With 256 Kbps unlimited connections becoming the norm, there's a new need to transport GBs of data around. Enter our saviour, the external hard drive
Internal storage has become very affordable. As our download folders span several hundred gigabytes and friends request movies, music and games portability becomes an issue. One of my friends has a major problem: he downloads (legal!) movies and documentaries at office (his admin actually doesn't object!), and he needs to ferret these movies across to his PC at home. Now data travels, and his brother-in-law has been wanting to swipe movies and game ISOs off his hard drive. Finally tired of the bickering about being inconsiderate to bhaiya, he consulted me.
I set him off on the right track straightaway-an external hard drive solution. The problem now: which? The first decision is whether to go 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch. The bigger PC hard drives have dual benefits-they're cheaper, and you get more storage space. The negatives are the size and weight, as well as the need for a separate power connection. Laptop hard drives are costlier, but smaller, and more importantly, they are powered via a USB port-sometimes two ports.
An external solution is basically nothing more than a regular hard drive-either 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch-housed in some sort of external casing that converts the hard drive's PATA or SATA interface to USB, FireWire, or even E-SATA (external SATA is an extension of SATA, which offers hot-swappable plug-n-play). Some manufacturers like Western Digital and Seagate offer external hard drives. Other vendors offer either only the casing (in which case you buy a hard drive separately), or will sell you a combo, that is, an external case HDD.
I discovered, during my sojourn to Lamington Road, hard drive cases selling for as little as Rs 150! Of course, these are as reliable as a cat with goldfish around, but if the product fails, you can simply buy another. This is assuming the low-quality casing doesn't affect the drive in any way.
The first vendor I patronised showed me a couple of local branded USB 2.0 cases-the 3.5-inch one cost Rs 250, while the laptop case cost Rs 265. He was sketchy on warranties-it was the check it here, pay, leave, and don't come back if anything goes wrong type of warranty. I asked for prices of laptop hard drives. He suggested Hitachi-the cheapest-followed by Seagate and Western Digital (in ascending order). A 40 GB Hitachi 5400 rpm was Rs 2,200, while the 60-GB cost just Rs 200 more. An 80 GB priced at Rs 2,800 means anything smaller is a poor deal in terms of price per GB.
A block down the road, I was shown a Transcend StoreJet casing. Now Transcend has gone a step ahead, offering both regular casings and complete solutions (sealed external drives), leaving the choice to the user. A 2.5-inch StoreJet casing was priced at Rs 750. I enquired about the Zippy casings I'd come across while surfing. He said they're priced at Rs 300 more, and not many people buy them even though they are much more reliable; I suspect this is due to the brand image that Transcend has carved for themselves.
This vendor priced the laptop hard drives identically, mentioning that a faster Seagate drive would cost just Rs 200 more compared to the Hitachi. According to him, Western Digitals are costlier because of their door-to-door replacement warranty. Incidentally, a WD laptop drive is around Rs 500 more than a Hitachi of the same class. Mind you, these are 5400 rpm drives. Since the interface is USB, a much costlier 7200 rpm drive doesn't make sense: the interface will bottleneck it.
I consulted my friend, and he declared he wanted something reliable since he planned on keeping data for a few weeks on the drive, not necessarily deleting data after transferring it.
Vendor three insisted we choose a hard drive first. He showed us bigger models from Hitachi-100 and 120 GB-priced just Rs 300 rupees apart (3,600 and 3,900 respectively). 160 GB laptop hard drives are also available, but were steeply priced, at Rs 6,150. My friend took a liking to the 120 GB category: "This will be enough for a lot of movies and music, yaar."
We then came across an external casing from Vantec called NexStar, priced at Rs 2,100. This was a great-looking case, finished in aluminium, just like Transcend's StoreJet series. Incidentally there's a 3.5-inch version of Vantec's USB casing that features blazing-fast E-SATA connectivity for Rs 3,100; something that will suit the speed junkie-data transfer rates are double, and in many cases, more than that.
We bought the 120 GB Hitachi drive with a five-year warranty for Rs 3,900. No haggling: this fellow wailed about zero per cent margins! We trudged back to vendor two and picked up the Transcend 2.5 StoreJet for Rs 750. For a little more than four and a half thousand bucks, my friend had gotten exactly what he wanted. My payoff was the home-cooked meal at his place two days later…