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Upgrade cost has never been cheaper


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POSTED: Monday, February 02, 2009

The news from Washington, D.C., and Washington Place is that it's time to invest in our decrepit infrastructure. I suggest you look at your own IT requirements and determine if you need to replace aging hard drives, routers or PCs.

The cost of storage and computing power has never been cheaper to fund your own “;private works program.”; All you may need is a few hundred dollars to improve productivity to power your “;personal economy.”;

One place to start is with a wireless router, for home or office. The newest generation allows for much faster transfer of huge files such as photos or even movies over your network.

I had a chance to check out the Belkin N+ wireless router, which offers a number of things I really like: great range (up to 400 feet) and excellent throughput (over 200 Mbps). This was from my living room (about 60 feet from the router in the office) which meant passing through two walls. The Belkin unit also was inexpensive (around $100) and had a built-in connection to an external USB hard drive.

Why does the connection to an external drive matter?

If you're at home or the office, it means that anyone on the network can have full access to the entire hard drive's content simultaneously. This also eliminates the need for your colleagues at work (or for that matter mom, dad and the kids) to have separate external drives for data backup. Instead you have one, big fat drive for everyone.

All you do is plug in your storage device into the N+ USB port, set up a small file-management program off the CD and, bingo, you're set. I tested this with a couple of storage units that you might consider for a home or small office.

The first was the Western Digital My Book Home Edition which can be purchased for as little as $127 online. It connects via USB 2.0, Firewire or eSata and is very quiet. It comes with backup software that's easy to use and runs in the background to keep files constantly archived. It 1 terabyte of storage space offers plenty of room for photos, databases and even movies. What it could have used was a power on/off switch. If you need to reset the drive, you'll have to yank out the plug.

  Another option is to go “;green”; with SimpleTech's [re]drive, an energy-efficient 500 gig external drive made with aluminum and bamboo (yes wood) exterior, which fits in perfectly with the “;Hawaii look.”; Being eco-friendly, it shuts down when the computer is not in use and uses 90 percent less energy compared to similar external drives. It comes with its own backup software and offers 2 gigs of offline storage as well.

A lot of detail has gone into the design—there are no extra bags or inserts, and the user documentation is printed on the inside of the box. The price is less than $100 online.

Both drives functioned well with the Belkin N+ router with one caveat: You may have to ditch Belkin's file-management program and remap the network until Belkin comes up with a patch to fix a software bug. (Belkin's support people were very helpful in getting around this.)