For traditional hard drive owners, network-attached drives are a whole new world. While hard drives have been, on the whole, pretty dumb, devices like Iomega's StorCenter ix2 are mind-bogglingly smart. And they offer more than just backup. In fact, one of the most important things to note about the iX2 is that it's as much a hard drive as it is a full-featured computer.
First, the basics: The StorCenter iX2 is a fully customizable two-bay network storage device with support for up to 6TB of data. I used a pair of 1.8TB drives with a RAID 1 (mirroring) configuration. Mirroring gives users added protection, as the data stored on one drive is automatically backed up to the second one. You'll never feel more protected.
The Good: Options, features, customization
Iomega, however, is pushing this as more than just a dumb old hard drive. Here are the areas where the device shines:
Small-scale surveillance systems. Let's start from the top. The video surveillance aspect is something that Iomega is pushing quite heavily with the iX2. The device comes with support for up to five IP cameras, a feature that works for small business looking monitor their space without spending too much cash. Encoded as MPEG-4, video footage is stored directly on the device and without the need for a dedicated computer. (There's more to the feature set than this, but I'm keeping things concise.)
Personal cloud. The iX2 cloud storage functionality allows user data to be accessed from any device with an Internet connection.The feature is also a big deal for those turned off by the idea of services like Dropbox and Google Drive, which retain uncertain control over the data users upload to their servers. Perhaps best of all, running your own cloud storage is entirely free, which reduces overhead.
Personal media streaming: While the iX2 probably won't be the first device you'd look to for media streaming, this is also an area where the device excels. DLNA-certified, the iX2 can be used a dedicated media server for any DLNA-enabled device
Quality backup: While these features are great, the iX2 actually does some remarkable things in the backup space as well. One the biggest strengths of network drives is that they make the backup process significantly more seamless. Rather than actively plug in a drive and run backup software, users can let the backups work in the background just by having an iX2 connected to their networks. This makes maintaining a recent backup significant easier, especially when the software is used with software like Apple's Time Machine.
The Bottom Line
The one thing that stuck out the most about the iX2 is that, for a device with so many features, the drive is extremely easy to set up and maintain. Even the ostensibly complicated stuff like setting up a personal media server or cloud access are all accomplished with a few steps. Things simply work as advertised.
Keep in mind, however, that, for consumers looking for something less full-featured, something like the Iomega's Home Media Network Hard Drive would work slightly better. This device accomplishes many of the same tasks as the iX2, but is more focused on the average consumer and not the small business owner. This is evident in the prices of both devices: While the iX2 maxes out at $639, the Home Media Network drive runs for a much lower $100. (You could also consider the PogoPlug drives, which accomplish a similar task.)
Either way, after spending sometime with the Ii2, it's increasingly clear that network storage is the future of backup. And Iomega is a doing a good job of leading the charge.