contained on it with AES 256-bit encryption technology.

Overall I was very impressed with the drive, and enjoyed using it. I didn't have any trouble keeping track of it, given the bright orange and larger-than-typical size. Everyone needs to transport data, and if you find yourself often knocking things over or losing your USB drive, this may be the solution you've been looking for. I really like it, and highly recommend for those seeking a tough travel companion you can attach to your keychain.

- Dan Hunt

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "STORE: Data storage holiday gift ideas" was originally published by Network World.

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