Hard-drive giant Maxtor jumps into the Network Attached Storage market with its new H01R300 Shared Storage Drive. I tested a 300GB shipping version of the drive (there's also a 200GB version), and found it easy to use and relatively affordable, although it did have a few quirks.
NAS doesn't sound very sexy, but the technology is useful. It works like this: Instead of connecting an external hard drive to one single computer, you connect it to a network, so that multiple users can access it. NAS devices are great for home networks where you want to create a central repository of files (such as a collection of digital music). For a closer look at NAS, check out PC World's recent "Net Drives" story.
The $400 drive I tested had a stylish aluminum case and includes a single 10/100 ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports on the back. The latter can be used to connect either USB thumb drives or a USB printer, both of which can be shared over the network.
To set up the drive, you just plug it into the network and turn it on--it automatically gets an IP address from your router (you can set a static IP address if required). Using a PC on the same network, you install the Maxtor Quick Start software and run a simple wizard to set up the drive and add users.
You then run the Maxtor Quick Start software on each networked PC that will access the drive. The application creates a desktop shortcut on each PC, as well as a folder for each user on the drive.
You can give users rights to other user's folders, with varying levels of access. However, like most inexpensive NAS packages, the drive does not include drive space quotas, so every user could potentially fill up the entire drive.
Also worth noting: Maxtor does not include backup software with this drive.
Nice Features, Nice Price
One nice aspect of the Maxtor drive is its Drag and Sort feature. When you drag files onto the drive icon, it looks at the file name and puts it in an appropriate directory. MP3 files are automatically copied into the My Music folder, spreadsheets go into My Documents, and video files go to My Videos. I found this feature handy, but you can disable it if you do not.
Like other NAS devices that connect via 10/100 ethernet, the Maxtor performs more slowly than internal Parallel ATA (PATA) and Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives. It's also slower than external USB 2.0-based drives. However, we found that the speeds were comparable with those of other NAS drives, and it didn't seem to register much of a performance hit when two users were copying files to it at the same time.
Although the Maxtor Shared Storage Drive isn't cheap, it is a good value for the money. At $400 for the tested 300GB version, it works out to $1.33 per GB. That's significantly cheaper than most of the comparable NAS drives on the market.
That said, it's still far from perfect, and my shipping unit exhibited a few quirks. For example, the Maxtor Quick Start software initially repeatedly failed to work on one test PC. Eventually I managed to get it to work (although I'm not sure how); Maxtor reps said they'd never heard of such a problem.
On another occasion the drive incorrectly identified a 256MB thumb drive connected to the same PC as a 1GB unit. While I quickly rectified this issue by reformatting the thumb drive, Maxtor was again hard-pressed to explain the problem.
These relatively minor quirks aside, I liked using the Maxtor Shared Storage Drive. It's an attractive, well-priced NAS solution for the home or small office.
Maxtor H01R300 Shared Storage Drive
Simple to set up and use, this affordable NAS device is easy to recommend despite a few quirks.
$400 (300GB unit)