Data Storage 101 Tips

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New Storage Capabilities Improve PDAs

The same digital storage technologies that led to the iPod also have revolutionized the PDA industry. Most PDAs used flash memory rather than hard drives. Flash memory makes PDAs tough enough to drop and still work. But it also limits storage capacity to no more than 20 MB. Now many PDAs are incorporating SD/MMC/CF cards -- the same cards used in many compact digital cameras. The cards let users increase the PDA memory capacity through removeable digital media. Better storage has spawned popular new uses for the PDA, including photography and listening to MP3 music clips.
Now Palm has taken the PDA to the next level with its Lifedrive series. These PDAs include a hard drive, instead of flash memory. Hard drives greatly increase PDA storage capacity. But the hard drives also make the PDA more vulnerable to catastrophic failure due to rough handling.
Bottom line: New storage technologies have greatly expand the capabilities of the PDA, including digital photography and storage and MP3 storage and play.


Versatility Of External Drives

Attach external drives to your computer through a USB port and you can enjoy almost limitless expansion of your desktop or laptop's digital memory. There are a number of choices in external drives that expand your hard drive's digital memory. These include the following:
* An external hard drive. You can purchase external hard drives with digital memory from 40 to 400 GB. Expect to pay anywhere from $69 to $500, depending on storage capacity.
* An external tape drive. Tape drives have been the standard for back-ups since the first Univac computers of the 1950s and '60s and they are still used as back-up today. External tape drives can be found anywhere from PCs to large industrial applications and cost anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars, depending on size and technology.
* An external rewriteable drive. Hook up a CD writer, a DVD writer or even a Mini-Disc to your PC and you have infinite back-up capacity for your digital memory. Each of these technologies uses relatively inexpensive removeable media, meaning that as long as you change the media, you can keep recording. These are all mostly used on the PC level, for home office use.
Bottom line: Use external drives to give your system a strong back-up. Tape drives are mostly for large-scale, mission critical applications, while hard drives can be adapted for both industrial and home use. Removeable media -- CD, DVD, MiniDisc -- are mostly for home use.


Digital Cameras: More Storage, Cheaper Costs

Digital memory storage options for cameras have grown quickly, along with overall storage options and capacity across the digital storage industry. All camera options are in removeable media, with flash memory. There's no such thing as a hard drive in a digital camera -- so far, at least. That means you can swap digital memory cards in your camera, and almost never run out of space. Virtually all digital cameras use one of the following options: Compact Flash/Microdrives, Secure Digital/Multimedia Cards, or Memory Sticks. Unfortunately, none are compatible. And the decision on which one to use is made by the camera manufacturer.
Sony uses the proprietary Memory Sticks. Compact Flash is generally the standard for most DSLR/pro-level cameras, with capacity of up to 8 GB and counting. SD/MMC cards, which are much smaller, have become the standard for many compact cameras. These cards now run up to 2-4 GB.

The best news in digital camera storage is the price. A few years ago, it cost consumers $500 or more for a 1GB microdrive card. Today, a 1GB CF card, which is quicker than the microdrive, costs less than $100.
Bottom line: You can't pick the type of digital storage to use for your camera; the manufacturer does that. But no matter the digital storage, the products today boast more capacity at a cheaper price.


Data Storage 101

Not that long ago, digital memory used to be expensive because there were few options to choose from. Today, there are many. And the products have more memory, for less cost.
This is true for computer hard drives and external drives; portable flash memory-based products like MP3 players; and items that use digital memory cards, like digital cameras, cellphones and PDAs.
The result of this revolution in digital memory is an explosion in the use of computers and computer accessories with digital memory. The home computer used to be an office machine, used mainly for word processing or spreadsheets. Today, thanks to advances in digital memory, devices like digital cameras, cellphones, PDAs, DVRs and jump drives are making the home computer essential for home entertainment.
What does this mean for you? Freedom. Take your digital camera on vacation. Pop in a 1 GB card and you won't ever run out of space. Fill your iPod with all your music and take it with you wherever you go. Store hundreds or thousands of photos on your PC and then copy them onto DVDs. Use your computer like a DVR, and pause and record live TV.
These advances in digital memory mean new options for you like never before.


Digital Video Relies On Hard Drives

Advances in digital memory technology have created a new industry: Digital video. Digital video is like a VCR. But instead of tape it uses hard drive space to record digital programming off your TV. The best-known brand name is TIVO. But you can use your computer's giant hard drive to do the same thing. All you need is media center software and a video card that allows a direct connection from your computer to the TV. Then you can do timed recording, stop-action recording and store programming on your hard drive. Run out of space on your hard drive? Add an external drive or transfer the programming to recordable DVD. Digital space is now cheap and you can take full advantage of it.


Digital Memory Improves PC Hard Drives

Only five years ago, PCs with 1GB internal hard drives were the cutting edge of digital memory technology for home PCs. Today, entry-level computers have 80GB hard drives while pro and gamer models have multiple 500 GB hard drives, bringing them over the TB (terabyte) level. The computers themselves are cheaper today as well.
Having virtually unlimited hard drive space -- at a lower per-GB cost than ever before -- has made it possible for consumers to use their PCs to store music, movies and videos like never before. Your PC, as a result, has more uses and space. PCs now are video recorders, music jukeboxes, and movie-editing terminals.

Bottom line: Advances in digital memory technology, combined with continue drop in prices, have made internal computer hard drives virtually limitless and opened up new possiblities for users.


Cell phone Convergence

Remember the days when cell phones were just used for making phone calls? Today, we're fully into cell phone convergence. Your cell phone is now -- or soon will be -- your still camera, video camera, MP3 player, Web browser, email reader and PDA.
These innovations have happened thanks to better digital memory technology. Cell phones are handheld computers at their core, and have ever-larger flash memory abilities. And many cell phones, especially cell phone/PDA hybrid smartphones, now accept SM/SD/MMC cards, similar to compact digital cameras.
Bottom line: Your cell phone is going to be the center of personal data convergence, thanks to continued innovations is digital memory storage.


Online Options For Data Back-Ups

You can do just about everything else online these days, so how about using it for digital memory and data back-up? Remember, tape back-ups, hard drives or even removeable media aren't going to do much good if everything is stored together and you have a disaster. For mission critical data storage, it needs be continuous and stored off-site. Online data back-up companies make these promises. Performing all their work over the Internet, these companies can back up your data as it changes, 24x7, and store it offsite at a secure data center. And unlike tapes, you can often access your data instantly through a web browser and an Internet connection. Of course this all depends on how much data you have, what type of program you purchase, and how much you want to spend. Still, it's another advance in digital memory storage and recovery that didn't exist just a few years ago. Online back-up service is only as good as the method used for data storage -- hard drive, removeable media, etc.
Bottom Line: Online data back-up and recovery can be an option, especially for mission-critical back-up services.


MP3: Greater Storage, More Possibilities

Recent advances in digital storage technologies paved the way for the iPod-MP3 revolution, and have played a big part in changing the way the entire music industry looks at listening to and selling music. It used to be that portable music was only the radio. Then came tapes, then portable CD players. But when portable MP3 players and the iPod appeared on the scene just a few years ago, everything changed.
The iPod uses both hard drive and flash drive technology. The big iPods have up to 60GB capacity on their portable hard drives, making it possible to brings tens of thousands of songs with you everywhere you go. The smaller iPods use flash memory, with less capacity but more ability to stand up to rough wear.
Either way, the iPod and non-Apple MP3 players have changed music forever, allowing music fans to pack their entire collections onto one portable machine and then purchase new music directly through the Web.

Bottom line: New technologies have made it possible for iPods and other MP3 players to hold tens of thousands of songs, revolutionizing music and changing it forever.


Portable Flash Memory

A big jump in digital memory is with portable flash memory. Flash memory is read-only memory stored in a chip that doesn't need power to hold the data in the memory. This makes flash memory ideal for portable applications, like MP3 players, digital cameras and cell phones. Flash memory doesn't hold nearly as much data as a portable hard drive, but it's also much sturdier and able to handle much rougher treatment. Examples of flash memory-based products are the iPod Shuffle and the new USB jump external drives, which allow you to easily move data to and from any computer with a USB port.

Bottom line: Flash memory is great for portable items like MP3 players, cell phones, jump drives or anything that might take an accidental pounding and doesn't require big capacity.

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Kristle Jones