How you access your files differs from device to device, with some offering preview thumbnails of the documents, others only a list of file names. Click and the documents appear on-screen, although there's a lot of variation in how long this step can take. In addition, each of the systems offers a way to share documents, images and videos with others.
I put each cloud device through its paces, checking for how hard it was to set up and how easy it was to access my files remotely. I also did performance testing for how long it takes to send files to the drive and retrieve them on the go.
Whichever one you choose, you can be sure exactly where your bits and bytes are and that—after the initial purchase —they're not costing you a penny in rent.
Price: 1TB: $120 (list), $104-$134 (retail); 2TB: $150 (list), $145 - $166 (retail); 3TB: $180 (list), $169 - $199 (retail); 4TB: $250 (list)
If ease of use is what you're after, LaCie's CloudBox is the easiest of the three devices reviewed here —from opening the box to having your data available wherever the day takes you.
The sleek, white CloudBox has minimalist styling and is the smallest of the three, measuring 1.7 x 4.8 x 7.6 in. The review unit came with a 1TB drive (920GB available for data) installed; LaCie also makes 2TB, 3TB and 4TB versions for $150, $180 and $250, respectively.
The CloudBox doesn't have a fan, but it has lots of vent holes in the back and underneath; after about a month of usage it stayed cool. Under the front panel is a hidden LED that lets you know if the drive is on and active, but it's harder to see from across the room than the lights on the other storage systems.
I found setting up the CloudBox to be the easiest operation of the three in this roundup. All the software is on the drive — just plug it into the router or a network node, power it up and open Windows Explorer (for PCs) or the Finder (for Macs) to start the Dashboard software. If you get lost during the procedure, there's a Help link on the right side of the Dashboard interface.
The CloudBox also works with Linux computers as well as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game consoles, but you'll need to set access up manually. It took me about 10 minutes to get it going with a Windows 8-equipped Dell Inspiron 15 laptop.
LaCie's Dashboard software provides a way to pick automatic or static IP addressing, change the drive's name, map it and adjust its power conservation settings. The system can store backups produced by Time Machine or Windows Backup, but it lacks a network diagnostic test like the one on the My Book Live.
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