This problem is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time and remain fascinated by.
Let’s say you’re out of storage on your primary machine and need another place to store your files. Because that solution is on another hard drive, you’ll need a backup of that drive too. Let’s assume as well that you want to do Time Machine backups (or something similar, i.e. constant and consistent backup of incremental file changes based on dates and times).
The way I see it, you have three options:
- If you have a laptop, you could buy two copies of the hard drive you need. Let one act as the backup and storage tool, and the other act as a clone. Back up both to Backblaze (or something like it) at no additional cost, since they’re attached to your main machine. Plug them in every time you plug in your machine. This has the problem, of course, that you’re not always plugged in.
- If you have a laptop, give up and buy a desktop for this purpose. If you have a desktop, problem solved: your machine is already always on and you just need to add drives as in step 1. You could even allow laptops in your home to connect to this machine when they’re on the same network and run their backups too.
- Get a NAS. The problem here is, if you want to really make sure your archive is safe, you need two of the same NAS in two separate locations. One clones to the other. Otherwise, you’re still at risk of losing this data. If you want to back it up to the cloud, you’ll unfortunately be paying per GB for something like Backblaze, meaning your costs will not be as predictable as they would be if you were dealing with DAS.
I have a laptop that I mostly use at my desk, but will very often unplug from my desk and walk away with. I’m currently using option 1, but I’m perpetually out of ports on my machine and only ever have 1 drive plugged in at a time. This solution is also kind of noisy.
For what I suspect my long-term needs are, I looked at a Synology DS1522+. Filling that with 4TB drives, and buying two of the whole unit, would cost me $3049.88 CAD.
Buying a whole Mac Studio kitted out with specs to match my laptop would be $4699. If I lowered the storage to 2TB, knowing I could have plenty of archival storage attached to the desktop, it would cost $3099. Only $50 more than Synology. Then I have power at the desk and power on the go.
Of course, buying an always-on Mac Mini for this purpose would cost under $1k. Using it just for file storage wasn’t as successful as I hoped it would be when I tried it last, and I ended up returning it. (One of those things where it wa quickly obviously Synology would be better at staying attached to the Mac, have fewer security holes in that scenario, etc.)
I don’t have a solution today and I’m not looking for one necessarily, but I wanted to raise this topic as an area where I feel the solutions today don’t match what the needs of consumers.
There is technically a fourth solution, but it’s so expensive as to be hilarious: buy a Mac Pro, attach a bunch of external storage. Eat $12,000 CAD for breakfast.