Have you ever had a situation where you need to share a few large files between a PC and a Mac across the home network? If the answer to this question is "No" then count yourself lucky! It is truly one of the most headache-inducing tasks I have tried to do recently.
If the answer is "Yes" then I think you'll sympathise with me. What sounds like the most simple of networking tasks actually turns out to involve hours of Google searches and shaking one's head in frustration.
The situation was simple. I had a large number of files in Windows 8.1 that I wanted to transfer to a Macbook Pro. These totaled about 40GB in size so I didn't want to go through the hassle of putting them on an external hard drive, then transferring files from the drive to the Mac as it would have taken far too long with only a USB 2.0 hard drive at hand. Instead, I thought I would simply share the file on the PC with the homegroup and pick it up from the Mac over the network. It is a lot more hassle than this, however. There are a number of guides on how to do this process on Google, but unfortunately none of them worked for me, due to the Mac requiring non-existent passwords for the PC and it not picking up the Homegroup properly.
This process made me think that it would be great if I could have access to any of the files I wanted to share, from any device, even if my PC is turned off.
The solution to this?
Enter: The D-Link DNS-320L 2-Bay Cloud Network Storage Enclosure!
This neat little black box now sits on top of my router and contains all the files I want to share with devices I specify via a simple web browser or as an assigned drive on any laptop or PC connected to the home router.
Using two 1TB Seagate Barracuda drives, the setup wizard allows you to format the drive configuration in the following ways:
- Standard (two separate volumes on the NAS);
- JBOD (combining the drives for maximum available space);
- RAID 0 (combining the drives for maximum available performance); or
- RAID 1 (mirroring the drives so that if one fails, the other will still contain all the data). This option, however, only allows for a maximum of 1TB of space.
I opted for the RAID 1 configuration for 1TB of space. This is because the data I wanted to store on the device is important for me to keep. If it weren't as valuable, a better option would be to configure the drives in RAID 0, in order to increase the read/write times and gain more storage space.
2 x 1TB Drives Ready for NAS
The setup program formats the drives as appropriate (this process took about five minutes in total), then the device appears as a network drive in the Explorer window on a PC. On a MacBook, the DLink device appeared as a shared device in Finder, which could be accessed using the username and password set up during the installation. Accessing the management window of the NAS is done by simply entering the ip address of the unit in a browser window. Easy peasy!
NAS Web Interface
When transferring files over from the PC to the NAS over my home network, the speed averaged around 35 MB/s; streaming music, large audio files and 1080p video directly from the unit over home WiFi was flawless, reading files at around 43MB/s.
The D-Link DNS-320L also has the option to sign up to www.mydlink.com in order to access files from the NAS anywhere in the world. After a simple registration process, the web interface becomes available and is very easy to navigate, and download and upload files to the device. There is also a very useful "MyDlink Access-NAS" app on an Android or iPhone that can be downloaded for free, allowing backups of material from a phone or the ability to access files stored on the NAS. You can also stream music from the device straight to the 'phone with the built-in media player within the app (depending on the speed of the data connection) and even set the app to automatically save photos taken with your 'phone's camera straight to the NAS. Handy!
Browsing Using the Phone
Downloading from the web interface was very quick - around 6MB/s at home and around 1.5MB/s on 4G using an Android phone (this being around the maximum speed I usually get for downloading anything from the Internet).
Along with great media storage and playback facilities, this home network storage solution provides a number of practical applications for backing up whole drives (for example, setting a Windows backup to run every week straight onto the NAS for peace of mind). I have a 'fresh skeleton build' of Windows backed up now containing programs that I frequently use such as Chrome, VLC player, Steam and Origin to name but a few, so whenever I want a fresh installation of Windows I can simply restore this build from the NAS rather than spend time re-downloading all the necessary programs. This can all be managed through the "ShareCenter" web interface within the unit and is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. It also includes options to control home security cameras linked to the device if you so desire.
For the price paid for this little unit (around £40 at the time of the review), the ease of use and the peace of mind it offers regarding backups and storage of files, it is a cost-effective, user-friendly and convenient solution to file sharing. The DLink DNS-320L is a fantastic piece of kit that I would wholeheartedly recommend as a basic home network storage solution.