A network drive can make your digital existence a lot easier. With the Iomega StorCenter ix2-dl, not only can you back up files wirelessly, but many of the tasks you do manually today - post photos to Facebook, send a massive attachment by email - can now be automated, simply by copying a file into a folder on the drive. It's like having your own cloud. But that's not all the business-friendly features ix2-dl offers. Read on to find out why it's one of our favorite gadgets of the year.
Click to EnlargeThe Iomega StorCenter ix2-dl looks like, well, a network-attached storage drive. The rectangular black box, covered in brushed aluminum, measures 7.94 x 5.85 x 3.91 inches and weighs 5.5 pounds. The front has a small vent, and the back panel, which has a fan, USB and Ethernet ports, unscrews to reveal two slots for 3.5-inch hard drives. This device isn't sexy, but Iomega makes up for that with sheer versatility.
Setup and Installation
Click to EnlargeBefore using the drive, there is one important step you have to take when setting up the StorCenter ix2. Ours shipped with two 2TB drives that we had to install ourselves. To insert them, you attach a plastic tray with screws, slide the front cover off and pop in the drives. Then, you connect the Ethernet cable and plug in the drive. An installer program is not necessary, since you can start using the storage by searching on your network from a Mac or PC laptop. The drive itself doesn't make any loud whirring noises.
After installing the Iomega Storage Manager app on our notebook, it found the ix2 in about three seconds. The interface shows icons for each of the folders: Backups, Documents, Movies, etc. You can click on tabs to see the IP address of the drive, folders, Web access (called Personal Cloud), the Twonky server (used for streaming media to a device such as the Xbox 360), and backups.
The drive mappings appeared automatically on our laptop - one for documents, one for photos, etc. You can easily see how the internal drives are configured by clicking on a drive-mapping icon. Helpfully, there is a picture of the back of the StorCenter ix2 with clearly labeled drive bays.
Click to EnlargeTo make the drives inside the Iomega ix2 available for remote users, you have to configure an app called Personal Cloud. The setup for this service is a bit confusing. The CD setup installer adds the software to your laptop. Then, you have to visit IomegaSetup.com to configure the cloud storage. Once enabled, we also had trouble configuring some of the services. For example, the Mozy Pro service allows you to do backups to your drive from any Internet-connected computer. But the link for creating a new account didn't work. (We had to visit the Mozy site to register and configure the service.)
Iomgega Link apps for Android and iOS also let you transfer and stream content to and from the drive.With the Iomega Link app for iPhone or Android, you can upload or download files to the drive, as well as stream photos, movies and music.
The apps were easy to install and use, but the Android version tended to crash on a Samsung Galaxy SIII, Iomega says that its working on a new release for 2013.
One perk: When you stream music on your iPhone, the app continues to run and play the music even if you switch over to e-mail or text.
We also installed the backup app QuikProtect. The program is easy to use and configure - it essentially works in the background and can back up common files by default. However, in an age of Dropbox, the utility is too simplistic. You can't add extra users or access QuikProtect from an app. The program does let you keep revisions of files, up to a max of 10. You can choose to make backups every time a new file is added, on set intervals when files change (say, one per hour), or on a schedule.
Click to EnlargeTo test the StorCenter ix2 we first copied a massive collection of files - about 15GB worth that included photos, videos and documents. The transfer from an HP ENVY 17 laptop, connected by Gigabit Ethernet, took 15 minutes and 50 seconds, about 40 seconds faster than the Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220, and 10 minutes faster than the Western Digital My Net N900. We also copied one 2GB video file from the HP laptop to the drive as well, which took 45 seconds -- 30 seconds faster than the competition.
Transferring a 100MB video file from the NAS drive to a thumbdrive inserted into one of the USB ports took 80 seconds, quite a bit slower than the Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220 (at 55 seconds). Overall, the StorCenter bested the other drives we tested, shaving off precious seconds from file transfers.
The ix2-DL was also fast when streaming content. Using the Iomega Link app on an iPad 3, an 8MB 5616x3744 JPG picture took five seconds to load, on a par with the N900, and twice as quick as the NAS 220. We then selected a 100MB, 17-second video clip of a train. The video took 22 seconds to load, on a par with the N900.
The StorCenter is packed with extra features, some so convenient they might change how you manage your digital life. For example, a Facebook app lets you configure a directory so that, whenever anyone copies a file there, it is uploaded to Facebook automatically. The drive resizes the images (to a custom resolution, 800x600 or 1024 x 768) and can delete them after upload. You can also send uploads to Flickr and YouTube, trigger an e-mail to be sent with the file attached, and make files available for BitTorrent download - all by copying them. In one test, we copied photos to a Facebook folder on the drive and a few seconds later saw they had popped up on our Facebook wall.
No IT Guy, No Problem
Click to EnlargeOne of our favorite features of ihe ix2 is that it's smart enough to tell you when you can't access it. During our testing, whenever we disconnected the drive, we received an instant e-mail notification that the drive was not available. For those working in a small office or at home without an IT technician, this means you can go about your business and get alerts about drive problems.
Iomega offers four different configurations of the iix2. The first, which doesn't include any hard drives, costs $199. A 2TB version, which has dual 1TB hard drives, costs $329. Our configuration, which has two 2TB hard drives, is $429, and the top-end model, which has dual 3TB hard drives, costs $599.
While these prices are as listed on Iomega's site, you can often find them for less on retail Web sites.
Click to EnlargeOther than the issues with the Personal Cloud service, the StorCenter blazed through our tests and proved to be the most versatile NAS we tested. The extra features for automatic uploads were a boon, and we liked knowing we could swap out drives easily for added storage. The Western Digital My Net N900 is easier to use and configure, but we prefer the StorCenter iix2-dl for its fast speeds.