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Driven by the growth in home networking and the mainstream adoption of digital photography, music and video, Maxtor has launched its Maxtor Shared Storage (MSS) solution, which gives home users a central repository for organising and sharing data in the digital home.
Upside: Available in two different sizes, 200GB or 300GB, the MSS is firstly a high-capacity external drive that increases available storage in a home or home office environment. However, the MSS is more than just an external drive as it plugs directly into a wired or wireless router (see diagram) via an Ethernet port, making the drive readily accessible by all users on a home network, and not dependant on a host PC.
A wizard is included on CD for an uncomplicated installation. Once installed, an icon representing the Shared Storage drive appears on the desktop. The drive automatically creates personal folders such as My Documents, My Music and My Photos as well as a link to a shared area, which contains public folders such as Our Documents, Our Music, Our Photos, etc.
An innovative feature is Drag and Sort, where you can drag a selection of files onto the drive icon and the drive will automatically sort them into individual folders based on file extensions (i.e. JPEGs will automatically be placed in My Photos, MP3 files into My Music, Excel and Word files into My Documents, etc).
Administering the drive is via an intuitive Web interface, so users don't have to dive into the Control Panel to fiddle with settings such as creating user accounts, access privileges and shared folder settings -- it's all centralised.
There are two USB 2.0 inputs are at the back of the unit to attach additional external drives, such as Maxtor's OneTouch II, or to add printers to the network.
Downside: The unit does not currently support Mac or Linux operating systems and at the time of writing Maxtor could not comment on how the Shared Storage Drive integrates with the unique interface of Media Center PCs.
Outlook: More than 97 million households globally will have a home network by 2008 and 75 million of those homes will have wireless local area networks (WLANs), according to research from In-Stat. As the desire to stream audio and video content around the home increases, users will look to efficient storage solutions such as the MSS as a repository for digital content. Already in the US, Maxtor is selling an add-on hard drive to digital video recorders (DVRs).
Similar to its OneTouch backup product, the Maxtor Shared Storage seems to be an easy-to-use storage device that will appeal to home office users and digital entertainment enthusiasts alike. Available at the end of March through major retailers such as Harvey Norman and Dick Smith Electronics, the recommended retail price is AU$449 for 200GB and AU$549 for 300GB -- about AU$100 more than Maxtor's similar-sized external hard drives.