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PCR checks out the external storage sector

What’s in store

External storage first impacted the consumer market a few years ago and since then has steadily grown to become an important and increasingly significant part of the IT segment.

The key driver for this development has been the growth of digital media among the general populace, who have embraced digital photography, online movies and formed digital music collections, while wishing to retain them in a portable state.

In addition to the growing popularity of digital devices, the medium itself is changing people’s habits. In the past, people would have a finite number of stills to use before they had to change the film, so each still was usually of a different image.

These days, digital camera users will think nothing of reeling off a number of pictures to be sure that they’ve got the image right, or will take hundreds of stills in one day. In many cases, these files are stored on a PC or laptop’s hard drive.

“As consumer interest in digital content such as photos, videos and music grows, it’s obvious that end-users are increasingly understanding the importance of buying external storage devices,” states Gem’s head of marketing, Neil Handa. “Prices have also fallen, which has opened the doors for value-added bundles in retail.”

The permeation of digital media in everyday household is something that Iomega’s UK and Ireland country manager, Andy Connor describes as ‘the Digital Lifestyle’. He notes that in many cases, domestic households have multiple PCs under one roof, which means growing storage requirements.

“The last three or four years have seen an explosion in downloads and digital media,” Connor says. “People are downloading and creating a lot more digital content and as the quality of it improves, so the demand for storage increases, as higher quality means larger file size.

“It all adds up to what we call the digital lifestyle – the growing presence of digital media in people’s everyday lives. Quite often the end user will simply leave their pictures or music on their computer, which not only slows it down but also can present complications when it comes to buying a new machine. Another spurring factor in the growth of external storage is the increasing popularity of portable computers, like laptops and netbooks, which often don’t have enough storage to host someone’s entire movie collection – this is where digital storage shines.”

M2M Direct’s sales and marketing manager, Hitesh Kothary, also attributes the growth of this sector to the increasing popularity of digital media and steadily improving domestic internet connection speeds.

“The key reason why the digital storage and external hard drive market has grown so quickly is simply that real world drivers exist for this type of technology,” comments Kothary. “The UK marketplace has a huge demand for these types of products and it is continuing to grow with demand for faster, larger capacity, and more efficient products. This demand is encouraging our manufacturers to innovate at great speed to satisfy customer requirements.

“Sales trends are again being driven by consumers’ growing the use of technology in their day-to-day environments. The trend is for them to archive, download, share, and record digital content. Therefore we are seeing bigger and bigger drives, and simple things such as a pen drive are now being requested at 64GB – until very recently this amount of storage was seen as the preserve of hard drives. Consumers want to be able to plug external devices using a USB or FireWire connection, rather than by opening up their PCs.”

The gradual reduction in retail pricing has also had a very positive effect on this sector. A few years ago, a 160 gigabyte external hard drive was considered the pinnacle of external storage and would cost the best part of £100; now a one terabyte device can be obtained for as little as £65, making these devices a lot more accessible to the general population.

Although external hard drive and other portable devices are enjoying the most popularity with the consumer end of the market, there are other types of storage that are also seeing interest. Network Access Storage (NAS) is something that will see an increasing presence in households, especially those that embrace the digital lifestyle.

“In terms of portable storage devices, most people are only going to need a certain amount of capacity for their day-to-day uses,” continues Connor. “For long-term domestic data storage, we anticipate that NAS devices will be the device of choice.”

“NAS drives are selling very well,” agrees Handa. “They are easy to use and affordable. Users also understand the need to back-up their content and access it remotely using streaming devices. This makes them a vital addition to a home network.”

Another growth area is the remote, or cloud, storage service segment. This option allows users to store their digital information remotely, to be accessed from any place in the world that has an internet connection.

“Remote storage gives users instant access to their digital files without the hassle of carrying portable devices around,” says Dan Conlon, founder and managing director of remote storage specialist Humyo.

Although Conlon feels that currently users are still looking to physically carry their data around with them, the technology behind cloud storage will develop to the point where it is the first choice for digital storage.

“Currently with internet speeds as they are, users are looking for the best of both worlds for their storage requirements, both online and offline,” adds Conlon. “In the future, once internet speeds increase through the growing fibre networks, users will predominately store, share and stream digital files of all kinds in one place – within the cloud.”

My Book World Edition
SRP: £210
Distributor: C2000

Designed for families or households with more than one PC, the My Book World Edition has been created to centralise data and provide continuous back-up. WD says that this device offers an easy setup, back-up for any PC in the home, broad compatibility and iTunesstreaming.

Store Steel
SRP: £72
Distributor: Ingram Micro

The Steel has a minimalist design with a glossy, scratch and smudge resistant stainless steel casing. Customers can choose between a 1.8-inch or 2.5-inch disk size, which can hold 160 gigabytes and 500 gigabytes respectively.

SRP: £70
Distributor: Ingram Micro

Billed as offering excellent price-performance, the StorE Alu is encased in aluminium and is available in 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch disk sizes. The device offers a range of capacity options from 160 gigabytes through to 1.5 terabytes.

Seagate FreeAgent Desk
SRP: £104.99
Distributor: VIP

With 1.5 terabytes of storage, the Seagate FreeAgent Desk stores and protects files and information with transfer rates of up to 480 megabits per second. The device carries a five-year warranty, can automatically back up data and can sync content with other portable drives.

Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive
SRP: £109.99
Distributor: C2000

Available with either 500GB or a terabyte of storage capacity, the Iomega Home Network Drive is a NAS that can be accessed by any PC on a home network. The device has been designed to send or stream files to games consoles, digital picture frames, networked TVs and any iTunes-enabled computer, to make it the hub for the digital home.

StorE Art
SRP: £64.99
Distributor: Ingram Micro

Toshiba says its StorE Art device has been designed for customers looking for a robust, portable solution to back up large quantities of data. Available in three disk sizes – 1.8, 2.5, and 3.5-inch – the device is powered by USB and comes with a variety of stylish designs.

SRP: £849.99
Distributor: CCI

The SS439P delivers numerous functions for business users, including File Server, FTP Server, Print Server and includes Windows Active Directory. The device is a Quad 2.5-inch drive all-in-one NAS Server with built-in phpMyAdmin, Joomla!, MySQLand SQLite, SMB and SOHO users can set up their own web and database server.

SimpleDrive Mini Black Cherry
SRP: £64.99
Distributor: VIP

The Mini Black Cherry offers a sleek, pocket-sized Pinanfara design that is durable and made for travel. As well as offering automatic local back-up, the device can also be covered with the Fabrik Ultimate Backup online storage service, with up to 2GB free of charge. It also featuresJoggledigital content management software.

Iomega StorCenter ix2 Network Storage
SRP: £164.99
Distributor: C2000

The StorCenter ix2 has been designed for the secure storage of large volumes of data, and as such is equally at home in a small office as in a domestic household. Available with either one or two terabytes of storage, this device features award winning EMC Retrospect Expressback-up software and includes a high performance 400MHz processor, 128MB of RAM, SATA 2 drives and GbE connectivity.

Buffalo NanoStation USB 2.0
SRP: £69.99
Distributor: GEM

Just 6mm wide and weighing 60g, the Buffalo NanoStation is designed for the active professional. The device features easy-to-use back-up and sync software, mobile applications such as Firefoxand Thunderbirdfor email and web browsing, as well as Buffalo’s Secure Lock Mobile software to prevent unauthorised access in the event the drive is lost or stolen.

SimpleDrive 1TB Turbo USB 2.0
SRP: £69.99
Distributor: VIP

With a turbo USB 2.0 interface that offers transfer speeds up to 25 per cent faster than standard ports, SimpleTech claims that its 1TB drive offers affordable and reliable design. The drive automatically powers on and off with a PC, includes award-winning back-up software and is compatible with both PCs and Macs.

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