Review: Maxtor Central Axis Network Storage Server - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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Data Backup and Streaming Media

The data backup application built into Maxtor Manager is pretty limited in scope. The “simple” backup option is a bit too simple ‑ it backs up only your My Documents folder, only at 10 PM, and you can't tweak those settings to suit your needs. To back up any other folders, or if you prefer to run the backup at any other time (as we think many will) you need to choose a Custom backup instead. We'd prefer to make at least minor tweaks to the canned backup routine. On the plus side, the backup utility retains up to 10 copies of files so you restore specific historical versions.

If you want to back up data on the Central Axis unit, you can do that from the browser interface, provided you have a storage device of sufficient capacity attached via the USB port. Speaking of that port, you don’t necessarily need to reformat external storage devices to connect them to the Central Axis, but the device recognizes FAT32 storage devices only. So if you have an NTFS-formatted drive with data you want to transfer to the Central Axis, you’ll need to do it over the network. 

The Central Axis can act as a media server so it will stream media to UPnP-compatible devices on the network or to iTunes. We were able to access files from a PlayStation 3 console without any problems.

Remote Access

If you need to access your files while on the road, you'll find that the Central Axis makes it pretty easy. You can designate your folders as Web-accessible and then remotely log into the Central Axis via a secure browser connection at Seagate’s Global Access Web site, which acts as the intermediary. Although this setup makes accessing your Central Axis dependent on the site being up and running, it eliminates the need to do any firewall configuration (i.e. port forwarding) on your router to get it working.

In the case of remote access, the browser interface is quite good. It’s responsive and lets you not only view and download files, but also upload them and set up new folders. The capability to view image thumbnails means you don’t have to identify photos solely by file name, and we also like the fact that you can conveniently download an entire folder as a ZIP file.

The Central Axis also lets you share folders with other people by sending them an access invitation via e-mail. You can only share folders, not individual files, and anyone that you invite must sign up for their own Global Access account. 

The Bottom Line

The Maxtor Central Axis does a lot a neat stuff, but usability suffers due to the unintuitive software and glacial admin interfaces. The Central Axis comes with no fewer than three manuals ‑ one for users, one for administrators, and one that covers remote access features ‑ totaling nearly 250 pages in all. Whether you’re technical or not, you’ll probably spend a lot of time reading them in order to get the Central Axis set up the way you want it.

We hope that future updates to the device firmware and included software will resolve many of the Central Axis usability ills. In the meantime, if you’re willing to devote the time and effort required to set it up, the Central Axis can be a good place to keep your data, particularly if you want to easily access it from the road.

  • Price: $319 (MSRP)
  • Pros: Compact; 1 TB capacity; easy-to-use remote access feature, streams media to UPnP devices and iTunes
  • Cons: Only one drive, so no RAID; confusing user account and folder setup; browser-based admin interface is extremely slow

Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He's also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he's currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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This article was originally published on September 10, 2008
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