I was skeptical. I’ve been burned before buying cheap hardware. Either it ends up being a piece of crap or the vendor is planning to make its money on supplies (think ink jet printers). Sometimes a really low price is just the lure in a bait-and-switch operation.
I’ve learned the hard way not to go cheap on computers. The cost of a system failure is MUCH higher than the premium you’ll pay for a good machine that is reliable. Quality pays!
Western Digital, a leading manufacturer of disk drives known for quality, has introduced a line of low-cost computers called network attached storage (NAS) servers. The line offers internal disk capacities of 160 GB, 250 GB, 320 GB or 500 GB. Prices range from about $170 to $300 (prices vary widely across retailers).
These are specialized computers, designed to function only as file servers. They are promoted as “an excellent solution for data backup or general storage in small networks.” These computers run Linux, not Microsoft Windows. They do not come with a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Customers set up and administered these devices from a networked PC using a web browser.
With knowledge of Linux, it is possible to hack these devices and repurpose them. If you knew what you were doing, you could make one into an MP3 player, or you could link a bunch of them together and make a super computer. But don’t bother. Data backup and general storage are important, necessary and valuable purposes for most small networks. With these devices, there is NO EXCUSE for not having automated online backups of your valuable data. There is no reason not to store disk images of your PC hard drives to help you recover to the “base configuration” quickly and easily from PC failures. No more having to spend hours reloading the base applications (where are those disks?)!
In short, if you have a small network at home or at work, this should be your next computer. It will be a little bit of money well spent. BTW, to do backups and disk images of your network Windows PCs, you’ll need a copy of Norton Ghost too for about $50.