I guess it comes along with the territory that I have lots of computers. So when you have that many you tend to save documents and images separately on all of them. Which makes it very frustrating when you are trying to work with a document and it’s on another computer. It’s a terrible unorganized way of working. I always seem to be running between computers constantly to find what I need.
So thankfully many companies are making external network shared hard drives which you can dump all your files on to and access remotely from anywhere as long as you have a Ethernet/WiFi connection where you are and the hard drive is connected to a live connection as well. The Maxtor Shared Storage II with 1 Terabyte of space is one such drive that we fortunately were lucky enough to get our hands on to review.
On first glance the drive is big and heavy – I mean what do you expect for a network drive that has 1 TB in storage. But it really isn’t too bad. It also has a rubber and dark gray plastic design, which gives it a bit of rugged protection. The main power button is in the back along with 2 USB 2.0 ports so you can grow your network storage system by adding additional hard drives or adding a network printer. The other ports include an AC Connection for power, and an Ethernet port for connecting the drive to your network. There are many NAS drives out there these days that can do the job but what makes this particular one stand out is the fact there are two hard drives inside of it that are setup as a RAID. RAID-0 treats the two hard drives as one big drive. There is also the option of setting it up as a RAID-1. Which means it will split the storage space of the drive in half (500GB) but on the plus side you will then have a mirror image of of all your data in case something terribly goes wrong. Having a RAID system also allows you to swap out hard drives in case one does fail and has to be replaced. In addition if you utilize the RAID feature, UPnP AV for media streaming is supported.
You connect the SSII via the included Ethernet cable and power cord. Upon powering up we were greeted with a LAN indicator, power LED, and a disconcerting red LED for the hard drive. Which usually is not a good thing. We tried for hours trying to diagnose the problem with the software included, on-line, and called tech support but to no avail we concluded that the Maxtor was DOA. Unfortunately this seems to be a common problem amongst these drives but when I contacted Maxtor directly and explained what happened I got a replacement within days.
So here we go again – I powered up and with baited breath. Three lights came on this time one for the power, one for the LAN the other a green LED for the hard drives – YAY. We are currently running Vista and the software that came with the hard drive doesn’t come with Vista support so we had to go to the Maxtor website and download the software for it…once we got that we were able to set up the drive. We installed the SSII on two Macs running Leopard and a PC running Vista and were actually delighted that it was very easy. Both systems picked it up quickly. After a couple of reboots we were ready to get to the next step.
I like to think that i am more than just a novice when it comes to hardware installation. I have been doing it myself for years….but setting up this drive is not for the for the faint of heart. Read the manual that comes with it and be prepared to work on this little networking job for a few hours. It takes time and patience if you want to get it right. The software included is Maxtor Easy Manage and Maxtor Backup. In order to setup the drive you will be doing a lot of it on the SSII’s web interface. If you need to access advanced settings you will also have to be connected to the internet, or rather your home network. Upon exploring the additional options in the web-based interface there is the Account Management section which allows you to control user accounts and read/write privileges, and manage shared network folders. There is also the ability to back up your drives to additional FAT 32 formatted external ones that are plugged in via the USB ports.
The backup software is easier to understand and work with. It has a nice interface and the options are basically Back-up, Restore, Settings, and Media Server. You will see listed the current Maxtor shared drives and from there you basically select what chore you would like the SSII to do. Again the software included is for both Mac and PC and on both systems this was the easiest part to configure. Under the Back up option you can choose what scheduled times and days you would like this function to take place. There is also an advanced option for those who put there computers in sleep mode. It will back up the data for the specific time and day and then put the computer back in to sleep.
There is also a nice and tidy section under the “Settings” option which you can drop and drag files and depending on their file extensions will be put into a folder associated with that file.
Once we finished setting up the drive and all of our custom settings it was time to see it perform. Overall it did a good job – we were able to drop and drag files on to it ranging from 100 MB to 1500MB and the transfer times times varied from 30 seconds to 60 or seconds or so.. Of course with Vista you have to give permissions for it to do anything which made the SSII lag a bit but not to bad. I was also able to access the files remotely on my home network from my laptop and iMac without a problem. One downside to the SSII is that you can’t access files from “Starbucks” lets say via remote access in a web browser which might be a deal breaker for some
After an exhaustive process we finally did it and networked the SSII to hold all of my pictures, music, and documents. Once we got passed all the monotony of configuring things the drive performed really well and I’m better organized now than ever. I especially love being able to print from anywhere on my home network without having to be connected by a cable. It was a little bumpy in the beginning but once all was said and done the the Maxtor Shared Storage II is welcome addition to this already storage hog geek. The Maxtor Shared Storage II retails for $416.99 at Amazon and is also available in 500gb and 320gb capacities.
The good: A Terabyte of storage with RAID capabilities, additional USB ports for printers and external hard drives, both Mac and PC support
The bad: Must be at least an intermediate geek to install/setup, no remote access outside of your home network.