Network Storage Review: LaCie CloudBox

To protect small business data from accidental loss, the first step is to make sure you’re performing regular backups to some kind of supplemental storage device (external hard drive, NAS, tape, etc.). It isn’t necessarily the last step, however. While having such an on-site data backup will save your bacon in the event of something along the lines of a mundane hardware failure (such as a bad hard drive), your data’s still vulnerable should a serious calamity (e.g. fire, flood, theft of equipment) befall you.

That’s why a comprehensive data backup plan includes not just an on-site (i.e. local) backup, but an off-site (e.g. cloud storage) one as well. The LaCie CloudBox ($199) is a hardware/software combo that kills two birds with one stone, offering both on- and off-site backup in a simple package.

CloudBox Storage Hardware

The CloudBox is a small and nondescript network attached storage box that takes up about as much desktop space as a drink coaster. Only a power button, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a status LED breaks up its glossy black façade. Inside the CloudBox sits a 100GB, 2.5-inch hard drive — the type used in notebooks — though the unit emits so little noise, heat or vibration, you might be tempted to think it’s an SSD.

Alas, 100 GB is the only size the CloudBox comes in, which isn’t a lot of storage in this era of multiple terabyte hard drives. For its part, LaCie says the CloudBox isn’t necessarily meant to back up every last bit of data you have, but rather to safeguard a subset of that data consisting of your most critical files.

CloudBox Setup

Getting the CloudBox up and running was quick and painless. After plugging the unit into power and Ethernet, we turned it on and waited two or three minutes for the status LED to switch from flashing to solid blue, indicating that the device had made contact with LaCie’s servers. Next, we accessed the CloudBox via Web browser and completed a brief setup wizard that involved creating an administrator username and password and inputting an included 16-character contract number to activate the 100GB of cloud storage. (The CloudBox purchase includes the first year of cloud storage; annual renewals ring up at $129.)

The La Cie CloudBox; network attached storage

Figure 1: The LaCie CloudBox provides both on-site and off-site storage for small businesses.

Upon entering the account verification code that’s delivered via email, the CloudBox is ready to go. After the CloudBox has been paired with its online account, further configuration takes place through a browser-based control panel. The CloudBox provides the same clean, modular administrative dashboard found in the company’s other storage products; it provides lots of useful information at-a-glance and puts all the unit’s configuration options within easy reach.

The CloudBox supports up to 10 user accounts (including the administrator), and it automatically sets up a corresponding data folder for each user account you create. You can apply storage quotas to these user folders to keep their owners from sucking up too much of the CloudBox’s capacity. Once users have their CloudBox folders, you can map the folders to drives on Windows or Mac systems and use them as a target for a built-in or third-party file backup utility. The CloudBox comes with file backup software for both Windows and Mac.

Given that the CloudBox is ostensibly for data backup rather than primary storage, one thing you can’t do with it is create shared folders that aren’t directly associated with a specific user account. In other words, you can have individual private folders for Tom, Fred, and Mary, but you can’t create a single folder that Tom, Fred, and Mary have access to (if they all worked with a set of common files, for example).

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