Your data is possibly the most valuable thing that you own, in the sense that losing things like pictures of your family would be catastrophic and impossible to replace. Having a backup drive is a good start, but if you’re as paranoid as I am, you want something even more reliable. A RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) protects you against the failure of a drive, and Seagate and LaCie have introduced some new external drives at CES this year, along with a few other notable storage solutions, including one of the prettiest portable hard drives we've ever seen.
Before we chow down on the RAIDs, let's take a look at two appetizers. First, for its 35th annivesary, Seagate has come up with the “world's thinnest” portable HD: a 5-millimeter, 500-gigabyte drive with a USB 3.0 interface stuffed inside a steel case that gives it a total thickness of just 7 mm. It's called the Seven:
It's available now for $100. For a fun comparison, Seagate also brought along a 5-Mb (that's megabytes) drive from about 30 years ago, that apparently would still work if they could just find something to plug it into:
As much as we like how svelte the Seven is, it's not nearly as pretty as LaCie's 2015 designer drive, the Mirror:
Shiny minimalism at its best, the Mirror is a 1-terabyte drive that's fun to take pictures of.
It looks fragile, but it's made of Gorilla Glass 3, so it shouldn't immediately scratch or shatter, although you'll want to be careful with it, since the storage device will set you back $280. The ebony stand is included, though, so that makes it a steal.
Now, let's talk RAIDs. This flat, black slab is Seagate's Personal Cloud. It's a side-by-side, two-bay unit that comes out of the box configured to mirror your data over two identical drives. If one drive dies on you, you'll barely even notice. The Personal Cloud has an ethernet port on the back for plugging into your network, although it thoughtfully includes a USB port as well, for direct access. Once your data is on there, you can access it from any connected device in your home (other computers, your Chromecast, stuff like that). And, as the product’s name suggests, you can—with some assistance from Seagate's free apps—also make your own personal cloud of data that can be accessed and streamed remotely, from anywhere.
The Personal Cloud comes in 4-TB, 6-TB, and 8-TB versions, ranging in price from $280 to $450. (Operation in RAID 1 mode, in which the data is mirrored for redundancy, will cut those capacities in half.)
This little orange box is something I've been anticipating for quite a while, and specifically asked Seagate for last year. LaCie's Rugged RAID is a portable redundant storage solution if you're creating lots of irreplaceable data on the go. Basically, it's for photographers. Inside are a pair of 2TB drives and a hardware RAID controller, giving you 2 terabytes of mirrored storage. It has an integrated Thunderbolt connector that also powers the drive—although you can use a USB 3.0 cable or a DC power plug as well.
In addition to being portable, the LaCie Rugged Raid is extremely hard to kill. The case is resistant to moisture and dust even while the drive is running, and it will survive 1.5-meter drops or a ton (a literal ton) of pressure on top. There's a tiny little pinhole that will let you switch modes if you decide you'd rather run the drive in RAID 0 (striping, meaning no redundancy) for faster performance and more space. Expect to pay about $450.
Before we wrap up all this RAID talk, we should point out that while a RAID in mirrored configuration does protect against drive failure, it doesn't protect against theft of the drive or anything else that happens to the entire drive all at once, like fires, floods, lightning strikes, high powered lasers, nuclear testing, Large Hadron Colliders, or alien abduction. To be safe from that, you'll want to add some decentralized cloud storage at the same time. But Seagate has you covered on that end, too: Its software will make redundant copies of some or all of your data on whatever cloud storage service you prefer.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.