Category: Network-attached storage

What about integrating NAS devices and cloud storage in desktop media-management software

There is a distinct reality that faces people who use regular computers as part of their personal or business media workflow. This is where they use the desktop media management software like iTunes, Windows Media Player, iPhoto or Windows Live Photo Gallery to curate the media collection that is on the hard disk but transfer it out to a network-attached storage device for safeguarding and continual avaiability. This could extend to us integrating content hosted on an online storage service like Dropbox or GMail.

This is being augmented by the trend with these devices effectively becoming the hub for our home media networks. But what happens is that we could do something like import photos from a digital camera or a smartphone; scan 35mm and Polaroid snapshots; rip content from optical disks or simply buy content from online services on a “download-to-own” basis, with all this content ending up on the hard disk. Typically the content is managed and curated on the regular-computer’s hard disk so as to provide fast and reliable data transfer through this process, before it is copied over the network.

But we have to make a routine out of synchronising the material that we prepare on our computers to the NAS and do this very frequently. Typically the task involves us synchronising the material using the file-system tools or third-party backup / file-sync tools. We then have to repeat this process if we update the metadata such as adding location and people tags to the pictures or simply reposition files to different folders.

Some of us may even adopt a storage strategy where we keep newer material on the computer while older material resides on the NAS. This may be done as a way to conserve the hard-disk space occupied by our media. Similarly, those of us who use laptops on the road may want the hard disks on these machines as a staging post for our media, whether to keep selected music or video content to have on the road or a temporary download point for our digital pictures like I did with the Acer Aspire S3 when I used it on my Sydney trip.

I would like to see an improved ability with media-management software to allow for integration of “off-system” resources as part of our media workflow rather than just a viewing location. This could be implemented with rules-based synchronisation that could work on a schedule, especially when we shut down the computer or put it to sleep. The file-modified test would be based on whether a file was new or had its metadata modified.

Similarly, it could be implemented through the positioning of a NAS or collection of NAS devices as primary storage locations while the local hard disk and online storage locations serve as secondary storage locations.

This may not just involve desktop media-management software but also involve working with file-synchronisation / data-backup software and data management software that is part of a network-attached-storage device or online storage service.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Seagate GoFlex Home Network Attached Storage System

Introduction

I am reviewing the Seagate GoFlex Home network-attached storage system which I had first seen in action at the Australian Audio and AV Show at the Melbourne Marriott Hotel. Here, this unit was working as a DLNA media server for a small network that was to feed music to a Naim ND5 network media adaptor component.

Now, due to my WD MyBook World Edition network-attached-storage becoming full, I had wishlisted a network-attached storage device as a birthday gift and received this unit as a gift.

Prices (may change as you seek better deals)

3Tb hard disk AUD$299
2Tb hard disk AUD$199
1Tb hard disk AUD$219

Seagate GoFlex Home network-attached storage

Class Consumer Network Attached Storage
Storage
Capacity 3 Tb
Other capacities
Disks 1 detachable hard disk
Connection
Network Connection
Host Connection USB or similar connection to connect directly to a host
USB Device Connection Type x quantity
Devices supported
Peripheral Connections eSATA, Thunderbolt
Device Discovery
UPnP Yes
Bonjour Yes
UPnP Internet Gateway Control Yes
Features and Protocols
SMB / CIFS Yes
Media Server DLNA / iTunes
Remote Access Yes –
Remote NAS Sync No

The Network-Attached Storage System itself

Seagate GoFlex removable hard disk module

The Seagate GoFlex removable hard disk module

The Seagate GoFlex Home network-attached storage system is based around Seagate’s “GoFlex” detachable hard disk setup. Here, the hard disk is housed in a module that clips on to a connectivity base. This could allow people who have the smaller-capacity units to upgrade to larger-capacity variants by purchasing the larger-capacity disks. Similarly, one can easily replace a failed or damaged disk unit by buying the replacement GoFlex module and clipping it on to the base.

Setup Experience

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS base with USB, Gigabit Ethernet and power

The base that connects to the power and home network – USB, Gigabit Ethernet and power

Like most consumer NAS units, the Seagate GoFlex Home can be difficult to set up without the use of the software that comes on a supplied CD. This is although you can discover the NAS using the UPnP abilities in Windows XP onwards so you can get to the setup screen. The CD-supplied “Seagate Dashboard” software hasn’t been updated for Windows 8, so anyone running that software on this operating system will get an error message to that effect.

I was still able to work through the setup routine using the NAS unit’s Web interface but the Seagate required you to determine its own login parameters and couldn’t learn any existing login parameters that existed for other NAS units or network shares on the operating environment.

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS base

Where the hard disk module drops in to the base

The only time you can create a distinct identifier is through the setup process. This is reflected in the NetBIOS / SMV network name that is visible in the Network View for Windows. It is also reflected in the DLNA server list as <Network_Name>:UPNP-AV. Personally I would like to see this made available in the management menu so you can get the name right especially if you have multiple GoFlex Home or GoFlex Net devices on the same network.

Capabilities

The Seagate GoFlex Home uses the SMB / CIFS (Samba) method of sharing its disk resources which is expected as a standard with Windows, MacOS X and Linux.

For backing up your computers, there is the supplied Memeo backup software. But you can use your operating system’s backup software like Apple’s Time Machine or the Windows Backup for this task.

The supplied DLNA Media Server abilities have it that the media library is indexed by the date or the folders. There is the ability to have the DLNA server share particular folders in the Public tree which can be good for funnelling what appears on your Smart TV. This setup can improve the library-aggregation performance and reduce the number of confusing “non-media” files appearing in your media list that appears on that smart TV.

When you discover this NAS on your DLNA client device, the server appends “UPnP-AV” to the NAS’s name to remind you are looking at the device’s DLNA server and the media behind it.

You can also connect a USB hard disk or flash drive to the GoFlex and either use it as a destination for making a backup copy of what is on the NAS or simply to share extra data that is hosted on the external storage device across the home network. An example application of this could be share a USB hard disk which has the back issues of a classic magazine title like National Geographic across the network.

System performance

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS next to CD case

Nearly as small as a regular CD case

The Seagate GoFlex Home NAS yielded a consistent throughput of 500Mbps when transferring data from the existing WD MyBook World Edition to it. Of course, it is worth remembering that a connection’s rated speed like the Gigabit Ethernet’s capability is really the medium’s link speed.

For media streaming, I had observed that the GoFlex could yield a smooth and reliable experience with audio and video content. This was in both the experience with a similar unit at the Australian Audio and AV Show in 2010 and with this unit when I ran one of the “how-to” demo video found on this unit through our Samsung Smart TV.

As for operating noise, I had noticed very little of this even through the data transfer between the two NAS units. There was a bit of buzzing but this was due to a hard disk being active as data is being transferred to it.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS - an example of an entry-level NAS

A similar Seagate GoFlex Home single-disk network-attached storage working at a hi-fi show as a DLNA server

Here, I would like to see Seagate implement simplified device naming, including access to this function in the setup menu. This would then apply to what it is known as in the “cloud”, on the network and via your DLNA-capable media devices.

As well. Seagate could implement always-available “public folders” that don’t need you to supply credentials to login. This can be useful if you are wanting to run this device as a “content pool” for drivers, PDFs and similar material or you need “non-computer” devices to gain access to a shared resource.

Like a lot of consumer network-attached storage devices, this could support “cloud-driven” NAS-to-NAS data synchronisation / backup. It could come in to its own with units located at secondary locations or as secondary storage for a business-tier NAS.

Conclusion

I would recommend that one purchases the Seagate GoFlex Home network-attached storage as either an entry-level network-attached-storage solution or a secondary network storage point for their home network. This could be as a simple backup solution, a file-transfer point, a communal file pool or for sharing media content to DLNA-capable devices.

Business users can see NAS units of the same calibre to this one work well as a DLNA media server for serving images or videos to a few endpoint devices, or simply as a secondary network file storage for less-critical files.

Send to Kindle

Outgrowing that NAS–what can you do

Seagate GoFlex Home NAS - an example of an entry-level NAS

Seagate GoFlex Home single-disk network-attached storage – an example of an entry-level NAS

As you outgrow an existing network-attached storage device that isn’t upgradeable, you may think of buying a newer higher-capacity NAS.

The older NAS is a secondary network data storage

This is something I have done lately as I outgrew the Western Digital MyBook World Edition’s 1Tb capacity and received a 3Tb Seagate GoFlex Home NAS as a birthday gift. Here, I was able to move my “work” data and system backups to the GoFlex while running the My Book World Edition as a DLNA Media Server for my photos and music. I could run either of these units as part of shifting data between two computers or run the My Book also as a data store for drivers, anti-virus, service packs and similar computer-service needs.

Spreading data storage across multiple units

Here, you don’t need to get rid of the older NAS, but run it as a secondary unit. For example, you could simply move most of the data like backup data or work-in-progress data off the older unit to the newer unit and run the older unit as a media server or simple data drop-off point. This can come in handy if you have to shift user-created data from that old half-dead laptop to that shiny new fast laptop before you retire it, or keep a collection of drivers and service packs for when you have to install new computers.

Separating business and personal data

In some cases, you could move business data to the newer NAS and have personal data on the older unit so you can segment the units easily for tax or corporate reimbursement purposes.

Your children and their data

The same situation can also be a boon for your teenage or young-adult child where they can keep their data and file-based media on the older NAS. Here, it then makes it easier for them to shift their data out with them when they grow their wings and leave the family nest. Here, they can use this device with a DLNA-compliant media player to play out their music at their new location as well as operating it as extra / backup storage space for their computer.

Media storage in another location

Similarly, you may be responsible for another small home network such as one at your vacation or seasonal home; or the “family house”. Here, the older network-attached storage unit could serve as the hub of a DLNA-based network media setup for this location with similar media content, especially music and video, at that location.

Auxiliary data storage at your small business

The small NAS that has been supplanted by your larger or more flexible unit can work as an auxiliary storage service for your small business. An example of this is to keep a small-business NAS working the mission-critical data with high security while you have the small NAS doing tasks such as being a DLNA media server in the context of a smart TV or Blu-Ray player providing cost-effective digital signage for your business.

Conclusion

Therefore it doesn’t mean that you have to retire that small one-disk network-attached-storage device when you outgrow it and buy a newer better unit.

Send to Kindle

Sony–now on to the network media server game

Articles

Previous Coverage on HomeNetworking01.info

Sony’s Personal Content Station – a mobile Wi-Fi NAS that you touch on with your Android phone 

From the horse’s mouth

Sony

Latest press release from Sony at Mobile World Congress

Personal Content Station LLS-201

http://youtu.be/eAowGfUeqjY – Link to this video if you can’t see it on this site or want to “throw” it to your DLNA smart TV using Twonky or similar software

Portable Wireless Server WG-C10

http://youtu.be/-C1HAQj0YpQ – Link to this video if you can’t see it on this site or want to “throw” it to your DLNA smart TV using Twonky or similar software

My Comments

Previously, I commented on a news article about Sony releasing a NAS that allows you to upload pictures from your Android device just by touching the device to this NAS. Now, Sony have premiered this device along with another mobile NAS at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year.

But there are two devices rather than the one device. The former device that I touched on previously allows you to upload photos, videos and other content to its 1Tb hard disk using USB file transfer, NFC or SD memory cards so you can effectively “dump” your pictures and videos from your smartphone, camera or camcorder, thus making way for new material.

The Personal Content Station can play the images to a regular “brown-goods” flatscreen TV using an HDMI connector or you can make them available through your home network using the open-frame DLNA standards. I would also like to be sure that you can transfer the images between your PC and this device using standard network file-transfer protocols like CIFS or HTTP. Of course there is the ability to use an accompanying app to “throw” the images to a social network, blog or other Website using your smartphone or tablet.

As well, the Portable Wireless Server can share the content you have on a USB storage device or an SD card to its own wireless network so you can quickly share “just-taken” photos with your smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook. This is becoming important with devices like the Dell XPS 13 which doesn’t come with an SD card slot or the detachable-keyboard hybrids that have a standard SD card slot only on the keyboard module.

The Sony Portable Wireless Server also works as an “external battery pack” for the many battery-thirsty gadgets that are important to our mobile online life. This is so true if you are dealing with the smartphone that serves as your mobile Internet terminal or your Walkman.

At least Sony is fielding devices that work as a team to satisfy the reality that confronts us through our online content-creation lives.

Send to Kindle

Sony’s Personal Content Station–a mobile Wi-Fi NAS that you touch on with your Android phone

Article

Sony’s Personal Content Station uses NFC for mobile backups, aims for April release in Japan

My Comments

I was impressed with the Sony Personal Content Station which is an elegant ceramic-white device that works as a 1Tb mobile NAS for your mobile devices and, perhaps, your home network.

One feature that stands out is to be able to use NFC-based pairing to permit device-to-NAS file transfer between an NFC-equipped Android handset or tablet and this device. Of course, it works as a Wi-Fi NAS for other devices and you can of course upload from a USB-connected device or dump the contents of your SD “digital film” card to this device.

There is the ability to show the content on a TV whether directly-connected via HDMI or via a DLNA network connection. Of course, a good question worth raising is whether the Personal Content Station could interlink with an existing home network as a media server / NAS or simply be one of many devices of this ilk that are their own network. This includes whether a Wi-Fi Direct transfer could occur while the Personal Content Station is connected to the home network.

Another question yet to be raised is whether “other” NFC-initiated Wi-Fi-Direct file transfer software like Samsung’s S-Beam could do the file-transfer job without the need to install Sony’s software. This could avoid the need to “crowd out” an Android phone with many of these apps to suit different devices. Similarly, I would prefer this device to support any DLNA “media-uploader / media-downloader” standards so you can move content between this device and similar devices; and your mobile handset or digital camera via Wi-Fi by using one piece of software.

Send to Kindle

Using a NAS to hold operating-system updates

The current situation

Netgear ReadyNAS

A network-attached storage can come in handy for storing software updates rather than downloading them frequently

Operating system and application developers are now being required to provide updates for their products during the product’s service life and beyond. This is to provide for a computing environment that is performs in an efficient, secure, reliable and optimum manner. The updates may be released at regular intervals such as on a monthly basis or in response to a situation such as the discovery of a bug or security exploit.

New devices

A common situation that happens with most regular and mobile computing devices when a user takes delivery of them is that the user downloads a large data package to bring it up to date. This may be done many times if multiple units running the same platform are purchased.

Many devices

Similarly, a household may have multiple units running the same operating environment and they have to keep these up to date. The typical example of this may be a family with two or three children who are at secondary school. Here, they may have two or three computers for the children to use as well as one computer per adult. This could be brought about with the older child being given a more powerful computer as they enter senior high school or another computer given to the younger children as they start their secondary school.

But the same bandwidth would be used again and again to update each and every device. This may not be a problem for a couple with one device per adult but would be a problem when you are thinking of environments with more than two devices which is fast becoming the norm.

Using a network-attached storage to locally cache updates

Somehow the network-attached storage devices need to be able to support the ability to locally hold updates and patches for operating systems and applications used in computers on a home or small-business network.

The practice is performed frequently with large-business computer setups because of the number of computers being managed in these setups. But it could be practiced with home and small-business setups using a simplified interface. This could be based on the use of a local-storage application for regular or mobile client operating environments which supports this kind of local updating.

A local client application to manage system-update needs

Here, the local-client software could register which operating environment the host computer runs and what eligible applications are on the system so as to prepare an “update manifest” or “shopping list” for the computer. The “shopping list” would be based on the core name of the software, no matter whether different computers are running different variants of the software, such as home laptops running Windows 7 Home Premium while a work-home laptop runs Windows 7 Professional. This manifest would be updated if new applications are installed, existing applications are removed or changed to different editions or the operating system is upgraded to a different version or edition.

A local software manifest held by the NAS

This manifest is then uploaded to the NAS which runs a server application to regularly check the software developers’ update sites for the latest versions and updates for the programs that exist on the “shopping list”. There could be a “commonality” check that assesses whether particular updates and patches apply across older and newer versions of the same software, which can be true for some Windows patches that apply from Windows XP to Windows 7 with the same code.

At regular intervals, the NAS checks for the updates and downloads them as required. Here, it could be feasible to implement logic the check the updates and patches for malware especially as this update path can be an exploit vector. Then the computers that exist on the network check for new software updates and patches at the NAS.

Software requirements

Such a concept could be implemented at the client with most regular and mobile operating systems and could be implemented on network-attached storage devices that work to a platform that allows software addition.

It would also require software developers who develop the operating systems and application software to provide a level of support for update checking by intermediate devices. Initially this could require setups that are particular to a particular developer being installed on the client device and the NAS, but this could move towards one software update solution across many developers.

A change of mindset

What needs to happen is a change of mindset regarding software distribution in the home and small business. Here, the use of local network storage for software updates doesn’t just suit the big business with more than 50 computers in its fleet.

It could suit the household with two or more children in secondary school or a household with many young adults. Similarly a shop that is growing steadily and acquiring a second POS terminal or a medical practice that is setting up for two or more doctors practising concurrently may want this same ability out of their server or NAS.

Conclusion

The NAS shouldn’t just be considered as a storage device but as a way of saving bandwidth when deploying updates in to a household or small business who has multiple computers on the same platform.

Send to Kindle

Creating a small data cloud–why couldn’t it be done

The small data-replication cloud

Netgear ReadyNAS

These network-attached storage devices could be part of a personal data-replication cloud

Whenever the “personal cloud” is talked of, we think of a network-attached storage device where you gain access to the data on the road. Here, the cloud aspect is fulfilled by a manufacturer-provided data centre that “discovers” your NAS using a form of dynamic DNS and creates a “data path” or VPN to your NAS. Users typically gain access to the files by logging in to a SSL-secured Web page or using a client-side file-manager program.

But another small data cloud is often forgotten about in this class of device, except in the case of some Iomega devices. This represents a handful of consumer or small-business NAS units located at geographically-different areas that are linked to each other via the Internet. Here, they could synchronise the same data or a subset of that data between each other.

This could extend to applications like replicating music and other media held on a NAS to a hard disk installed in a car whether the vehicle is at home, at the office or even while driving. The latter example may be where you purchase or place an order for a song or album via the wireless broadband infrastructure with the content ending up on your car’s media hard disk so it plays through its sound system. Then you find that it has been synchronised to your home’s NAS so you can play that album on your home theatre when you arrive at home.

What could it achieve?

An example of this need could be for a small business to back up their business data to the network-attached storage device located at their shop or office as well as their owner’s home no matter where the data is created.

Similarly, one could copy their music and video material held on the main NAS device out to a NAS that is at holiday home. This can lead to location-specific speedy access to the multimedia files and you could add new multimedia files to the NAS at your holiday home but have this new collection reflected to your main home.

Here, one could exploit a larger-capacity unit with better resiliency, like the business-grade NAS units pitched at small businesses, as a master data store while maintaining less-expensive single-disk or dual-disk consumer NAS units as local data stores at other locations. This setup may appeal to businesses where one location is seen as a primary “office” while the other location is seen as either a shopfront or secondary office.

This kind of setup could allow the creation of a NAS as a local “staging post” for newly-handled or regularly-worked data so as to provide a resilient setup that can survive a link failure. In some cases this could even allow for near-line operation for a business’s computing needs should the link to a cloud service fail.

User interface and software requirements

This same context can be built on the existing remote-access “personal cloud” infrastructure and software so there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” for a multi-NAS cloud.

Similarly, users would have to use the NAS’s existing management Web page to determine the location of the remote NAS devices and the data sets they wish to replicate. This can include how the data set is to be replicated such as keeping a mirror-copy of the data set, or contributing new and changed data to a designated master data set or a combination of both. The data set could be the copy of a particular NAS volume or share, a folder or group of folders or simply files of a kind.

The recently-determined UPnP RemoteAccess v2 standard, along with the UPnP ContentSync standards could simplify the setup of these data-synchronisation clouds. This could also make it easier to provide heterogenous data clouds that exist for this requirement.

But one main requirement that needs to be thought of is that the computer systems at both ends cannot collapse or underperform because the link fails. There has to be some form of scalability so that regular small-business servers can be party to the cloud, which may benefit the small-business owner who wants to integrate this hardware and the home-network hardware as part of a data-replication cloud.

Hardware requirements

A small data cloud needs to support cost-effective hardware requirements that allow for system growth. This means that it could start with two or more consumer or SME NAS devices of a known software configuration yet increase in capacity and resilience as the user adds or improves storage equipment at any location or rents storage services at a later stage.

This could mean that one could start with one single-disk NAS unit at each location, then purchase a small-business NAS equipped with a multi-disk RAID setup, setting this up at the business. The extra single-disk unit could then be shifted to another location as a staging-post disk or extra personal backup.

Conclusion

What NAS manufacturers need to think of is the idea of supporting easy-to-manage multi-device data-replication “personal clouds” using these devices. This is alongside the current marketing idea of the remote-access “personal cloud” offered for these devices.

Send to Kindle

Western Digital now launching NAS-optimised hard disks

Articles

WD Has New Drives Designed For Your NAS ! SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Netgear ReadyNAS

Now there are some hard disks optimised for NAS units like this ReadyNAS “music server”

Western Digital have released a range of hard disks that are optimised for the common network-attached-storage device. You may think that you need to use a regular desktop hard disk for this application but the WD RED range can suit this space in a more reliable manner.

These 3.5” SATA HDDS are set up for 24/7 operation yet have reduced power needs. Their software even is optimised for this class of device by assuring quick response and high compatibility across most NAS enclosures. But I also would reckon that they would suit those large USB / eSATA hard-disk subsystems that are commonly used with USB file server devices like the Freebox Révolution or one that was part of a home network that I helped someone with.

Compared to a desktop or mobile hard disk that has to deal with reduced duty cycles or a high-end server hard disk that is optimised for intensely-active corporate servers with large power allowances and many-spindle disk arrays, these are optimised for a small NAS that has a small power supply that provides power to up to five spindles.

WD aren’t just selling these 1Tb-3Tb hard disks with their MyBook Live NAS products but making them available as disk units for use with diskless NAS or USB enclosures. This also applies to those of us who buy a multi-bay NAS enclosure like a NETGEAR ReadyNAS with one disk, then add hard disks to this enclosure as needs, funds and time allow.

They also have support for proper AV streaming which would be required of most NAS subsystems used in the home as DLNA Media Servers or “NVR” subsystems used in small-business IP-based video-surveillance setups. This would cater for a glitch-free audio or video recording and playback experiences.

A good question I would ask is whether the competing manufacturers like Fujitsu and Seagate would answer WD when it comes to providing the hard disks optimised for these small network-attached-storage systems.

Send to Kindle

D-Link fronts up with a plug-in wireless NAS / router combo for travellers

Articles

D-Link Shipping Wireless Mobile Helper – SmallNetBuilder

D-Link SharePort DIR-505 is a router / repeater that fits in your pocket, ships today for $70 | Engadget

My Comments

There have been a smattering of “travel routers” released on the market through the past ten years. These devices typically had a Wi-Fi access point and an Ethernet socket and were able to be set up as an access point or router. They were typically pitched at travellers who wanted to share a wired Internet access service, typically in their hotel, amongst Wi-Fi-only devices.

Now D-Link have come back with one of these routers but it also works as a “universal wireless range extender” and an access point that shares files from a USB storage device.

Personally, what I fear of devices like the D-Link DIR-505 is that they could become the “same-old same-old” where they have the same functions for their device class as everyone else but no more. The D-Link device had moved towards an AC-powered device that combines the previous travel-router/access-point model along with the same function model as devices like the Kingston Wi-Drive.

This could be a chance for manufacturers to break from the mould by doing things like making one of these devices become a wireless-broadband travel router, support multiple USB devices or use CIFS (de-facto network-file-transfer standard in desktop operating systems) and DLNA for file and media management.

At least D-Link have taken the step further with this class of device by amalgamating the travel router and the “storage access-point” device classes in to a single device.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Kingston Wi-Drive mobile NAS

Introduction

I am reviewing the Kingston Wi-Drive mobile network-attached storage unit which works in a similar manner to the Seagate GoFlex Satellite. This is where the mobile NAS works as an access point and storage device for a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet based on the iOS or Android platforms. The mobile clients require the use of an app available from their platform’s app store to be able to function properly.

16Gb 32Gb 64Gb
Recommended Retail Price AUD$69 AUD$139 AUD$223

 

Kingston Wi-Drive mobile network-attached storage

Class Mobile Network-Attached Storage
Storage 16Gb solid-state drive
Extra-cost variants
32Gb or 64Gb solid-state drive
Host Interface USB 2.0
Network Interface 802.11g/n WPA2 WPS-PIN wireless – access point
Supports routing to another 802.11g/n wireless network
Network File transfer protocols HTTP, use of Android or iOS app

 

The unit iteself

Kingston Wi-Drive and Android smartphone

The Kingston Wi-Drive is just about the same size as one of the smartphones it serves

The Kingston Wi-Drive is a small glossy box about the size of a smartphone and runs from its own rechargeable battery when it is functioning as a wireless NAS. This is charged through the USB port, which is also used to connect the Wi-Drive to a computer for transferring files in and out.

When this unit is connected to a computer, it is presented to the host as two logical drives. One is a CD-ROM drive for the unit’s firmware and other essential files while the other is the user storage space. The file transfer speed is typical for a USB 2.0 device which I noticed when I transferred a batch of music files to it to assess multimedia reliability and USB transfer behaviour.

Kingston Wi-Drive USB data and power port

USB socket for connecting to desktop computers or charging the Wi-Drive

On the other hand, the way the Wi-Drive uses the two logical volumes is a limitation if you want to do something like connect it to a media player that has a USB socket. Some of these devices expect a USB memory key which presents itself as one logical volume to be connected.

Network use

The Kingston Wi-Drive NAS presents itself as an access-point for the mobile device, but has the ability to work as a wireless router between an existing Wi-Fi network segment and the network segment it creates. It uses a weird routing setup which is dissimilar to the typical wireless router where you don’t have the ability to pass through ports between client devices and the NAS.

As far as discovering files via the network, it presents a mobile Web page or uses a client app available for the iOS platform or the Android platform to view the files in an interface-native way. The current iteration of the iOS app works in a read-only manner where you can just view files rather than offloading your iPhone’s files to it.

The Wi-Fi functionality works properly with multimedia in the way that it can stream without any jittering or similar problems, which would be important when it comes to playing music or video files. I have observed this with the Wi-Drive loaded with a bunch of MP3s and it streaming to my Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone via the Wi-Fi link.

The Wi-Drive can work in its network capacity if it isn’t connected to a computer as a USB storage device. This means that it can be connected to a USB battery charger, self-powered USB hub, high-capacity external battery pack or similar device to charge its battery or avoid compromising its battery runtime. It is something I have done with this Wi-Drive where I connected it to a high-capacity external battery pack that I use for my phone so it can run for a longer time.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Kingston Wi-Drive could benefit from some improvements as far as network functionality goes.

The network setup routine could work well with a proper WPS push-button method when used with Windows 7 laptops or Android mobile devices. It can then create a secure wireless segment out of the box with these devices without the user falling to the default open-network setup which makes the device’s content vulnerable.

Then , it could be able to work as a Wi-Fi client so that it can share its file resources to an existing Wi-Fi network rather than the network it creates. This can be useful if you are using a “MiFi” router as an existing edge for a mobile WiFi network and you want to simply make files available to that network segment, or simply load this device with files from computers on your home network.

It could subsequently benefit from SMB/CIFS network-file-transfer support using Samba. This means that computers running most desktop operating systems like Windows, MacOS X or Linux can discover the NAS and transfer files to and from it like you can with a regular NAS. This could then make the Wi-Drive a useful wireless file-transfer point for a small mobile network.

Similarly, the Wi-Drive could have native support for UPnP Discovery and DLNA Network Media Server functionality. The former function can allow a Windows XP, Vista or 7 computer to discover it and have quick access to the user interface. The latter function can then allow it to be a mobile media server for WiFi enabled media devices like Internet radios that support this functionality and are used “in the field”.

This is important if we move towards Wi-Fi-enabled car-audio equipment and you want to use this as the equivalent of that old glovebox full of tapes or CDs.

Conclusion

Primarily, I would see the Kingston Wi-Drive as a USB flash-drive storage for use with a regular computer. But it also works well as a network-based “file-pickup” for laptops and mobile devices.

If the software was worked further, the Wi-Drive, like other mobile NAS devices, could serve a greater purpose. As well, I would like to see Kingston innovate rather than imitate Seagate.

Send to Kindle