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Network-attached storage is right up there with smooth jazz on the list of things that we try to avoid thinking too much about. But hooking up a NAS box to your home network is one of the coolest and most useful things you can do if you’ve got more than one computer in the house. And with NAS prices pretty much falling in line with regular old external hard drives, you might as well go for it. Iomega’s Home Network Media Drive is dead simple to hook up and configure, and offers media streaming capabilities that make it a solid choice for your media-sharing needs.
The Media Drive ships with a disc containing Retrospect backup software, as well as Iomega Home Storage Manager, which installs an item in your menubar to configure and control your NAS—although it’s really just a pointer to browser-based configuration pages. Since we generally prefer not to clutter up our system with unnecessary add-ons, we eventually got rid of the Storage Manager and managed the Media Drive without it in Firefox (after bookmarking the drive’s configuration page).
The Media Drive sports a built-in iTunes server. Any media files you drop into the preconfigured “music” and “movie” folders will appear as shared libraries in iTunes anywhere on your network (enable the feature in iTunes by going to Preferences > Sharing, then check Look For Shared Libraries). If you’ve got your own organizational needs, you can create new shared folders, and turn on iTunes servers as needed—or use the DLNA server, if you have DLNA-compliant media hardware.
We tested the Media Drive over our home and office networks. While it’s not necessarily marketed as a portable drive, the fairly slim profile made it easy to transport in a laptop bag alongside our standard traveling Mac gear when the need arose. Performance-wise, the 7200 rpm drive makes quick work of file transfers, and since it supports the AFP protocol, there aren’t any problems with Mac files, as can be the case with some NAS devices that only support SMB networking. Media sharing is the Media Drive’s standout feature, but it also works just fine as a standard NAS for file storage. The admin pages are simple to understand, and adding users and additional shared folders—with or without access restrictions—is simple, even for inexperienced users. Missing are more advanced access controls, remote access, FTP capabilities, and some other advanced functionality, but those features are much more specialized and can be complicated to set up and maintain. On the other hand, support for printer sharing, or mounting a standard USB drive are nice extras.