capsule review

Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station: Easy-to-Use Network Storage

At a Glance
  • Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station

    PCWorld Rating

    Affordable device capably turns USB storage into a full NAS setup.

So you have tons USB storage lying around, and you wish that you could just put it in some out-of-the-way spot and access it across your home network. For a very reasonable $100, the Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station will let you do that and more--with up to four drives.

Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station
Considering the price, I was expecting the iConnect to be a dumb, USB 2.0-to-ethernet converter. Instead, I found that it's basically a network-attached storage box without drive bays. Inside the device sits a DLNA-certified Universal Plug-and-Play media server to stream music and video across the network and handle BitTorrent transfers; it even allows you to attach printers and cameras to any of its four USB ports. It offers no RAID-style redundancy, but that's understandable for a device that relies on removable storage.

The iConnect supports wireless connectivity, but since it's disabled by default you must initially connect via the gigabit ethernet port to enable it. You may connect to the unit and configure it via IP address and a browser, or by installing client software that will discover the box for you. Either way, you wind up at the same visually appealing and easy-to-navigate HTML configuration pages.

I found configuring the iConnect easy, though not entirely without incident. The unit would not connect to my Linksys WRT350N router using WPA personal security; switching the router to WPA2 fixed that problem. I also had to manually forward the 21 (FTP) and 443 (HTTP) ports to the iConnect to enable remote access.

Once configured, the iConnect worked perfectly, although it often required reboots after configuration changes. I attached several USB drives, and it found them immediately. The client software will map the drives for you, or you can map them as network drives on your own if you forgo the software as I did. It found and installed my Samsung ML-1450 printer, though that required attaching USB storage (presumably for print spooling) and performing a reboot after attaching said storage. Note: I found no power-saving settings for the unit that would allow a user to power down drives to conserve energy.

I used Windows 7 and Media Player 11 to test the UPnP server, which worked perfectly. Streaming across my admittedly very fast gigabit network was perfect, even with 1080p video. The unit also automatically transferred files from my digital camera when I attached it. (This behavior is optional and configurable under the Media Services tab.)

While the iConnect has all the features that most home users will need, it might not offer every little function that more tech-savvy types might want. For instance, I was able to connect directly using HTTPS port 443 and my preferred dyndns.org, but not FTP port 21. Iomega also offers easy access via its own relay server and TZO dynamic DNS. On the other hand, you can define users, shared folder permissions, and other settings, just as on other NAS boxes.

The Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station is a neat little device for USB storage sharing. It isn't a USB 3.0 product, but as SuperSpeed USB is backward-compatible and the extra speed would likely be mitigated by the network's own performance bottlenecks anyway, that drawback isn't really an issue. If you don't need remote FTP access, the iConnect is a great way to get started with network storage and media serving, especially if you have unused USB storage that you want to put to work.

(One caveat: The reset button on my test unit was nonfunctional--check yours and return the device if you don't feel a slight click when you press in on the button. The configuration pages have a reset function, which I used instead.)

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Affordable device capably turns USB storage into a full NAS setup.

    Pros

    • Puts any USB drive to work as network storage
    • Full featured

    Cons

    • No USB 3.0 support
    • No FTP access
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