I’m kinda late to the game as far as Network Attached Storage is concerned. It all seemed kind of complicated, and I’m just a simple home user.
It used to be that NAS enclosures and drives were damned expensive and came with heavy hardware voodoo. You needed to configure all kinds of network protocols, set up RAID configurations, require a dedicated IP address and all that messy, hopelessly complicated crap. It seemed like a convenient, attractive way to store and back up your data, but just didn’t seem worth the expense and bother.
Well, it isn’t that bothersome anymore. It’s not even expensive! We introduce you to the Buffalo 2TB NAS CloudStation CS-X2.
Japan-based peripheral manufacturer Buffalo has come up with an affordable, easy to set up NAS drive. I don’t think you can find a more user-friendly NAS drive anywhere else. All you need to do, literally, was to connect the thing to your router and to a power outlet, and then use your computer to go to a website and set it up in under a minute. After that, you get all the cloud-based goodness of NAS data, accessible from anywhere on the net, on your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. You have file-sharing and remote access all in one fell swoop.
The CloudStation comes in a small, upright hard drive enclosure. It doesn’t have a power button, and has just one ethernet port. (It’s barely larger than the upright Xyxel modem I have at home, and in fact, if you weren’t looking very closely, it could actually pass for one.) It comes in a 1TB (the CS-X1) or a 2TB model—I got the 2TB one, of course. There are bigger, more expensive models: the CloudStation Duo and the CloudStation Pro Duo, which use RAID, goes up to 4TB, and look like more conventional big-ass NAS enclosures.
But for the purposes of this review, we’re sticking to the plain old CloudStation.
Connecting this thing is easey-peasy, and you wonder why other gadgets aren’t as simple as the Buffalo CloudStation makes it. Like the box blurb says, “The most friendly and fun storage device under the sun!” I admire the fact that it doesn’t even have a power button, meaning this thing is meant to stay on 24-7. It’s also fanless and eco-friendly, with low power consumption. In the box you have the drive, an AC adaptor and a nice, white, flat ethernet cable. That’s really all you need. There isn’t even a CD installer or anything like that. Check further and you’ll find a slim Quick Start Guide, a small stand and a couple of adhesive rubber feet.
Just connect the ethernet cable, one end to the NAS drive and the other end to your router, then connect the drive to the AC adaptor. Dress the drive up by attaching the little stand on the bottom back and stick the little rubber feet on the bottom front and you’re done.
All you have to do now is use your computer to access your NAS. It uses a site called Pogoplug, a nice, robust, free cloud service to accomplish this, and you go to cloudstation.pogoplug.com/activate to enable the drive. You undergo a four-step process where the site locates the NAS and turns it on for your use. You’ll also need to create an account by plugging in your email address and a password, but that’s basically it.
You essentially control the drive via the browser on the site, and upload or download files from it. The interface is kinda wonky though, insisting on a file-by-file basis when uploading, and refuses direct folder transfers. It’s bothersome when you’re trying to back up your iTunes folder and realize you’ll have to go back it up song by song. (Not to worry, there is a downloadable program from the Buffalo site called NAS Navigator that lets you mount the NAS locally and treat it as a simple drive on your desktop, complete with drag-and-drop file or folder transfers.)
For your convenience though there are basic viewers and players for your media files in the browser: there is a “Gallery” where you can directly watch a slideshow of your stored photos, a “Jukebox” for playing your music, and a “Cinema” option for watching your video files (although it transcodes big fancy files to a more reasonable resolution before letting you watch it, and it downscales your photos in the same way).
It also has a Bit Torrent downloading function built in, allowing you to download things even if your computer isn’t turned on. For Apple fanatics, it also allows you to use the CloudStation with Time Machine for trouble-free backups of your system. One of the slight drawbacks of the system is that it’s a bit slow when uploading and downloading files, although that’s largely a function of your network connection’s overall speed. (I also have a slight niggle with the colorful little CloudStation sticker on the front of the device—I think it mars the look and finish of the thing and I’m thinking if I should take it off. But that’s just me.)
iOS and Android users can use their tablets and smartphone to access the NAS using the free Pogoplug application, available on the App Store and from Google Play.
All told, you can access any of the files on the NAS as if they were in the cloud, meaning to say you can access them on the net from anywhere in the world (but in reality we all know they’re just sitting in the small device at home, hooked up to the net).
The Buffalo 2TB NAS CloudStation is available from Buffalo outlets and kiosks in the malls for around P8500, but if you can live with the 1TB version, that’s available for around P5,500, less if you know where to look.
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