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Upgrade your home network with a media-streaming, backup-ready NAS box

Jon L. Jacobi | May 3, 2013
If your home network lacks a NAS box, you're missing out on two counts: First, network-attached storage (NAS) is the easiest way to back up connected PCs. Second--and more enjoyably--a NAS box can store your media libraries and stream files to any PC or networked audio device in your house (examples include devices in the AirPlay, NuVo, and Sonos product ecosystems)

Like the LaCie CloudBox, the LinkStation Live will automatically open one of your router's ports for remote access, provided that your router supports UPnP port forwarding. If your router doesn't, you'll have to do it yourself. (The LinkStation Live expects to use port 9000.)

Buffalo's box was the second fastest in our roundup at handling a 10GB mix of files and folders, writing them at 17.5 MBps and reading them at 29.9 MBps, but the LinkStation Live's performance with our large 10GB file fell well below the curve: It wrote that file at 22.7 MBps and read it at 49.1 MBps. On both operations, that's a good 10 MBps slower than the performance turned in by next slowest drive.

All was well on the streaming front: The unit spooled our 40-mbps, 1080p files to three PCs with nary a hitch. It was also the only box in the roundup that transcoded MKV files on the fly, so they would play in Windows Media Player via DLNA. It didn't list playable WAV files in iTunes, but otherwise that server was up to snuff. You should have no qualms about using this unit to stream movies around the house.

In setup and configuration, the LinkStation Live was the least user-friendly box we examined. On the other hand, it lacks nothing in features and it streams very nicely. Users with the technical chops, or the patience to learn some new skills, could swing with the Buffalo product.

LaCie CloudBox

The LaCie CloudBox is a shiny white, Neil Poulton-designed rectangular a NAS box that looks nice alongside iMacs and the like. It is extremely white, however, so it will stand out against black A/V equipment. The 2TB CloudBox can be tricky to configure for remote access, but it boasts top-notch features, good all-around performance, and carries a moderate price of $150.

The CloudBox runs the full version of LaCie's Dashboard operating system, which the company has gradually crafted into a feature-rich offering. In addition to expected features such as user and shared folders, FTP, workgroup, you'll find a BitTorrent client and a full browser-based file manager. The CloudBox ties with Western Digital's My Book Live for best backup features in this foursome, starting with a version of Genie Timeline for the PC, Intego for the Mac, and box-to-box backup via rsync (so you can back up the contents of the NAS box itself).

Out of the box, the CloudBox is ready to go on your local network. If your router lacks UPnP (Universal Plug-n-Play) port forwarding, however, you might need to configure it yourself to get remote access--and that can be a challenge. (In most cases you'll find a router's port-forwarding settings under its gaming features: Forward port 8080 to the CloudBox's IP address.)


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