The Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition, which was announced at CES 2011, is a major upgrade to the Home Media Network Hard Drive that Iomega released almost two years ago. The new NAS server offers more storage space, is faster, and, at the street price of just around $170 for 2TB (or $130 for 1TB), is also more affordable.
It's far from perfect, however, especially the new Personal Cloud function, which requires a fast Internet connection and software installed at the remote computer, and provides limited support for storage and external backups. The server, like the previous generation, also lacks advanced NAS functionality.
Nonetheless, for the price, it is still one of the best choices for home NAS servers.
Setup and ease of use
The new Cloud Edition NAS server shares the same physical design as the Home Media Network Hard Drive. It's compact, barely larger than a 3.5-inch internal hard drive. The server comes in 1TB and 2TB versions. Like other NAS servers with "locked-in" internal storage, the device doesn't allow users to replace its built-in hard drive.
The drive has one Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB 2.0 port, located on the back. The USB port can be used to host a printer or an external hard drive. There's another USB port on the front of the server, together with a Quick Transfer copy button. Connect a thumbdrive (or even an external hard drive) to this front port and press the button to back up the entire content of that drive onto the NAS' internal storage.
It's very easy to set up the NAS server with the network. All you have to do is connect the server to the network, turn it on, and run the Iomega Storage Manager, which is included on a CD. The software, which can be set to run when the computer starts, will map all the network drives to the NAS' default share folders, including Backups, Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures, Time Machine and QuickTransfer. By default, the Time Machine folder stores backups done by Mac computers' Time Machine feature and the QuickTransfer stores backups of thumbdrives as mentioned above. The Movies, Music, and Pictures folders have media-streaming features turned on, meaning digital content stored inside them will automatically broadcast to iTunes or DLNA-enabled media streamers in the network. This feature can be turned on or off for any share folder using the server's Web interface.
Overall, the Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition is the most easy-to-use NAS server we've yet tested. Getting it up and running was a simple process, and most people with basic computer knowledge should have a similar experience.
Like the previous generation, the Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition lacks many advanced features you'd expect to find in an NAS server, such as FTP, HTTP servers, a download station, and support for IP cameras.
To make up for this, the server now offers a simple torrent-based self-downloading feature and Personal Cloud, an advanced method for accessing the server's data over the Internet.
This feature needs to be turned on via its Web interface. Once it's activated, you'll need to give it a unique name and type in your e-mail address. After that you can invite others to access the server by entering their e-mail addresses. The server will send out an e-mail to the invited members. The e-mail includes a link the recipient can follow to download and install a customized version of the Iomega Storage Manager (for Mac, Windows, or Linux computers) that contains all the information necessary to make the remote connection.
Once installed and run, the customized software creates a VPN-like connection from the remote computer to the NAS server, allowing the server to function as though the remote computer were part of the local network. The access is complete with the share folders, access to the server's Web interface, support for Time Machine, and so on.
In our trials, this feature generally worked well, though not perfectly. First of all, it requires fast Internet connections at both ends to work; otherwise, the Iomega Storage Manager software takes a long time to establish the connection. Even with fast connections, you can only drag and drop small files or folders between the server and the remote computers without experiencing freezes. Once in a while we found that server didn't send out the intended invite e-mails. In this case, you'd need to install on the remote computer the version of the Iomega Storage Manager software included on the CD and manually enter the credentials, including the Cloud's unique name and the access code.