Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition review: Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition
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.
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.