"Network attached storage" may still be a term that requires explanation, but "iPad app" is one that doesn't. Buffalo has combined the two with its CloudStor powered by PogoPlug. This $219 device (for 2TB of storage) is more than a good repository for all your files, it has a very user-friendly web interface and free mobile apps for sharing your multimedia with friends and relatives.
Measuring 8.1 x 5.1 x 3.4 inches, the CloudStor is about twice as thick as the Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive, but that's because the Buffalo device can accommodate two 3.5-inch drives. Ours came with a single 2TB drive, but the front face removes easily if you want to add a second one. As befitting a device that's designed to blend in with the rest of your tech, the CloudStor is all black, with three small blue status lights on the front.
Around back is a power plug, Ethernet port, and a USB 2.0 port should you want to add another external drive, or network a printer.
The CloudStor doesn't come with any install CDs. After plugging the device into our router and powering it on, we opened a web browser to www.mycloudstor.com, which directed us through the installation. This only required entering an e-mail address and password. To get desktop access to the CloudStor, we downloaded the PogoPlug Drive app; a notification window asks if you want to install it.
Over our local network, we copied 30.7GB of photos, music, and movies to the drive, which took a few hours. There's no automatic backup app for Windows, but the CloudStor is compatible with Apple's Time Machine. While the web interface lets you upload multiple files at the same time, it won't let you copy over folders wholesale. You need the desktop app for this.
With the Buffalo/Pogoplug desktop app, the CloudStor is represented as a single drive on your PC; by comparison, Iomega's desktop app loads separate drives (Backups, Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures, and Time Machine). Neither method is right or wrong, they're just different.
User Interface and Features
Buffalo's web-based interface is a model of simplicity. Along the left side is a menu that lets you view the drive by content type (Movies, Music, and Photos), or by when it was uploaded to the drive. Content is arranged by the date it was created, but a search box at the top lets you find content by name.
As you upload content to the drive, it automatically creates thumbnails of each file, so it's easy to see what they are at a glance. Even better, if you mouse over a video, it will start playing in its window. At the bottom of each thumbnail are icons that let you preview, download, delete, or share the file. All of this makes navigating the drive so easy that we hardly used the desktop app again. Although Iomega's web-based interface also creates thumbnails, its more traditional file-tree organization feels less friendly.
It's easy to share files, too; simply click the green Share icon at the bottom of a file or folder, and enter the e-mail addresses of those you'd like to share the file(s) with; you can even publish the files to Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.
The CloudStor has some other neat features, including the ability to create slideshows by dragging and dropping photos or videos, and even setting them to music. As with individual files, you can then share the slideshow with others by entering their e-mail addresses. The CloudStor also has a built-in BitTorrent manager, which will automatically download torrents to the drive.
All of this combines to make one of the most user-friendly NAS drives out there, but Buffalo goes one step further with its free mobile app (for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and webOS). Just be sure to download the PogoPlug app, not the Buffalo WebAccess app. We used the iPad app for our testing.
Once we signed into the PogoPlug app on our iPad, we browsed our movies, music, and photos just as we could on our desktop. The app also lets you download content to, and upload content from, your mobile device. It's a neat way to virtually expand the size of your tablet or phone's storage.
We did encounter a few glitches, though. We couldn't view the slideshow we'd created via the app, and when we would open the Settings menu, we couldn't close it, no matter what button we pressed. We had to relaunch the app to close the menu.
The list price for the 2TB Cloudstor is $259, but sells for $219 online; a 1TB version lists at $159, but can be had for as little as $139 on Amazon.com. Since there's an extra bay, you can add a second 3.5-inch drive for additional storage.
While there's a few kinks with its iPad app, the Buffalo CloudStor is one of the most user-friendly network-attached storage drives yet. Not only does it make backing up your files easy, it makes accessing and sharing your media a no-brainer as well.