Tools Of The Trade: The Iomega StoreCentre network hard drive

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The Independent Online

External hard disks that plug into a network, rather than to an individual PC, are by no means new. Manufacturers of have long offered network attached storage (NAS) systems, but, Uutil recently, their cost kept them out of reach for small businesses and home office users.

But now, a standard NAS drive is only marginally more expensive than a good-quality, single-user, external hard disk. Nor do they need an engineer to set them up.

Iomega's StoreCentre drive is a compact unit, not much larger than a paperback novel. Only the back panel distinguishes it from a standard external drive for consumers.

The StoreCentre has the usual USB port for connecting directly to a PC, a second USB port for hooking up a printer, and an Ethernet port for network connections.

The 300GB drive tested here came pre-formatted, so it was simply a matter of plugging it in to a network, running the supplied Iomega Discovery software. The whole process took just five minutes.The StoreCentre will connect directly to an Ethernet hub, running at speeds up to 1,000mbps (gigabit Ethernet), to a spare port on a router or, via a separate access point, to a wireless network. Many standard and wireless ADSL routers have spare wired Ethernet ports on them, and using one of these is likely to be the quickest way to connect to a wireless LAN.

The drive's speeds were reasonable: the StoreCentre is based around a capable, 7,200rpm hard disk. Performance depends on the network too, and in day-to-day use the StoreCentre will work much better on a wired network than a wireless LAN.

But it is ease of use, rather than performance, that makes the StoreCentre appealing, especially for small offices. A small PC server or even a more sophisticated network attached storage system will offer more features than the StoreCentre, but need a lot more configuration.

For a couple of users who just want to share files across a network, the StoreCentre is more than capable. It has security features that allow users to keep the content of their files confidential. For the home user, its small size and quiet operation means that it will sit as happily on a desk as in a server room.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

PROS: easy to set up

CONS: none to speak of

COST: around £205 plus VAT