Computer Shopper reviews and gives Buffalo's CloudStor NAS Editors' Choice Award
Buffalo CloudStor Pro (2TB) Review
Reviewed by: Daniel A. Begun
Review Date: May 2011
We’ve been fans of Cloud Engines’ PogoPlug DIY approach to network-attached storage (NAS) ever since the first PogoPlug device was available in 2009. The PogoPlug concept is simple enough: Plug virtually any storage device—such as an external hard drive or flash drive—into a PogoPlug module, connect the PogoPlug to your network, and voilà, you have an instantly network-accessible device. Since the PogoPlug’s initial release, the technology has gotten very easy to set up and use, and it has made sharing files with just about anyone a breeze.
For those who don’t have a hard drive to spare, but who still want to reap all of the benefits of PogoPlug, Buffalo Technology has the answer with its CloudStor NAS device. It's the first PogoPlug-based device to come with its own built-in storage. You can choose between a 1TB ($149.99) and a 2TB ($209.99) version, as well as the $249.99 2TB CloudStor Pro we tested, which has a faster processor and more memory for speedier performance.
We found the device supremely easy to configure and set up for remote access—something that, too often, is a tricky proposition with competing drives. Plus, it's speedy in the performance aspects that matter most. It's one of our favorite consumer-grade NAS devices for those who want to get up and running without much hassle.
Design & Features
The CloudStor Pro is powered by a 1.6GHz Marvell processor and has 512MB of buffer memory. (The non-Pro versions of the CloudStor have a 600MHz Marvell processor and a 128MB buffer.) These chips are squirreled away inside a simple-looking black box that measures 5.1x8.1x3.4 inches. The front of the device has three blue LED status lights and a door that pops off to reveal two user-accessible bays for 3.5-inch Serial ATA drives. All CloudStor devices come with just one of the drive bays filled, so you can insert a second hard drive of your own if you want to increase the storage capacity. With two drives installed, the CloudStor can be set to see the two drives as independent disks, or you can combine them into a single RAID 1 volume.
Buffalo Cloudstor Pro
All versions of the CloudStor—even the 2TB model—come with just one of its two drive bays populated. You can upgrade the device’s storage capacity by adding your own 3.5-inch SATA hard drive.
You can also increase the device’s accessible storage capacity by connecting an external hard drive to the USB 2.0 port on the back of the unit. (We have a caveat about using the USB port for additional storage, however, which we’ll get to shortly.) The USB port can also accommodate printers, allowing you to use the CloudStor as a networked print server. Also on the back of the device is a Gigabit Ethernet port.
Setting up the CloudStor is a simple affair. Once you power it up and connect it to your network, you go to a Web address listed in the four-page instruction manual to activate the device. That’s the minimum you have to do to get up and running. The device should now appear to your computers as an available volume on your network.
Most users will want to go on to install the Windows, Mac, or Linux PogoPlug software clients. (You can download the PogoPlug clients here.) With the PogoPlug software installed and running, the CloudStor automatically mounts as a storage volume on your computer, appearing as though it’s a local drive. (On Windows systems, the CloudStor is also mapped as a drive letter.) From then on, whenever you boot up your computer, access to the CloudStor is already there, waiting for you.
In terms of controlling user access, as NAS devices go, the CloudStor is very basic. For local network access, you can’t create or manage user accounts, assign passwords, or even limit access to specific folders. Anyone who has access to your local network can access the entire contents of the CloudStor without even needing to first log in to the device. That may make it a less attractive choice for a small office in which you want to keep certain folders on the CloudStor private.
Buffalo CloudStor Pro
You can remotely access the contents of your CloudStor from your Apple iPhone/iPad using the PogoPlug iOS app. (There’s an Android version, as well.)
The true strength of the CloudStor, though, is its remote-access capabilities. With the PogoPlug software installed on your laptop—no matter where you are in the world, as long as your laptop has Internet access—your CloudStor remains accessible, and the drive or drives still appear as local volumes. The speed of this connection, of course, depends on the quality of your Internet connection. Buffalo also provides free PogoPlug apps for the Apple iPhone/iPad and for Android devices; with these, you can view stored photos, listen to streaming music, and even watch streaming movies that are stored on the CloudStor.
You can also grant remote access to the content of your CloudStor to users other than yourself. When you invite remote users to access the CloudStor, you'll be presented with a few basic safety measures. Using the Web-based CloudStor or PogoPlug services, you can grant folder-level access to anyone who has an e-mail address. (We highly recommend, however, you enable the option to require invited users to create passwords before you share any folders.)
What we quickly discovered upon testing it: The CloudStor service is essentially a rebranded version of the PogoPlug service, just with a different look. In general, we recommend using the PogoPlug service (my.pogoplug.com) instead of the CloudStor's (cloudstor.pogoplug.com). That's because we found the PogoPlug service's interface to be more elegant and less confusing—especially for invited users who might not be up to speed on how this technology works. That said, the functionality of the two services is essentially the same, so you’re not missing out on anything, regardless of which you ultimately use. The only exception is if you need to change the device-level settings of the CloudStor—to do that, you have to use the CloudStor service.