Jingle bell storage: What to buy a geek for the holidays

For the techno-geek on your Christmas list, here's a list of personal storage gadgets for storing photos, music and all the data being generated by computing and communications devices.

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Not even a tanking economy can satiate a geek's lust for cool storage stuff to play with. And in 2008, the gifts receiving the most mentions from the geeks we contacted involve some sort of home or portable data storage to manage the output of proliferating personal devices.

Those items include the EMC StorCenter ix2 network storage device based on technology from Iomega. The home NAS appliance comes in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities.

"I have five laptops on my home network, and the big issue of late is figuring out central storage so photos and music can be stored and shared," writes Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse in an email to SearchStorage. "ix2 also has some built-in backup capabilities, so even though I subscribe to a backup service, I can store some stuff locally…[and] it lists for less than $500." Apple's Time Capsule and Data Robotics' Drobo desktop self-healing storage are other home storage products that showed up on geeks' wish lists.

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Then there's the portable stuff. EMC's Iomega again comes to mind. "I love the Iomega portable disk with the Patriots logo," emails Enterprise Strategy Group founder and avid football fan Steve Duplessie, adding, "it looks like a flask." On his blog, U.K. storage consultant Chris M. Evans praised the Seagate FreeAgent Go portable hard drive, saying,. "You can never have too much personal storage, and it's hard to turn down brushed metal and a docking station."

StorageIO Group founder and senior analyst Greg Schulz has two suggestions for those who want to give themselves a storage present.

  1. "To support increased data growth, replace that too-small 8 GB encrypted [thumb drive] with a new 16 GB encrypted USB flash version."
  2. "For those who like removable media and want to complement their Retrospect or other backups, the Imation Odyssey portable USB adapter is great for larger backups when traveling."

If you're creating large data sets on the road, the Cradlepoint Mobile Broadband Router might also come in handy, according to our geek advisors—as might Mark/Space Inc.'s Missing Synch software, which synchs data between portable devices, software programs and operating systems.

Another enterprise storage technology that's turning heads this year, despite the cost: solid-state drives. "An Intel SSD -- I don't care what size," says Tory Skyers, an infrastructure engineer at a large financial company, adding, "Make that two."

Green is in

Energy efficiency and/or independence from wall sockets and fossil fuels are fashionable features this holiday season. Solar chargers are widely available and sought-after, as are rechargeable portable power sources or "juice packs" for mobile devices.

Kill A Watt, a device for gauging the power draw of home appliances, is a popular green gift. Strangely, there's no commercially available equivalent of this gadget for corporate data centers, but you might impress the CIO by bringing the home version to the office.

If you're shopping for the eco-geek who has everything, consider carbon offsets or donations to green organizations on their behalf.

General gadgetry

There's always room in a geek's heart for gadgetry of a more general nature. The iPhone 3G, MacBook Pro, anything BlueTooth and digital pens are among the tried-and-true items, but there are some novel ideas this year. Check out the Flip Mino camcorder, an ultra-mobile mini digital video camera. It's available in HD too.

The Slingbox, a device that allows you to watch your home cable lineup of shows remotely, now has accessories (and you know how geeks are about accessories). SlingCatcher, a remote viewer for Slingbox and PC videos, earned a mention from one of our respondents.

Ever hear of NeatReceipts? The Neat Company's website says it's "a mobile scanner and digital filing system that helps you manage all of your paperwork on the computer." (Also, the amount of data created by it could help you justify that 2 TB StorCenter!).

Stocking stuffers

With everyone tightening their budget this year, you have about as much chance of getting a pony as an iPhone 3G. Our geeks had some ideas for less expensive items that will still warm their tech-obsessed hearts. If your geek has already stood around an Apple store at midnight to get an iPhone 3G, you can accessorize it with the RichardSolo 1800 battery charger.

One of our geek advisors writes: "Shirts with LEDs are sweet, particularly with WiFi detectors." You have to see one of these things to believe it. If it get one, warn the recipient not to wear it to the airport.

Skype service is a relatively inexpensive way to help your geek stay connected. It can cost as little as $10. Electronic picture frames are more expensive, but still within reason, and their stability and features have reportedly come a long way since the earliest models.

The Dark Knight was a popular movie with geeks this year. Grab a Hi-Def DVD and you're all set.

If you want to help those less fortunate, one geek says he was touched by a gift from a friend who used kiva.org. "A friend just bought me a $50 loan to give out to any Third World entrepreneur of my choice," he wrote. "This has meant the most to me."

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