Using delivery packaging as part of equipment casing is not entirely new. At the CeBIT 2011 trade show in Hannover Asus showed a box used for delivering a motherboard which could be turned into a PC case. It was designed to (temporarily) hold the board plus the other hardware for a working PC, with punch-out holes for ventilation and connectors.
German company Convar has extended the idea with BytePac, which it describes as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to external hard drives. The company supplies a cardboard box and connectors so that a hard drive, either 2.5” or 3.5”, can be housed and used in the box. The BytePac box is made of corrugated cardboard to protect the drive, but they can also be used as an archiving system, so that each hard drive can be extracted and used when needed.
BytePac is easy to use, with a modular design, flexible cabling and no fixed electronic components. All it requires is to put a hard drive into the box and connect it up with the cables supplied. It just needs the one connector kit, which can be used with whichever hard drive is in use. When the drive is not being used the connectors can be removed and the drive stored on a bookshelf.
The advantage is that the product generates no additional packaging material or electronic waste, both of which you would get with alternative external hard disk solutions. A conventional external hard drive casing is usually made of plastic, with all the manufacturing and disposal impact that has. BytePacs are made from renewable primary products in Europe, keeping the environmental impact to a minimum. And when the product’s life cycle is over it can be disposed of by composting, or preferably by being recycled again as waste paper.
BytePac is available across Europe via the company’s website and from Amazon. There are various permutations of what is supplied and it can include the hard drive itself. Without the drive the basic BytePac kit, with three boxes and the drive connector kit, costs just under £30 from Amazon.
The company describes BytePac as simple, practical, environmentally-friendly and affordable. It’s certainly that. But it is very basic. You may need to get your own hard disk, plus any software for automatic back-up or similar sophistication.
For me the fly in the ointment is whether there is a broad market for the product. If you need multiple drives for storage then I suspect you might look for a better solution – although anything that relies on one large hard disk constantly spinning is less of a green alternative. And does the home user need multiple drives? My guess is that this is primarily a small business product, particularly suitable for its home market in Germany.
Having said that, given the problems I’ve had with off-the-shelf back-up storage solutions, the idea of simply plugging a drive into an environmentally-sound casing is very attractive. The trouble is I only need one box.