When it comes to personal cloud storage systems, access is what it is all about. You can use any of these three devices to access your files via a Windows or OS X computer. But, after that, they diverge widely.
While the LaCie CloudBox is the least expensive, it only has an iOS app, which leaves Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone users out in the cold.
The D-Link's ShareCenter was the speediest of the three at serving up files remotely and provides apps for three mobile device families: iOS, Android and BlackBerry. It can also store up to 8TB of data, more than the others, but has the most involved set-up routine; in addition, you need to buy your own drive.
I love things that are small, inexpensive and flexible, and WD's My Book Live satisfies these criteria. With a slender profile, a reasonable price tag and the best variety of online apps for retrieving data remotely, it is my ideal for personal cloud storage. In addition to programs for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, it is the only company to provide Windows Phone access. Add in the bonus of access to files stashed on Dropbox and SkyDrive, and you have a personal cloud that casts a large shadow.
It may not be the fastest and it lacks access for Linux computers, but WD's My Book Live helps me to take it all with me.
How I tested
After unpacking each device and setting it up on my home network, I checked to see if the device could be used with a USB drive and whether it allowed Wi-Fi connections. I used DHCP automatic IP addressing.
I then loaded the host PC (a Dell Inspiron 15z) with the included software that's required for configuration and access. I connected each storage system in two ways: directly to the Ethernet port of a Linksys E-4200 router and then using a Zonenet six-port LAN switch. Along the way I mapped the drive, and changed its name and its IP address. I looked at whether the system includes back-up software or other items.
With everything set up, I timed how long it took to transfer an assortment of 243 files that add up to 430MB. Then I ran the CrystalDiskMark 3 hard drive benchmark on each drive to gauge its performance abilities and report the results for sequential reads and writes.
The real charm of cloud storage is the ability to grab what you need wherever you might be. To look into this area, I loaded an iPad Mini with each drive's remote access app and took it on a day of travel. I got online using a Samsung LC-11V mobile hotspot that works on Verizon's 4G LTE network.
After verifying that I had at least a 10Mbps connection (using Speedtest.net's bandwidth meter), I timed how long it took to bring up a 3.2MB image. I also tried any Android apps with an LG Nitro smartphone.
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