Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station
Build your own Wi-Fi network storage
Review "A new version of Iomega Storage Manager is available," the app announces on launch. "Click here to download it." And then it "quits unexpectedly", as Mac OS X politely describes the event, although this happens every time you run it. Click for the upgrade and install it, and the same message about a new version being available pops up. And the app quits "unexpectedly" again.
This was my less than reassuring introduction to Iomega's iConnect Wireless Data Station. A Nas device, which is essentially what this is, shouldn't need proprietary set-up software, but Iomega provides its Storage Manager - versions for Windows and the Mac - to make it easy to find the device on your network and get you started with the web control interface through your browser.
I switched to the Windows version of Storage Manager - which at least runs stably - and got the same story about an upgrade being available. As with the Mac, the "upgrade" you download and install is identical to the version supplied on the bundled CD. This otherwise minor hitch gets a mention because it seems to characterise a certain general lack of care that pervades the whole product.
Oh, the industrial design is good enough: a sleek black box you could just about fit in a large jacket pocket, with some useful LEDs that monitor the overall health of the machine and the status of the individual USB ports. And the specs are impressive: along with its function as a SMB/CIFS and AFP filesharing Nas, it's also a UPnP, DLNA and iTunes server, and can download BitTorrents.
Round the back: the power point (1), Gigabit Ethernet port (2), an extra USB socket (3) with its status light (4), the reset button (5) and the Kensington lock point (6)
No self-contained storage, but it's easy enough to hook up USB drives - memory sticks or rotating disks - to any or all of the four USB ports. You can attach up to two USB printers in the same way as storage devices, making them available across your network, and also arrange the iConnect automatically to transfer photos from your camera. The connection to your LAN is Gigabit Ethernet or 802.11n wireless. And all running at just 5W. On this basis, and at the price - in the region of fifty quid on the street - you'll want one.
But perhaps that price is the snag. There currently seems to be a race to the bottom among storage manufacturers aiming at the consumer market, and in the rush details may be getting neglected.
The main settings page is only visible to the admin
You'll want to jettison the Storage Manager software as soon as you get the web interface going, but the problems don't stop there. A Nas or DNLA device that keeps losing the network isn't going to be that useful. Annoyingly, on each reboot the machine sends me an email - I had to tell it my email address during setup - with the (erroneous) information that its IP address has changed.
Ah, probably needs a firmware update. The relevant web page from the machine announces the current version as 126.96.36.19961. "The device software is up to date," it says. On the web, though, the latest version is 188.8.131.5200, confirming my feeling that this piece of consumer kit isn't quite getting the attention it deserves from the mighty EMC that now owns Iomega.
Updating the firmware does seem to have fixed the rebooting problem, although I'm still getting those erroneous "IP has changed" emails. More mysteriously, since the firmware upgrade I've had a couple of emails from the machine saying "Ethernet connection is lost on LAN '1'" and "The device is unable to acquire your external IP address. Confirm that your device is connected to a router which connects to the Internet." The emails are wrong again, the machine is functioning fine. And - duh! - if it really can't find an Ethernet connection, how is it sending me email?
Unlike the Pogoplug - reviewed here - the iConnect is wireless capable and offers true Samba shares that require no special software on your client machines, whether they're Macs, Linux or Windows. But the Pogoplug lets you attach Mac-formatted storage - the iConnect's USB drives can only be Linux ext2 or Windows compatible.
Share your drives
Like the Pogoplug, the iConnect also offers access across the Internet. The key difference is that the iConnect web service has a subscription cost, and only the first year comes free with the price of the box.
The BitTorrrent feature seems to work as advertised - except for the status page - but I wouldn't want to use it in practice. You can choose a port and set maximums for the download and upload speeds, but there's no scheduler - so you can't automatically throttle it down during the day if your ISP imposes daytime bandwidth restrictions. And there's no facility for protocol encryption, so you're probably sharing your torrent information with your ISP.
The main problems I had with the iConnect mostly dissolved into niggles once I'd applied the firmware upgrade. If Internet access to your drives is important, go for the Pogoplug. Otherwise the iConnect is more generally useful and cheaper, if still, ah, improvable. ®
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