Cloud storage is all the rage these days. Form third-party services like Dropbox to dedicated solutions from Apple, Google and Microsoft, there are myriad options available and they’re all vying for your data.
The cold hard truth of these types of could storage solutions is that your data is essentially just being stored on a remote computer which you have very little control over. You’re handing your photo, videos, documents and everything else over to a faceless corporation in exchange for a bit of freed up hard drive space.
Of course, Network Assisted Storage (or NAS, for the acronym fans out there) solutions are nothing new. They’ve been the staple of small businesses and media centre PC enthusiasts for years, but what Seagate is attempting to do with its Personal Cloud line is bring it to the masses, offering the same features as a Dropbox or Google Drive, except keeping all your data localised within a central hub on your home network.
Storage for days
The unit itself is a fairly unassuming black box. Of course, we weren’t really expecting much considering it’s y’know, a hard drive. It’s got enough styling that it wouldn’t look too out of place tucked under your TV and the white light on its top corner is relatively non intrusive.
The model we had in for test was at the top end of the product range (2-Bay, 8TB) but there are a number of options available to suit various budgets. Once you crack open the hood you find two 4TB bays that can be configured one of two ways: either having both drives active for read/write giving you access to (almost) all of that sweet 8TB of storage space, or having one drive act as a ‘mirror’, auto-backing up the primary drive incase of a failure.
No mess, no fuss
Seagate have made setting up the Personal Cloud a breeze. We simply plugged it into a router with the supplied ethernet cable and our MacBook Air recognised it as a shared drive almost right away.
This meant we could instantly start uploading files from both mobile and desktop just like any other cloud storage solution. It even allowed us to stream directly to an LG Smart TV on the same network, and it supports Google Chromecast. Aside from some issues with not playing back GIF files in the mobile app, it seemed to successfully handle everything we threw at it, from photos to movies to documents.
Copying files to/from the drive was a simple drag and drop procedure, although be aware that over Wi-Fi, larger files took a little longer than we would perhaps prefer. If you’re going to be copying large amounts of data (you have up to 8TB to play with here, after all) we recommend doing so from a machine that’s hardwired into your network otherwise you could be waiting a long time.
The built-in automatic upload option was a nice bonus, letting you snap photos on your phone and automatically uploading them to the Personal Cloud without needing to give it a second thought. However, the files themselves aren’t hosted which means you can’t share links to a folder like you would with other could storage options.
Not appy about it
Sadly, while the hardware of Personal Cloud is solid, the software lets the side down a fair bit.
The dedicated iOS and Android apps, while serviceable, look like they were designed for a previous version of the OS and then never updated. Simple things such as presenting all data as thumbnails makes for a bloated and slow experience, and a bass-ackwards upload system made us think that if only Seagate were as good at software as they are at hardware they might have avoided a few of these pitfalls.
The mobile app only allowed us to access the public folder that came pre-installed with the drive when we weren't on the same network. This would be fine if it was mentioned anywhere in the literature, but after we had created a separate folder and spent time copying files to it, to not have access to them remotely was a huge pain.
What we did like, however, was the inclusion of apps that can be installed directly onto the Personal Cloud. Whilst the selection is a little thin at the moment, there are a few interesting ones. Primarily, we loved the Plex integration which set up the NAS as a a dedicated media server and allowed us to stream movies and TV shows to everything from an Xbox One in the next room to an iPhone in a coffeeshop halfway across town. This is an excellent option for anyone who is serious about about setting up a streaming media server.
If you're looking for an enormous amount of storage to keep all your photos, videos and documents that you can easily access from outside of your home without wanting to rely on the likes of Google and Apple then you’d be wise to give the Personal Cloud a look in. Sadly the lack of a decent mobile app is a let down, and while there is scope for Seagate to improve on this in the future we’d recommend trying before you buy to see if its the right fit for you.