Offices and homes that just a few years ago had stand-alone electronic devices and one PC are now shifting toward hardware devices and computers with capabilities that converge, overlap or interconnect. How does one manage all of these technologies? SOHO (Small office/home office) networking is the answer. SOHO networks link many different electronic devices in a small office or household through a connected local area network (LAN). The network can be point-to-point, (one computer to another) or point-to-multipoint (computers and other devices such as printers, set-top boxes, or stereos connected to each other and the Internet). The end result is that while Junior is playing games in the family room, Sally can print a picture from the home office and you may email your boss from the patio.

Simply Brilliant UPB Dimming

According to the Yankee Group, about 29% of U.S. households have multiple PCs.; and, of these households, 34% are interested in home networking. In addition, more entrepreneurs are working from home offices—singly, in partnerships or in collaboration. Emerging network technology has enabled these entrepreneurs to share data, printers and many other computer peripherals. Add to this environment a wireless capability that provides mobility and access from locations that do not have traditional network connections, such as common areas, lounges and the outdoors. Devices can be used to connect to a network during a meeting in a conference room, or for home use it can connect users from the garage or the deck. Even newer is the ability to activate SOHO electronic systems by simply speaking a command into a PC-enhanced cordless handset.

How do you easily share your videos, music, pictures and data with others in a SOHO network environment? How do you get everything you want done with multiple PCs and electronic peripherals without becoming an IT geek? Today’s PCs and routers, combined with the ability to outsource email management and web site servers, eliminate the need for small groups of workers to support their own on-site servers. However, they do need to easily backup and restore critical data and share data centrally. There are several alternatives to accomplish this.

You can add a hard disk drive that acts as the file server. That can be a time-consuming and not very productive alternative. Or, you can add a separate file server, which is a specially configured PC or subsystem that includes a disk drive. This provides for shared storage, but is expensive and can be difficult to install and manage. Another option is to use the features built into the operating system (such as Windows’ “share” feature) that allows multiple users to share files on a common storage device. This can also be difficult to set up and manage. While installing a storage area network (SAN) is possible, it is the most expensive infrastructure to deploy and the most expensive to support.

More cost effective methods include direct attached storage (DAS) and networked attached storage (NAS) devices. DAS devices extend the storage capacity of an individual PC or server, but are limited in their ability to support the shared data and shared resource requirements of many newer network applications. NAS devices require an IP address and you may not be able to find a device that’s within the same price range as a standard hard disk or one that offers the more complex features than you need on your SOHO network.

As an alternative you might consider a technology called Network Direct Attached Storage, or NDAS™ — disk storage technology that allows a simple direct connection to a network without the complicated configuration of other products. This technology, developed by XIMETA, Inc. and marketed in the SmartDisk NetDisk™, is specifically designed for a SOHO network of between two and twenty computers. Using a design that incorporates a patented chip and software technology, a NetDisk drive operates as a PC’s local hard disk and can be shared with other PC’s connected over Ethernet to your LAN. This simple approach eliminates the necessity of using a separate file server. NetDisk appears and functions like a local hard disk even when it’s connected to the network via Ethernet, allowing it to appear as a local drive on each computer. NetDisk is available as a desktop hard drive with storage space from 80GB to 250GB. NDAS hard drives are simpler, smaller and less expensive than a full-featured NAS. An NDAS unit is the same size as an external USB drive and can be placed anywhere on your wired or wireless LAN.

Music, photos, videos, or data that were on multiple computers or other electronic peripherals are now centralized at a single network device instead of a dedicated processor or operating system on an individual computer. Additionally, NDAS tends to operate faster than the more traditional NAS and is less susceptible to outside hacking and spying. Password protection allows the ability to restrict certain users to read-only access to the drive, providing an additional level of security. NDAS is easy to install, operate, and maintain without professional networking knowledge. All of this contributes to a lower cost for SOHO users.

As you explore implementing a SOHO network, storage alternatives are critical to maintaining your data and files. Carefully considering the specific benefits of DAS, NAS and NDAS before you purchase a device will reduce your cost in the long run and allow you to add PCs and other electronic devices easily and efficiently.

About the Author
Charles Klinker, Vice President – Marketing for SmartDisk Corporation develops and expands the company’s participation in portable storage and digital multimedia markets.

About SmartDisk Corporation
SmartDisk is a leading provider of a range of advanced consumer electronic and computer products that are enabling the digital age and simplifying the digital lifestyle. The company’s innovative products help users store, transfer, share and preserve digital music, video, pictures and data. Headquartered in the U.S., with operations in Europe and Asia, SmartDisk sells and supports its products worldwide. Recently, SmartDisk partnered with XIMETA to distribute NDAS technology products. For more information, go to