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Why We Love Buffalo

(Technology, not the animal)

A short while ago, a new client came into Ventura County Computers. They had a 4-drive Buffalo TeraStation configured as a RAID 5 (see sidebar for explanation of RAID 5). It was out of warranty, one drive was dead and the unit firmware wasn't working properly -- it would not regenerate the missing data. Naturally they didn't have another backup of the data and some of it was business-critical. When we discussed the issue with the client, we said that getting the data back was a long-shot, but we'd see what we could do.

First step was to contact Buffalo and see if they could offer any help, even though the unit was long out of warranty. We were in luck. Rather than getting the usual off-shore, script-reading "technicians", we got real US-based engineers. We asked them if they still support out-of-warranty units.

No problem. The US-based tech support was more than willing to help. They provided tests that determined that the main board on the unit was defective. We asked if they had any spare boards, but they unfortunately didn't. But there was a used, but working unit for sale on eBay. We purchased the drive from the eBay vendor, swapped out the board, installed the 3 working drives plus added a new replacement drive and called Buffalo. Buffalo support was able to get the new board to recognize the RAID from the old drive set, regenerate the data and get everything working again. Buffalo spent a ton of time helping our client get his data back -- and the unit was years out of warranty. Throughout, it was a pleasant experience -- they even laughed at our lame jokes.

If you do a lot of support with various companies, it quickly becomes apparent who provides real support and who has a bunch of low-paid (usually off-shore) techs who can only read from prepared crib sheets. It's problems like our customer had that separate the real support from the pretneders. Buffalo support is really up there.

If you have important data that you want backed up reliably, buy a Buffalo TeraStation (or another Buffalo unit that meets your needs). The drive may cost a bit more, although Buffalo tends to be pretty reasonably priced, but if you have any problems you will be thrilled you got a Buffalo.

NAS Devices

NAS (Network Access Storage) is an appliance you plug into your router with an Ethernet cable and then use to back up data from all the computers on your network. The units have a built-in operating system to provide security on the network an usually will hold 2 or more drives which can be configured for redundancy. Two drives are usually configured as a Mirror so that whatever is written to one drive is written simultaneously to the other. If anything happens to a drive, the data is safe on the other. The disadvantge is that you buy two drives to store one drive's worth of data.

Larger units can have 4 or more drives and these are usually configured into what is called RAID 5. With RAID 5, the data is striped from one drive to the next, with enough repetition so that should one drive fail, the data from the remaining drives can regenerate the data. If you have a RAID 5 unit with 4 terabyte drives, you can store 3 terabytes of data. You only lose one drive to redundancy.

Just don't do what our client did. Don't pretend that the NAS drive is a server and save your only copy on the drive. Yes, a NAS drive makes a pretty safe backup drive. But data is only backed up if it is in two different locations. One copy on your computer and the backup on the NAS.