Extra storage that can be shared by PCs around the house by means of a network.
More home users are beginning to install networks but that doesn't mean that every PC on the network is equipped with bags of storage space. Iomega's 160Gb Network Hard Drive can be plugged into a network router and accessed by every other device connected to it, making it simple for all users to store and retrieve shared files such as music.
Set-up began simply; connect the disk to its power supply and plug in the supplied network cable between the router and broadband modem or set-top box. But we encountered problems when running the software that automatically detects and configures the drive on the network. A window declared that while the drive had been found it could not be configured, and gave no indication as to why.
The problem actually lay with the firewall protecting the PC from the internet, which was rightly set to block connections from unknown devices. Rather than switch it off, which would be inadvisable when using a broadband connection, we had to instruct the firewall (Zone Alarm in this case) to allow connections to and from the drive's IP address.
The Iomega detection software provides simple access to the unit's address, but the instructions given in Iomega's CD manual were not as clear as we would have liked.
Instead of outlining the process we used to resolve the issue, it instructed us to consult our firewall's documentation, and made no mention of the fact that an IP address would be needed. Iomega does, however, provide help via live text chat if you register the product, and this is free.
File transfer speeds to and from the device will depend on what type of network you are running, and whether you or other users are accessing large files from the internet or between other PCs on the network. A 1Gb transfer via our test wired router took just over five minutes, which is about what we'd expect, although slower than directly linked USB 2 or FireWire devices.
The Iomega Network Hard Drive is more expensive than simple external hard disks of this capacity but, like the majority of Iomega products we've seen, the extra money goes on its relatively simple setup and its ability to easily share files between computers around the house. It's rather larger and noisier than we would like but performs well.
It may be a niche product but, as the digital home gains momentum, network-attached storage devices like this may be the way to store and stream media files without a computer being switched on.