1. Buffalo Cloudstation Duo
There remains a lingering feeling that setting up a network attached storage device can be complicated, time consuming and fiddly. Buffalo aims to dispel these preconceptions with the Cloudstation Duo, a NAS kit designed to be as user friendly as possible without losing any features or functionality.
The device itself is compact, though quite heavy. Flicking open the front gives quick access to the two 1TB hard drives that come installed. Removing the drives is a bit fiddly at first, but the process is certainly a lot easier than with many other NAS drives.
The fact that the Buffalo Cloudstation Duo is supplied with two large hard drives already installed and set up in a RAID 1 configuration is great, and eliminates a more fiddly and complicated part of the setup procedure.
2. Western Digital My Book Live
When it comes to hard drives, Western Digital knows its stuff. While the Buffalo Cloudstation Duo is promoted for its ease of use, the Western Digital My Book Live goes even further in its pursuit of simplicity.
For a start, the small case is completely enclosed, so there is no easy way to open the My Book Live up and replace or upgrade the hard drive as you can with the Buffalo Cloudstation Duo. This means that it's not really suitable as a comprehensive backup device – the lack of hot swappable hard drives means you'd have to physically remove the entire thing if you wanted to store your data safely off site.
The 'My' in the title is evidence that this is a NAS device that focuses on creating your own personal cloud, sharing your own media and files across the internet with as little fuss as possible.
3. Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4
NAS devices are a speedy, convenient means of backing up data, and units like the ReadyNAS Ultra 4 featured here are also capable of streaming any multimedia files to any device that can accept them.
Each of the ReadyNAS Ultra 4's bays can accommodate a 2TB drive, resulting in a possible 8TB of storage – that's an awful lot of video, photos and music.
The Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4 supports various implementations of RAID technology, which trades off available capacity against protection for your data. If one of the drives fails, you should be able to recover your files.
Features like RAIDar and X-RAID 2 help you make the most of this handy feature. Powered by a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, it's speedy and responsive. The onboard DLNA 1.5 media server worked well with a variety of networked players. Even multiple full HD video streams were glitch-free.
4. Buffalo LinkStation Pro LS-VL
Devices like these are becoming the tool of choice for storing a wide range of digital media, including downloaded movies and TV, music, images and CD/DVD/Blu-ray rips. Speed, capacity and reliability are all essential features, and the Linkstation Pro LS-VL has all three.
This 'Multimedia Shared Network Storage BitTorrent Download Box', ships with a power supply, LAN cable and installation discs, and is available with built-in SATA hard drives in 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB sizes. Windows and Mac OS X compatible, the unit is simply plugged into any network Ethernet port or into the back of your wireless router, and is instantly accessible from any networked device.
The device features transfer speeds up to 76MB/s courtesy of a 1.6GHz CPU, which is a big increase from Buffalo's more home user-orientated Cloudstation Duo.
5. D-Link ShareCenter
D-Link has designed its NAS device to be at the centre of your home network, sharing your files and media throughout your home and over the internet – an admirable aim. The installation process is fairly straightforward, though there are a few options that you need to set yourself, and these can be confusing if you're not used to setting up network attached storage devices.
For example, at one point you're asked if you want to enable NTP server, without any explanation of what this is. There's also a step that asks you to enter your email address, along with port number and SMTP server – a pain if you don't have that information readily to hand.
The network drive wasn't mapped during installation – instead we had to run the D-Link Easy Search Utility, which found the D-Link ShareCenter on our network and then let us map it.
As with other aspects of the ShareCenter, the execution was rather cumbersome and inelegant, but it worked.
6. Iomega's StorCenter ix2-200
This 2TB NAS drive is billed as cloud storage, which means you can access the drive from anywhere with an internet connection. It's nothing hugely new, but Iomega has provided a good web interface for accessing your stored data online.
Unlike some of the other drives in our test, we had to install software to make it appear on our network. Fortunately, the software is well designed and your hand is held firmly through the process, making it ideal for people who have never used a NAS drive before.
From here, every feature of the drive is clearly explained with colourful bold icons, and essential tasks – such as setting up backups – are highlighted.
There's a range of useful tools too, from email updates to let you know if anything's changed on the drive itself, to the rather useful ability to download torrent files. You can also view hardware statistics, such as how full the drive is, and its current temperature. It's ideally suited to a RAID setup, too, and this can be implemented quickly and easily.