by Michael Kraus

As your media collection grows from bite-size to terabyte-size, it’s easy to run out of hard-drive space. Adding internal or external drives to a PC is simple enough, but what if you want several computers in your home to have access to the files? The ideal solution is network-attached storage, or NAS. As the name implies, NAS consists of one or more hard drives connected to your router and available to any computer on the network. Unlike a shared drive on one of the PCs, files on NAS are accessible no matter which computers are running.

It may sound like a pocket-protector project, but installing NAS is actually very simple (plug it in and it shows up as a drive in Windows Explorer), and the boxes are reasonably priced. For example, Buffalo’s LinkStation Network Storage Center includes a built-in print server, so anyone on the network can access a shared printer, in addition to 120 ($280), 160 ($300), 250 ($400) or 300 gigabytes ($500) of built-in storage, and USB ports that let you add two more hard drives if needed. The Iomega NAS 100d shown above has built-in wireless 802.11g networking in 160- ($500) and 250-gigabyte ($600) sizes. If you already have an external USB hard drive you’d like to share, just plug it into the $100 Linksys Network Storage Link, which can turn one or
two drives of any size into NAS.