Storage companies have been trying to make it easier for consumers to not only back up their files, but also to access those files on the go and share them with others. Iomega's Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition (starting at $169 for 1TB) does that and more. While the interface won't win over those intimidated by the term "network attached storage," this drive has a lot to offer.
Encased in a black brushed-aluminum case, the Iomega Home Media Network drive looks like it could take a beating. Measuring 7.8 x 4.9 x 1.6 inches and weighing 2.5 pounds, the Iomega drive is about as long and tall as the Buffalo CloudStor, but it's only half as wide. That's because the Buffalo drive is built to accommodate a second hard drive, while the Iomega is not. On the back of the Iomega drive you'll find an Ethernet port and power, and on the front is a USB 2.0 port that can be used to connect another hard drive or to network a printer.
After plugging the Iomega drive into our router via Ethernet and plugging in its power cord, we installed the software CD required to access the drive (you can also download the software from Iomega's site). While this step only took a minute or so, we preferred Buffalo's installation process, which simply requires going to a URL.
User Interface and Features
The Iomega Storage Manager app opens a window showing six icons: Backups, Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures, and Time Machine. Clicking on any one opens a second window that lets you browse the contents of that folder, and you can drag files and folders to copy them to the drive. Unlike the Buffalo CloudStor, which loads as a single network drive, Iomega loads each folder as a separate drive. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other; it just depends on your preference.
You can also access files on the Iomega Home Media Network drive using a web-based interface. However, it's much less attractive and feature-rich than Buffalo's version. For instance, with Iomega's drive, folders are presented in a traditional file-tree structure that will be familiar to any Windows user, but it looks rather boring. While it does create thumbnails of images, unlike Buffalo's interface, there's no option to quickly and easily share files by clicking on an icon at the bottom of an image.
You can also create slideshows, but here, too, it's not as fun. Buffalo's drag-and-drop interface lets you set the order of photos and even set them to music. Iomega only lets you specify a folder to use for slideshows.
However, Iomega's Settings menu is more graphically rich. Here, you can set up myriad options, including security, energy saving, printers. You can also view event logs and system status. We liked that you could check things such as the temperature of the drive. Here, you can also choose from several backup options, including Amazon S3, Mozy Backup (you get 2GB free for a year), and Time Machine. You can also set up folders that will automatically share their content to Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.
The Iomega drive is DLNA-certified, so you can stream content over a local network to a Sony Playstation 3, for instance. You can even use the drive as a Torrent downloader, so you can easily get all those public-domain movies. Under Network, there are options for both Personal Cloud and Remote Access; while the former enables the free service through Iomega, the latter requires you to set up an account with TZO, which is free for a year, but costs $9.95 per year afterwards.
Iomega doesn't yet offer mobile apps that let you browse the Home Media Network Hard Drive, but they're due to arrive in May. Buffalo's CloudStor has an app for just about every platform.
We reviewed the 2TB model, which costs $229; a 1TB version is available for $169.
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The $229 Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition works as advertised. This drive makes it easy to back up, share, and even stream multimedia content. However, the Buffalo CloudStor offers more features--in a much more attractive interface--for roughly the same price.