Have music libraries, TV and video filled up your disk space? Never fear, home storage devices are here to help, writes David Hellaby.

Not so long ago, people shook their heads when the first gigabyte-sized hard disk drive went on the market. We laughed at the suggestion that we?d actually be able to fill up a 20 gigabyte (GB) drive with just our music collections. But now we carry around personal music players like the iPod, which uses a 20GB or even larger hard disk. And at home, the first consumer terabyte drives are set appear in our lounge rooms. A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes, and these drives are designed to hold our growing video, photo and music collections. And with the advent of high definition (HD) television shows and HD video cameras, we?ll need all the storage space we can get.

Why store so much data?

At this year?s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, media servers – devices that distribute audio and video throughout the digital home from a centralised source – were tipped to be one
of the major drivers in the digital home. A few have already hit the market in Australia and more are on the drawing board as the idea of being able to share digital content such as MP3 files, video and digital photographs gains appeal.

However, for a media server to be effective it needs to be able to access your multimedia files. Ideally, you should have all of your music, home videos, movies and images in a single repository where everybody in the house can access them from different rooms at the push of a button.

But before jumping into setting up a home network based around a media server, there are several things that have to be taken into consideration, ranging from storage capacity and bandwidth to compatibility issues.

A media server could be considered the ultimate convergence device. It can take digital content that you have collated on your computer (desktop or notebook) and broadcast it to various AV devices throughout the house. For example it could stream video to your lounge room TV, while feeding audio to a sound system elsewhere in the house and showing a slide show of your favourite photographs on a second TV.

Two of the most important issues to consider are where you are going to store your digital content and how you are going to distribute it to other, non-PC devices. Storage is a bigger issue than you might think, particularly if you are going to use a Windows-based network for distribution.

This is because Windows requires a chunk of hard drive space for its virtual memory. This is sort of like a ?scratchpad? for the computer to do its calculations with, so for your computer to run efficiently you cannot use all of the space on the drive just for storage. Therefore, if you think you will need 80GB to store your files, you should have a 100GB drive.