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Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are often expensive and tough to set up. While centralized, always-on network storage is a huge win, collecting everything from all your various USB drives to stash on a NAS can be a royal pain. Fortunately, the storage masters at Iomega have come up with a user-friendly solution that will appeal to both networking geeks and newcomers: the iConnect Wireless Data Station, a simple device that allows you to attach up to four USB storage devices and then access them via your home network.
Plug-n-play sharing of all your movies, music, and other files.
Setting up the iConnect is pretty simple. Just pop in an Ethernet cable from your router and attach an external drive. The iConnect supports four USB storage devices--thumb drives or hard disks--and makes all their content accessible via the network. There’s even a built-in iTunes Server for sharing music to all the machines in your home. Browser-based software helps you set up remote access via your own custom URL, and you can adjust the security settings so that only registered users can access files. iConnect can also alert you via email if there’s a rift in your internet connection at home so you can keep tabs on your network from anywhere. It plays nice with Windows drive formats, and it can serve as a Time Machine backup or share USB printers.
We put about 350GB of music, movies, and photos on our hard drives and hooked up the device to our router to see how it performed. As soon as we fired up iTunes, our videos and music were instantly recognized as a shared library. We even managed to stream multiple video files simultaneously--without any lag at all. We moved files to and fro without a hitch, and the iConnect didn’t conflict with any other devices on our network.
That said, we’d like to see more than four measly USB ports. Still, if you only have a few drives, the iConnect is a great alternative to a dedicated NAS. Although remote access features are a bit confusing to set up if you don’t know how to configure your router setting--and its file-upload capabilities are limited--it works for casual use. A final oddity: Iomega bundles a one-year subscription for remote access, but after that, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of $9.95.
The Iomega iConnect is cheaper than an NAS box and great for a small home network, but its limitations mean it isn’t suitable for power users.
iConnect Wireless Data Station
REQUIREMENTS: USB storage device, router with an available Ethernet port
Perfect for a small household with lots of USB drives hanging around. Easy setup. Cross-platform.
Remote Access software is clunky, and it requires subscription after the first year.