February 08, 2010, 3:49 PM — There's storage and then there's storage: There's storage that's really just backup, and there's storage of the stuff you work with frequently. The reason I'm making the distinction is that many of us are now backing up to the cloud. And that's a good thing; in some ways, cloud options can be more secure and more convenient than backing up to hardware.
But a backup copy in the cloud isn't always available immediately. And if you have more digital stuff-pictures, music, HD video, and so on-than you have room for on the internal drive that came with your computer, you need more storage. That's an old story, of course, but now there are new hardware options that are fast, convenient, (and in one case, more secure than anything I've seen) that make real sense for a consumer or small business.
I'll also tell you about an inexpensive storage device that makes it quick and easy to access your files via the Web when you're away from home.
USB 3.0 Feeds Need for Speed Storage of all varieties has gotten ridiculously cheap, but moving around a great big HD movie or a whole album of photos can leave you twiddling your thumbs while the files are transferred. Enter USB 3.0, the latest addition to interconnect technology, and as you can easily guess, the successor to USB 2.0.
The industry boasts that USB 3.0, which techies have taken to calling SuperSpeed, is ten times faster than USB 2.0. Of course, there's more to moving data than the speed of the bus; the efficiency and speed of the read and write heads are a major factor. And nearly 20 years of experience covering technology tells me that in the real world USB 3.0 won't really be that fast. But it doesn't have to be. It only has to be significantly faster-and it is.
Western Digital, one of the first vendors to ship 3.0 drives, calls its entry My Book 3.0. For $199 list, you get one terabyte of storage, plus a PCIe adapter (but retailers are already discounting it, so shop around.) A 2 TB version costs $280.
The adapter, which adds about $20 to the price, is key because very few computers already in use have the new bus. But installing the card will let you take advantage of the higher speeds. If for some reason you'd rather not, My Book is compatible with USB 2.0 PCs and it's a bit cheaper without the adapter.
If you do connect the drive to a USB 3.0 port, it will take about three minutes to move a two-hour, high definition movie, compared to 13 minutes using USB 2.0, according to Western Digital. I've seen test results in trade magazines that show a somewhat smaller, but still significant, improvement.