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Media Storage Challenges in the Digital Home

While data backup has long been the traditional reason for an individual to purchase a network drive, more consumers today are looking to Network Attached Storage (NAS) as a way to manage the exploding volume of digital media they are acquiring, according to ABI Research.

From personal digital photos and video to content purchased online, consumers are looking not only to more traditional storage solutions such as USB hard drives, but to the more evolved NAS solutions that are becoming available at attractive price points.

"There are a number of competing alternatives for centralized storage and management of content," says ABI Research director Michael Wolf. "ABI believes game consoles and Media Center PCs will outnumber NAS devices for media management by a large margin, but for those looking for low-cost content storage and management solutions, NAS will continue to grow as a viable option."

Part of the reason for the growing interest in NAS devices is the technology's rapidly declining price points. This decrease in pricing and increase in overall functionality has been driven by the emergence of NAS-on-chip processors from vendors such as Marvell and Agere.

These devices are specifically designed to handle tasks for advanced multimedia management. The NAS-on-chip market will grow from under 1 million units shipped in 2006 to over 7.5 million units shipped by 2011.

"Today, home network storage is definitely an advanced consumer market," concludes Wolf. "However, we are increasingly seeing enthusiasts of such applications as digital photography and home video adopting NAS to manage their content, and we believe it's only a matter of time before mainstream consumers look to NAS for entertainment media management as well."

I'm wondering, do most consumers really need more media storage capacity, or simply better utilization of the storage that they already have at their disposal? For those of us who have wireless access points, and/or wired home networks, an intuitive application to better manage the placement and update of available local hard-drive and remote/virtual 'shared folders' may be all that's really needed.

Why invest in new 'centralized' storage and management, when many of us are already heavily invested in 'distributed' storage -- by default? Moreover, when I include the always-on expensive RAID-based free online storage I have from Google, Yahoo, Streamload and Orb Networks, etc. -- why should I buy more cheap unreliable hard drives? It would seem overly redundant (pun intended).

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