The Buffalo CloudStation CS-X1 is a single-drive, 1TB network storage device that's designed to live on the Internet. It's one of the easiest drives we've ever used when it comes to remote access, and this is due to the PogoPlug technology that Buffalo has employed. If you want a network attached hard drive that will make it simple to access your data from any device on the Internet, then put the CloudStation at the top of your wish list. Visit Group test: what's the best NAS device?
Setup and installation
Setup for the CloudStation requires an Internet connection and there is a registration and activation process. The drive itself has a Gigabit Ethernet connection, a power port and a blue status light. Simply connect the drive to your router, power it on and wait for the blue light to stop blinking. Then it's a matter of navigating to thecloudstation.pogoplug.com site, clicking the link for setting up a new drive, letting the service automatically detect your drive, and creating an account using your email address. Once the drive is activated (you'll get an email to confirm your account), you can then access the drive through the My CloudStation Web site from any computer that's attached to the Internet. See also Western Digital My Book Live Duo review.
Ease of use
It has a simple interface that can detect file types and filter your files to make them easier to access. Video files will appear in the Cinema tab, music in the Jukebox tab and photos in the Gallery tab. Media playback through the Web interface is reliable as long as you have good bandwidth to work with. It's easy to listen to music through the built-in music player, you can browse through all your photos, and you can stream video files as well (in addition to downloading them).
The CloudStation's music player.
We tested the drive on an iiNet ADSL2+ connection, through which we were able to download data from the CloudStation at a maximum rate of 100 kilobytes per second (KBps) to our remote computer (also using an iiNet connection), which is the best that this connection can do. The best part about the whole process though, was how responsive the My CloudStation site was; navigating around the site and moving from music to video playback was all super-smooth and we never experienced any delays in accessing what we wanted, even though the interface relies heavily on thumbnails instead of file listings (however this will also depend on how many files are in your folders).
Streaming a video over the Internet.
In addition to being accessible over the Internet, the CloudStation can, of course, be accessed through your local area network. It will show up as a network drive in Windows so you can easily map it, and you can drag-and-drop files onto it and create folders to organise your data. You can use the Settings page in the My CloudStation site to add users and privileges, as well password protect the drive. It proved to be a reliable performer on our network and it was a superb content repository for our WD TV Live media streamer, which had no problems detecting the drive and playing the files located on it.
The drive's settings can be changed through the Web site.
Mobile access and cloud storage
In addition to local access and remote PC access, you can also access the drive from your smartphone. You can do this through the Pogoplug app (we used the Android version) and it's a beautifully simple and reliable application. Not only does it make it easy to download files from the drive, you can also use the media player to listen to music that's located on your drive, as well as play back movies (which is best to do when on your wireless network unless you don't mind chewing through your mobile data).
However, it can't play AVI files unless they are optimised for playback on the phone; you are given the option to optimise for playback on the phone and this can take a while before it's complete. It happens in the background; when logged in to your My CloudStation site, you can see a progress bar next to files that are being optimised. Once our selected files were optimised, they played back smoothly on our HTC Rhyme, even over the Internet.
The PogoPlug service actually gives you a free 5GB worth of cloud storage that you can use in addition to all the space on your CloudStation drive, and it's most useful when used in conjunction with the Pogoplug mobile app. the app has a nifty feature that allows any photos you take with your phone to be automatically uploaded from your phone to the cloud service, from which you can easily transfer them to your CloudStation or share them with others. You can set it up so that it only uploads photos when connected to Wi-Fi, and this is a solid feature that, like most of the other aspects of this product, worked very well.
While you can get data onto the 1TB CloudStatoin by transferring it over your LAN or uploading it through the Web site, another way to get files onto the CloudStation is to email them to drive. This feature is a little unnerving as you basically use the generic upload@mypogoplug address to send your files to the CloudStation, and, as long as you are using the email address that you used to initially set up the CloudStation, they will end up in the folder that you specified for them to be stored in. It's very handy for storing files that are emailed to you — just forward them to your drive.
You can even use the CloudStation as your BitTorrent download manager. You'll have to download and save torrent tracker files to your computer, then open them through the BitTorrent client that's embedded in the CloudStation. To use this feature, you'll have to enter a username and password: the default username is admin and the password is blank (it can be changed from the BitTorrent client's settings menu).
The CloudStation's embedded torrent manager.
The download manager allows you to download torrents directly onto the drive so that you don't have to leave your computer on to complete your downloads — it's very convenient and, most importantly, it means you can initiate torrent downloads from remote computers and have the downloaded files waiting for you on your drive when you get home. It's worth noting that accessing the BitTorrent download manager through the My CloudStation site was slowest aspect of the user interface, taking close to two minutes to load, even through the local network.
For backups, you set up Windows manually to back up to the CloudStation on your local area network, or you can download the Windows client (a link is provided in the Web interface), which will automatically back up any data that's located in your 'My' folders. For Apple users, the CloudStation supports Time Machine.
There's nothing much to dislike about the Buffalo CloudStation CS-X1, except perhaps that file downloads could be managed a little better through the Web interface, and it also doesn't have a USB port for attaching and sharing other external drives. It's a drive that performed exceptionally well during our tests and it's one of the easiest 'personal cloud' solutions we've tested — it worked as expected straight out of the box, both on our local network and over the Internet, and through our mobile devices. If you want a network drive that makes it easy to access your data from anywhere on the Internet, it probably won't get any easier than with a CloudStation.