Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device
One of the great joys of advances in storage technology is that Network Attached Storage is no longer scary or difficult, and to prove it, just consider the recently released Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device. At a price point barely any higher then a normal external hard drive, the Personal Cloud builds upon earlier products like the Seagate Central, and offers a refined and easy to use feature set for consumers.
In the age of free or low-cost "cloud" services it is a reasonable question to ask why consumers would use a product like the Seagate Personal Cloud since other services promise data storage, streaming services, and more. The basic answer is the extent of "sharing" services on the Personal Cloud, so that the consumers can share data, music, videos, as well as a centralized backup location. Restoring large hard drive in the event of a crash is seriously impractical using a cloud based source, unless you don’t need the restoration for a long time due to the time it takes to transfer a TB or two of data. This isn't to say that we are encouraging folks not to used offsite "cloud" based services as an additional resource, in fact we embrace that ideal, but they have their limitations. And using Apple's Time Machine with offsite services for example, is better managed locally. One can use a dedicated hard drive, such as the Seagate Backup Plus Desktop line. An even more convenient and robust solution, especially for laptops, is a centralized system like the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS.
There are limitations for Mac users especially in relation to Time Machine, and Seagate says, “We would like to note that Time Machine will work with your Personal Cloud but there are some limitations that are based on Apple restrictions (not with our device). A Time Machine backup can only be viewed through Time Machine software on your local network where both your Mac and our Personal Cloud are connected. We do have a function in our Dashboard 4.0 software called "Smart Copy", which will allow a copy of data from your Mac to the Personal Cloud's Public share. The contents of the Public share can be accessed remotely through the Sdrive client or through our Seagate Media app. Please note that this is a one way sync, so any changes that are made to the files from the Public share will not be synced to your Mac.” We have a robust Wi-Fi network, but returned to wired networks, originally to test NAS devices. Once the gigabit network was up and running, it reminded us how slow Wi-Fi is compared to Ethernet cable. While we were able to backup laptops via Wi-Fi, it was fairly slow going, so if possible, consider a wired connection to your network for backup to the Personal Cloud.
The GUI will be familiar to anyone who has used a Seagate Wi-Fi drive over the past few years, and it continues to be refined, but we could see a bit more clarity. For example a public folder can have login-limited access, and your mobile device uploads to the public folder, not your private folder, which seems to the initiated and uninitiated contradictory. I often ended up with multiple folders; so on my wish list would be a less confusing file manager at times. But, overall it worked fine once you got the hang of it.
One of the first times we tested a Seagate Internet capable system was the Seagate GoFlex that featured an interchangeable system of bases, featuring FireWire, USB, and a very cool Pogoplug powered NAS base. Maxtor had a similar system a few years earlier, as did a host of other vendors, but Seagate has continually evolved, refined, and lowered the price point for entry in it's consumer NAS lines. The Personal Cloud single drive bay is available in capacities from 3 – 5TB, and the 2 Bay models are available in 4, 6, & 8 TB versions, and easy to set up and use. Once configured, you can use the Seagate S-Drive app on your Mac, PC, iOS or Android device to access your data from anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of North Korea. The price difference between the single bay and the 2 bay units isn’t that much more, so because we love redundant drives, we recommend the 2 bay versions, which offer you the choice of striped or mirrored drives.
Sharing was a strong point for the Central, and so it is also with the Personal Cloud. While it can be used in small business environments, its primary mission as to provide a household with an easy to access and shared singular point of access. Store your music, videos, photos, and data, and it's all accessible to everyone you have granted permission to, and it should handle just about every household or even small home office business needs. This is not a professional IT engaged NAS device, for that, you can turn to the Seagate NAS Pro systems that we have previously reviewed running the LaCie OS. But for the household trying to eliminate cable clutter, provide an easy to access SharePoint, we think the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device is a solid product. With portable devices ever increasing replacement of traditional desktop computers, it's easy to understand that it isn't second nature to plug in an external hard drive to backup the computer, but with a Wi-Fi network with a Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device attached, backing up using Apple's Time Machine, becomes almost unnoticeable. The Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device comes highly recommended.
Seagate 4TB Backup Plus
Last year we reviewed the Seagate Backup Plus Fast Portable USB 3 Drive with two internal drives in a stripe, which we loved. It was very fast, fit in your pocket, and had an unprecedented amount of storage. Seriously, 4TB in your pocket? As Huell Howser would say, "That's Amazing!" I can’t even! With the introduction of a new 4TB hard drive mechanism, Seagate now offers the 4TB Backup Plus, which provides the same storage, but with a single drive that is more reliable then a stripe which is built for speed. Each drive to its own specialized use.
Backing up a bit (bad pun intended!) the earliest large hard drives, such as the LaCie Big Drive series of years past were able to offer the then astounding amounts of storage by using two drive mechanisms in a stripe, so a user only saw a single volume on their desktop. Striping, or RAID 0 is great for speed and temporary storage, but not a great idea if your goal is reliability and long-term use and storage of files. The problem with a stripe is simple, if there is an issue or hiccup with one of the drives, it usually spells doom for all the data on both drives. Our report on Seagate Recovery Services is emblematic of that issue, and readers will recall that our old Maxtor dual-drive units were set up as a stripe, and as a result of corruption and drive damage all the data was lost on both systems, while Seagate Recovery performed a miracle on one of them and was able to recover all the data. Doing video editing? A stripe is great. Need a fast scratch disk? A stripe is great. But if you are working with data of a more permanent nature, striping is out. For that you need either a single drive, or multiple drives in a RAID 1 or higher configuration.
This is why the introduction of enormous pocket sized hard drive that doesn't rely on a dual drive mechanism is a big deal. This is the drive to use if you want a no-nonsense solution to large data storage needs in a small portable form factor. Inside the Backup Plus is the newly produced Samsung Spinpoint M10P hard disk drive, which features 4TB capacity and 2.5”/15mm form-factor, and a 2 year limited warranty. The drive is the child of Seagate’s 2011 purchase of Samsung’s drive unit, now manufactured by Seagate, so it's reasonable to expect newer, thinner, and lighter models on the horizon. Included is the latest version of Seagate's Dashboard software, and Microsoft's OneDrive software complete with 2 years of 200GB online storage. Image Management software from Lyve Minds is also included allowing you to view photos on the drive from any other device. Seagate Dashboard is especially cool since it allows any Android or iOS device to back up directly to the drive if you are near your Wi-Fi network. If you are on the road, you can back up to Cloud Services such as Google Drive, or Dropbox, and configure Dashboard to back up the drive, and it works with Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. It’s a very versatile approach to backup. Of course, Mac users could use it as a Time Machine backup destination as well. Or, just use it as a fast local drive with a lot of capacity.
Connectivity is through a single USB 3 port, and if you are wondering why not Thunderbolt, the answer is simple, Thunderbolt is the province of LaCie, newly acquired by Seagate. Naturally we would love to see Thunderbolt makes it way into products like this, since it extends the creative reach of the product. The case is made of thick black plastic that feels good in the hand, is solidly built, eminently practical, and has the new Seagate logo embossed on the backside. We are pleased to see such a large drive that doesn't rely on a dual-drive mechanism, and it's amazing to consider that a single 4TB drive can fit in your pocket, is bus powered, and fast. The Seagate Backup Plus 4TB drive comes highly recommended for anyone seeking a robust portable solution to store a lot of data easily, with easy to use online storage.
Harris Fogel, posted 7/26/15
For more information on the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay 4TB NAS device visit: www.seagate.com
For more information on the Seagate 4TB Backup Plus Hard Drive visit: www.seagate.com