The rectangular, tower-shaped MyCloud is slim enough to store out of sight on a bookshelf away from the main computer and is available in three capacities: 2TB, 3TB and 4TB. The near-silent MyCloud was relatively easy to set up but there were some elements of operation that seemed a bit perplexing, and that may prove a problem for technophobes.
Like any NAS drive, MyCloud is both PC and Mac compatible and provides fast backup of all your files and media on any of your devices, along with anywhere access when in a wi-fi zone. It also works with mobile apps (both IOS and Android), though their functionality is a little limited. The MyCloud is a superb personal cloud-based backup system for those in the know but it may be a mite too complicated for the total beginner.
Any creature with opposable thumbs will find the all-in-one Seagate Central a cinch to setup. Aside from being PC compatible (obviously), it's also optimized for use with Mac and Apple's Time Machine backup system. Just be prepared for a long wait because the first backup up over wi-fi will, understandably, take a few days to complete. Thereafter it all zips along impressively quickly, with excellent copy and write speeds.
The Seagate's contents are accessible via a browser, the unit's mounted disk icon on the main computer's desktop or via Seagate's dedicated IOS, Android, Windows and Kindle mobile apps. The iTunes element works seamlessly; when in a wi-fi area, open the iTunes app on your mobile device, select the shared option and your entire music library is suddenly at your fingertips. It's like Apple's iTunes Match, only it's free.
The unit itself – available in 2, 3 and 4TB capacities – is rather attractive and won't look out of place alongside your TV equipment. But for extra security, you're advised to site it away from the main computer lest a thief breaks in and nicks the lot. If you're a novice in this area and want speedy streaming and reliable, fuss-free operation, then this is the model to go for. Exceptional value, too.
The ReadyNAS is a much larger unit than others on test (220 x 142 101mm) so you might have trouble finding a suitable place to store it. For this reason, it's perhaps more suited to small business use rather than something you'd have cluttering up the home. There are several models available and they all have a minimum of two drive slots with some as many as four; it's up to the user to choose and fit the hard drives of their choosing. Mind, being able to have more than one drive on board means the system is easily expandable to accommodate a growing library of documents and media files. Like most NAS drives, the ReadyNAS backs up files – it also supports Apple's Time Machine – and streams movies, music and photos to computers and mobile devices at home and away. A good business choice, especially if you work with large image and movie files. Home owners should perhaps look elsewhere.
Lenovo Iomega EZ Media
How does this rebranded Iomega NAS drive stack up against the competition? Sadly, not too well. Installation was too complicated for a novice to get a handle on – the instructions are far too basic – and the system occasionally fell off the network. It's biggest fault, though, was the sluggish speed with which it streamed and backed up data. The EZ Media is available in 1TB, 2TB and 3TB configurations but we can't really recommend it as a reliably easy media storage and backup system when there are so many other suitable options on the market.
LaCie's a prime player in the hard drive arena – over the years it's produced some of the most reliable products on the market. The CloudBox offers two methods of storage. The stylishly-designed, all-white, home-stored box itself offers up to four terabytes of capacity and fairly instantaneous access to all your media – documents, iTunes and images, etc – from any PC, Mac, laptop or mobile device. For those small batches of extra vital files, users are also given 10GB of free online storage using Wuala's remote server (register at wuala.com). The CloudBox also automatically backs up data using either Apple's Time Machine or LaCie's own Backup Assistant. A worthy contender.
Buffalo LinkStation 210
Like the excellent Seagate Central and LaCie CloudBox, this stylish NAS device comes with a hard drive pre-installed. This makes it ideal for the consumer who just wants simple, out-of-the box network storage and mobile access without the faff of having to choose and then fit a suitable third-party hard drive. The LinkStation is available in 2 and 3TB configurations and is almost too pretty to hide away from prying eyes. It backs up both PCs and Macs using NovaBACKUP and Time Machine, respectively, and offers easy remote access through Buffalo's free WebAccess portal. You can also view your files while away from home using the dedicated 'Smart Navigator' app (IOS, Windows and Android).
D-Link ShareCenter DNS-320L
The keenly-priced ShareCenter doesn't come with any hard disks installed so it's up to the user to select a suitable third-party 3.5-inch drive. Thankfully, though, it comes with two drive bays which allows for easy expansion when required. It's not the fastest NAS in this roundup – it writes larger files at around 13MB/s and uploads them at 11MB/s – so, if you're planning on backing up an entire computer system over a network, you'd better be prepared for a long wait. Like most of today's NAS units, a dedicated mobile app allows users to access files and stream videos, music and images to any smartphones or tablets from anywhere on the planet. A good budget model – just don't forget to add your choice of drive/s.
Synology DiskStation DS414slim
Synology's NAS drives are regularly rated among the best for transfer speed so if you watch a lot of HD movies then this is a brand worth considering. The newly launched DS414slim is designed for home use and has a whopping max capacity of 6TB. But you will need to buy your own choice of hard drive/s to slot into the unit's four empty, hot-swappable drive bays. The image above suggests a large, cumbersome unit but, remarkably, it's only 12cm tall and 14cm wide. As with the majority of current NAS drives, you can share digital multimedia content to a range of devices – including the iPhone, iPad and various Android and Windows products – and back up all your precious files and media using Synology's own Data Replicator software or Apple's Time Machine. Not the cheapest NAS here, granted, but certainly one of the fastest.