One of the great things about modern Macs is the fact that many of them have CD writers built in. CD storage is just about the most flexible media around. Cheap, easy and above all compatible, CDs are the top choice for archiving – but there are drawbacks. For a start, it doesn’t take long before they start to stack up, and keeping track of CD archives in a busy office can be problematic. The other problem is that CDs are delicate, and won’t stand up to constant abuse. LaCie has come up with a novel solution to the problem: the Network CD Box.
This isn’t the first version of the Network CD Box, though it has been updated with custom LaCie software rather than the original internal software. The box is basically a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. This means that you plug the box into an Ethernet network, and it works independently of a Mac. In fact, it contains a tiny server to control the hard drive, CD drive and network functions.
Once it’s hooked-up, which should take about 30 seconds, you can load the first CD. The box will copy the CD to the hard drive as a disc image. Then you can access the data from anywhere on the network. A Mac OS 9 machine will see the CD on the network easily through the chooser. If using Mac OS X, then you’ll need to use either AppleTalk, or – if wanting to use TCP/IP access – you need to get to the drive by typing in the IP address. This is a bit of a drag, but not the end of the world.
Before the Network CD Box, the only way to keep a lot of CD archives available on the network was to invest in a CD Jukebox, which was a slow and expensive option. By copying the CD to a hard drive, the CD Box makes it quicker to get the CD over the network than it would be to copy the CD. In a quick test, I copied a 300MB CD across the network from the CD Box. This took two minutes and 16 seconds. Then I took the physical CD and copied the contents to the same drive. This took two minutes and 48 seconds, 32 seconds longer. Plus, this doesn’t take into account finding the CD and putting it in the drive in the first place.
The capacity of the CD Box is 60GB, enough for around 95 full CDs. However, most archives don’t fill a CD to capacity. A quick check of the CDs in our archive here revealed an average 300MB was used on each CD. This would mean we could squeeze about 200 of our archive CDs onto the CD Box, which should see us right for the foreseeable future.
Using this system means that Jukebox systems are effectively obsolete. This method is faster, cheaper and more convenient. Because you only load the CD once, it means that your backup archive is more likely to last longer too.