Iomega's network-attached-storage servers are known to be easy to use, and the Home Media Network Hard Drive promises to be the most straightforward so far. At around £100 for the 500GB version and £130 for the 1TB version, it's seems like a sound buy.
Set-up and ease of use
Barely larger than a 3.5-inch hard drive, the Home Media Network Hard Drive is about as compact as a single-volume NAS server can get. You should be absolutely sure whether you want the 500GB or 1TB version before you buy -- the device isn't designed to let you to replace the hard drive later if you want to increase its capacity.
The drive includes a Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB 2.0 port, located on the back. The USB port can be used to host a printer or an external hard drive. Also located on the back is a very small fan that, unfortunately, produces a high-pitched sound when spinning. It only spins when the drive gets hot, though, and that only happens during heavy loads.
Setting up the drive is as simple as installing the included Home Network Media Storage and EMC Retrospect Express HD back-up applications. The installation took us about 3 minutes. Once finished, the NAS server's shared folders are mapped automatically to your computer and are ready to be used.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive comes with five default shared folders: 'photo', 'backup', 'music', 'movies' and 'public'. By default, these folders are set to be accessible by anyone. You can, however, use the Home Network Media Storage application to launch the Web interface of the NAS server so you can further customise the security settings.
Turning on the iTunes server or DLNA media server features involves only a single click of the appropriate button on the user interface. This lets iTunes-enabled and DLNA-enabled clients automatically see and play shared media from the NAS server.
Overall, the Home Media Network Hard Drive is the easiest-to-use NAS server we've tested yet. We found getting it up and running to be a simple process, and most people with basic computer knowledge should have the same experience.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive lacks many advanced features you'd expect to find in a NAS server. Missing features include: FTP, HTTP servers, download station, support for an IP camera, and remote over-the-Internet access. Also missing is support for Bluetooth devices.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive has an interesting way of limiting users' access to the shared folders. Each shared folder includes 'everyone' and 'secure' options. The former allows everyone to access the folder freely. With the secure option selected, you'll see a list of user accounts pulled from your computer, with each account having a box next to it. Checking the box allows the account access to the folder. This is a much simpler way of doing things than that employed by some other devices, where you have to create user accounts and apply settings to each account separately.
The NAS server's USB 2.0 port lets you extend the storage capacity by connecting an external hard drive. Unlike the Iomega StorCenter ix2, which supports drives formatted using either the FAT32 or NTFS file system, the Home Media Network Hard Drive only supports those formatted using FAT32. This is disappointing, as it's not easy to format a hard drive larger than 32GB using FAT32 and most external hard drives are much larger than 32GB. To make matters worse, there's no included formatting tool for external hard drives.
Sharing an external drive is as simple as plugging it in. Once connected, a shared folder will be created for the drive, and you can access it, as well as configure access privileges for it, in the same way that you would with any other shared folders.
The included EMC Retrospect Express HD application works well too. It allows for backing up your entire computer or just selecting folders. You can make copies of files that can be viewed and retrieved using Windows Explorer, or create restore points that can be used to recover the entire computer in previous working states.
The Home Media Network Hard Drive performed very well in our throughput tests. It's one of the fastest single-volume NAS servers we've tested.
The device registered 105.6Mbps in the write test and 193.8Mbps in the read test. We test NAS servers' throughput by timing how long it takes them to finish writing/reading a certain amount of data. The scores, therefore, are a sustained data rate, with all performance overheads taken into account.