Netgear makes simple but effective network storage for the home. (May 23rd, 2010)
Network-attached storage, or NAS, has been quite common in the business and enterprise markets for quite some time but has yet to take a firm hold in the home. Netgear's Stora tries to change that: it boasts a terabyte of storage and a swath of multimedia features in a friendly package. But is it worth the $230 price to the average family? We've reviewed the Stora to find out.
Product Manufacturer: Netgear
- Simple, unintrusive design.
- RAID 1 and USB storage options.
- File-level permissions.
- Internet and DLNA sharing.
- 1TB already loaded in.
- Easy software.
- Some features need a subscription fee.
- Could use iTunes and other sharing.
At its heart, Stora is a nine-inch cubed black box with an unassuming appearance. Other than a USB port and LED on the front, and a fan on top, there isn't much to notice about the unit; that may be a good thing as it The backside has a power button, an Ethernet port, and the requisite power plug along with two "ejection levers" to pop the SATA hard drives out of the case.
The Stora thankfully ships with a 1TB Seagate hard drive installed but has room for a second drive; opening the front panel and ejecting and adding drives is extremely simple. The drives can be setup in a RAID 1 format that would mirror the two drives to make a backup, but there's no evidence of RAID 0 striping being available. From the performance we experienced, however, it really wouldn't be necessary. As it stands, even regular drives may face practical limits on a typical Ethernet network.
The USB port on the front of the Stora functions exactly as one would expect: it shares the drive just as if the data were on the internal disk. The USB port can host flash drives, external hard drives, and even digital cameras or MP3 devices/ We used a flash drive as an example and, sure enough, could share its data on the network. Unsurprisingly, an iPhone didn't register as connected, but it has yet to properly support a disk mode on any device, let alone a NAS array. Netgear does have a paid Premium Service that will open up media sharing from an iPhone through other means, but it's a bit much to ask for a simple feature by itself.
The Stora comes with three main pieces of software for both Mac and Windows: the Desktop Mirror application, the Stora Application, and Stora Folders. Each of these apps is installed with and accessed by the Stora Agent. The Stora Agent is the gateway app and controls the other three, sitting in the system tray or menu bar.
Desktop Mirror is an auto-synching, continuous backup app. The settings for this program are very simple. It's nice to see a straightforward app that does what it's meant to and does it quickly. The Desktop Mirror is the only application that is entirely run on the computer locally; the Stora Application and Stora Folders both require the Stora Agent to launch a direct connection to the drive.
Stora Folders opens a Finder or Windows Explorer view of the Stora folder hierarchy. This experience is what most computer users are used to seeing when browsing files and takes only a moment to connect.
The Stora Application is a web app that both manages the settings for the Stora and allows users to access content, upload data, and share files. Stora Application can be accessed remotely from any web connection, and data can be streamed online to where you'd like to view your content. Unfortunately, as we've mentioned before, some functionality requires a paid subscription to the Stora Application such as secure FTP, Flickr integration, and music streaming to an iPhone. We're not entirely convinced people are comfortable with the idea of regular fees with a networked drive.
As a DLNA device, the Stora can automatically share content with the Xbox 360, PS3, and other hardware or software that recognizes the standard. All content on the Stora is, thankfully, controlled by user access limits and there are various permissions that can be given to a specific piece of content or an entire library; we appreciated the fine-grained control, although we do wish it had a full iTunes server or similar sharing beyond just the one format.
We really like the Stora. Other than not wanting to pay for some of the online services and not having as much media support as we'd like, there's not much to complain about. For $230 -- the cost of a 1TB drive by itself just months ago -- you can get a full home backup solution and sharing that goes beyond the local network and into the Internet. If you're in the market for a home NAS system, the Stora deserves some serious consideration.