We’ve got a bunch of USB hard disks at home that are used for backup and media storage. I’m fairly good about plugging them in and running backup utilities (rsync and SyncToy, mostly) but it is a bit of a pain. So I spent an hour looking at options for network addressable storage.
You can now buy a USB to Ethernet dongle that shares disks over the network. They come in a variety of flavours: feature-low Newlink [£26] which says Windows only; Addonics [£37] which has a load of extra features such as BitTorrent, iTunes, SMB/Samba, XBox media (great review at crunchgear.com). I’m not sure if you can put a USB hub on either of these and access multiple drives.
Another alternative would be to take the drives out of their USB enclosures (they’re usually just laptop or 3.5″ drives) and put them into a NAS enclosure. I found these enclosures on ebay for as low as £13. Again, prices and features vary for them — the Newlink offering at Amazon gets decent reviews for the price [£27].
The final goal is to create a multi-disk box with RAID on an Ubuntu Server. I’ll use that for all backups, media and remote storage. By setting up port forwarding on a home router I’ll be able to access them from anywhere in the world. I’ll wait until we’ve moved into our new home before working on that.