Buffalo's LinkStation Pro is an unassuming little black box that enables you to share disk space on your network quickly and easily. You can use it as a file server to share with a small workgroup, and as an automated backup device using the supplied Memeo software. It will also function as an FTP (file transfer protocol) server and, if you have two LinkStation Pros, one can automatically back up to the other.
The beauty of this device is that, whereas a normal USB hard drive can only be connected to a particular computer, the Buffalo can be used by any other PC connected to the network. You can even access files from the internet – a facility that will make you grateful for the LinkStation's strong security protection.
The cheapest model in the LinkStation Pro range has a capacity of 250GB, and you can also buy 300GB, 400GB, 500GB and 750GB models to suit your needs. The 250GB version costs £165 including VAT; the 750GB equivalent will set you back £494. Additional storage can be added by connecting up to two external USB drives to the back of the device. It will then share these drives on the network in addition to the internal model.
Striking that difficult balance between advanced features and ease of use is never easy, but the LinkStation Pro has a jolly good try. Initial basic setup is very easy. After you've decided whether you'd like to install it on a network or connect it directly to your PC, it's pretty much just a matter of plugging it in and clicking 'next' on a few dialog boxes.
Advanced users can use the web-based interface to configure enterprise-level functions such as Microsoft Active Directory support. It's a wired device, but if your wireless router has network ports you could plug it in to add a file server to your home network. To experience the LinkStation at full throttle, you'll need a wired network – preferably a gigabit one. Buffalo has quadrupled the processing power in its latest models, allowing transfer rates of up to 35MBps (megabytes per second).