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.
Also, the Personal Cloud feature only works well when you want access to a single server. For example, if your brother wants to share access to his server with you and your cousin wants to do the same with another server, you'd have a hard time accessing both at the same time, if at all.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition offers two tiers of access to the server's storage. By default, it's a free-for-all approach, meaning everybody has full access to all share folders. If you want to restrict access, you'll need to turn on the security feature, which changes access to the server to account-based access, meaning users will need to enter a username and password. You can create unlimited number of user accounts using the server's Web interface. Note that this also changes for those who want to access the server via the Personal Cloud feature, and you'll have to provide them with a user account in addition to the access code. We find that it's better to use the server without the security feature turned on, to avoid making it confusing for home users.
In a local network on a Windows computer, you don't really need to use the Iomega Storage Manager to access the server, as it fully supports the Windows SMB protocol, meaning it can be browsed using Windows Explorer and you can access or map the network drives to its share folders manually. On a Mac, however, even though the server will automatically appear in the Finder, in our experience, the Iomega Storage Manager software is needed for the computer to access its share folders.
The USB 2.0 port of the NAS server lets you extend its storage capacity by connecting an external hard drive. Unlike the previous version, which supports drives formatted in FAT32 only, the Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition supports both FAT 32 and NTFS drives. Once an external hard drive is connected to the server's USB port, its content will be automatically shared with all users with full access to it.
The server doesn't allow for backing up its internal hard drive onto an external one. This is a terrible shortcoming, as the server is a single-volume storage device, which means if its internal hard drive dies, you lose everything. To make up for this, the server supports data replication to another unit. This means if you have two Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition servers, you can mirror content between the two of them via the network. It also supports backing up data to third-party online storage providers, including Amazon S3 and Mozy Backup. And those who want to share content via social networking sites such as YouTube and Facebook can make the server upload content to those sites automatically.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition performed very well in our throughput test and--as the previous generation was able to do in its time--topped our charts for single-volume NAS server performance. This is the kind of traction we always love to see.
In our testing, the new Iomega registered 285.2Mbps for write and 476.9Mbps for read. The second fastest in the write test was the LG N1T1 with 243.8Mbps, and the second fastest for the read test was the Verbatim MediaShare with 435.1Mbps. We test NAS servers' throughput by timing how long it takes them to finish writing or reading a certain amount of data. The scores, therefore, are a sustained data rate, with all performance overheads taken into account.
With this performance, the Home Media Network Drive Cloud Edition should have no problem serving both data storage and media-streaming functions.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Iomega backs the Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition with a three-year warranty; the previous generation only came with a one-year warranty. You'll need to register within 90 days of purchase to qualify for the warranty, however. The company's complimentary toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. Iomega offers online chat support via its Web site as well as support through e-mail. The site has a user forum, FAQs, how-to videos, and downloadable manuals, drivers, and software.
The Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition is a home NAS server that offers fast performance and limited features and storage. Its new Personal Cloud is a viable remote access option for those with fast Internet access who need to access only a single server at a time.