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This is, in my opinion, a massive problem and one that the companies selling digital media will need to address at some point.

I would quite like to be able to subscribe to programs, ala iTunes Season Pass, and download high definition copies. All my music is digital now and I tend to prefer a digital format for my videos as well. I currently have a 1tb hard drive onto which I burn my DVDs so that on one device I have my entire collection.

But this is not practical really. It doesn't connect to a network in order to steam the media to many devices and space will eventually become a problem again which would require more external hard drives and it all becomes a mess!

How are we going to be able to have a fully digital media collection? How can this work when a typical HD 45 minute TV show is at least a gig in size?

I see two solutions: Home media servers or, when connections are fast enough, our media stored in the cloud. Maybe one subscription opens up a world on demand media. How do you stores yours, how would you?

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Sounds like a Wiki-question. –  Jonathan Sampson Jul 16 '09 at 19:38
    
Wasn't sure. I guess there is no 'correct' answer. Changed. –  Damien Jul 16 '09 at 19:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I use Windows Home Server. It can be expanded to have any number of hard drives, can be backed up without much fuss, and can stream the media to any DLNA device in the house.

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I was thinking about this, is Windows Home Server ready for the big time now? I was considering buying a tower, filling it with HDs and install home server. –  Damien Jul 16 '09 at 19:47
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I think that it is ready for the big time. Ever since the first service pack it's been quite solid. I've been running it since it first came out and love it. –  Steve Rowe Jul 17 '09 at 4:54

I have terabytes of storage these days with how cheap external HDs are.

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I have a Linux box that acts as a media server and music player. The device itself is an Intel Atom board with Creative X-fi in it's single PCI slot. Only problem - no Gbit LAN and no PCI-E ports. The box integrates nicely into an existing Windows network. I use Debian Linux distro.

As for hardware one could get an inexpensive AMD board with 6 SATA ports, Gbit LAN, PCI-E and a more powerful CPU if needed. As JP said, HDDs are cheap these days - go for RAID 1/5 just in case.

As for cloud storage, I doubt it's usefulness for large volumes of media - the bottleneck will be your Internet connection and bandwidth will get wasted for fetching stuff you've already downloaded anyway.

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Does it come down to four storage approaches for paid-for digital media?

  1. Download the media and burn it to DVD or similar medium. This is similar to what you would have if buying it physically, though the question of whether the life of a home-recorded DVD is as long as a commercial pressed DVD would need to be considered.

  2. Download the media and store on one or more HDDs. These could be on a media centre, a fileserver, an ordinary PC or just as backups. depending on your requirements. If you don't want the cost and complexity of a fileserver-based solution then a usb flash drive with a couple of movies, music and books on can easliy be moved to the device where it is wanted.

  3. Buy the media from a supplier that allows repeated downloads. Download it as 1. or 2. and download again if the copy is lost or fails.

  4. Use a subscription service, download or stream as preferred (an example is the subscription service from Magnatune). Store or don't as preferred. Ending the subscription will usually end the ability to download so that needs to be factored in. This includes what may be a different subset, streamed (possibly DRM-protected) media such as radio or TV programmes: the licence for these is only to stream so there is no storage requirement and bandwidth is the ultimate limitation, as it is with storing my own downloaded or created material in the cloud (even where licencing permits this).

All these approaches really only work where the digital media, software and hardware are DRM-free.

Option 4 combined with option 2 and all DRM-free media probably gives the most versatility. Option 2 would be my second choice, but that probably requires DRM-free and a licence that allows backup copies (e.g. in the long term there is little point having backup copies of the downloaded media if they can only be played on one particular hardware player).

Currently I keep audio recordings on a PC, with a backup on an external HDD. I keep a subset of these on a couple of USB audio player and some more in a mirrored directory between all the PCs I use. Video material is either on a PVR or on DVDs. I do use Magnatune, but just for downloads, no subscription.

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