Dane-Elec myDitto Nas device
LAN - and WAN - storage done right
Review Perhaps I'm getting cynical, but it's a rare event these days when a product crossing my desk positively fires me with enthusiasm. And when it comes to yet another disk device - we old journos call the subject of storage "snorage" - what could be duller? The myDitto from Dane-Elec is an exception on both counts.
Dane-Elec's myDitto: sobre-looking yet a doddle to use
It's a small, hospital-white cabinet with room for a pair of 3.5in drives and a front panel displaying a column of blue status lights topping a couple of buttons and a USB port. At the rear is a second USB port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. It runs quiet and cool, and physically that's probably about as much as you need to know about it.
Yes, it's a Nas device. But done right this time. The extra storage appears as an SMB drive - a Windows-style share - on all the Linux, Mac and Windows machines on your network. All the media you have stored in the Public directory will also be UPnP-accessible across your LAN, which means that suitable software and compliant hardware devices will be able to play your music, show your pictures and run your movies. In addition, any music files in the same directory will appear as a shared iTunes source right across your LAN.
Caddied-up for two hard drives
And it'll take you all of two minutes to set this up. No software to install, no messing with your router.
Storage and media throughout the house was enough to sell me on the myDitto. But the real fun starts when you leave home. Because you - and mates of your choice up to a total of 30 - can have secure access to the device over the internet from anywhere in the world. Your granny among them: Dane-Elec has managed to iron out the geeky intricacies of net access and firewall traversal, boiling the process down to the simple insertion of a standard USB stick.
Access keys for your chums
One stick per pal, each stick keyed to the individual user so they can't mess with each other's data. Without the stick no one gets to do anything with the myDitto, unless they've chosen to authenticate a machine for access - which also requires the individualised stick. The exception is a special provision for mobile phone access, which uses a long coded number.
The review sample came with a single 1TB hard drive and an empty caddy for a second drive. Other versions come with a pair of drives that can optionally be RAID 1 mirrored if you prefer your data to survive a disk crash.
The device comes with a pair of prepared USB sticks: a silver-grey one that gives you Admin access and a white one that's set up for an ordinary user. As well as the authentication mechanism - keyed to the serial number that's hard-wired into every standard USB stick - the Flash memory holds three versions - for Linux, Mac and Windows - of a simple MyDitto application. You can run this app directly from the stick, so it's usable with your average locked-down corporate notebook - unless USB access is locked down too, of course.
SMB, UPnP AV and DAAP - the iTunes music-sharing protocol - are supported, meaning you don't need either of the USB sticks at home once you're up and running, but the Admin stick will help you get started - the cross-platform app automatically finds your myDitto on the LAN. When a new user first logs in using the myDitto app, a private directory is automatically created with that user's name. Files can be shared by placing them in the Public directory.
Remote access is easy
This dual-purpose Public directory is the myDitto's one main drawback. Files you want to share to iTunes and UPnP may not necessarily be files you want to make available to all your users. I'm assured that a firmware update later this year will fix this.
There's a BitTorrent client in there, if you look hard enough
Serious myDitto owners may want to max out the capacity and/or use the RAID feature. I tried both, installing a pair of new 2TB drives. The partitioning and RAIDing process took just over an hour, and of course leaves you with a blank machine, although all existing user metadata is preserved in firmware. Data can be restored by connecting the original drive through a Sata-to-USB interface to the second USB port at the rear, a somewhat clunky - although thankfully one-off - process that might usefully be streamlined in a future firmware update. I was able to carry this out with virtually no disruption to my three WAN test users.
Potential rivals like the Pogoplug and the Iomega iConnect come cheaper, but without drives. They're simple to set up, but the myDitto is simpler, and its use of directly connected Sata drive(s) instead of USB allows for proper power-down control and RAID that puts the myDitto in a different class. ®
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