At a Glance
The Good: Simple, seamless setup
The Bad: Mobile app not quite as seamless
What is the Cloud? The term gets tossed around constantly, and it's easy to get confused. It can mean a variety of things - especially depending on how a company may want it used -- but it generally means a wireless network. The Internet is probably the best-known type of Cloud.
LaCie's CloudBox uses your wireless router to let you access your external storage. The device is geared toward families (or any environment that uses multiple computers or tablets) who want to keep all of their content in one place. Another name for doing this is a NAS (network attached storage) drive, but many people I've spoken with get intimidated by the terminology and the setup process. LaCie aims to make this an easier process and much less daunting to the basic user.
The CloudBox comes in 1TB, 2TB and 2TB capacities for $119, $149 and $179, respectively. If all you want is straightforward data backup for a single computer, you can get that elsewhere for a lower price, so be sure you're interested in networking capabilities. However, just because you have one computer doesn't mean you should ignore the extra security of having data backed up in the Cloud.
LaCie boasts about the easy install of the CloudBox, and I had to agree on all fronts. To install, all you have to do is plug one cable into your wireless router and another cable into a power outlet. It even comes with a variety of snap-on tips for different outlet types for you international users out there.
The packaging and design simplicity of the CloudBox are both very Apple-esque*, with no printed instructions included in the box -- just a few simple diagrams. (It does come with a printed copy of the warranty.) As depicted, I was able to get the CloudBox up and running extremely quickly with zero frustration. This is a NAS for the masses.
The CloudBox device itself is a glossy white rectangular … well, box. It measures approximately 7.75 inches long by 4.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches thick, and is roughly the size of a paperback book. There is a blue LED indicator light on the bottom of the box (yes, the bottom - it reflects outward onto whatever surface the box is placed) and an on/off switch on the back.
There are a couple different ways to access the CloudBox. Since my laptop uses Windows 7, I just had to click on the Network icon in the Computer menu. There I see the LaCie CloudBox listed like a typical Windows folder. You can create folders and drag and drop files just as you would a standard drive. (Note: You will be taken to a web browser to register your product and create a password the first time that you do this. You can also maintain folders in the web browser and drag and drop media as long as you have Java installed.)
To access the files on another computer, you simply do the same thing. Go to the Network icon and find LaCie CloudBox. You will need to enter a user name and password in order to access the drivers -- an important security feature to prevent unintended and unwelcome sharing. Dragging and dropping files is done in real time, so once you drop it into the folder from one computer, it's immediately recognizable on another computer.
LaCie has a mobile app that allows you to access up to 5GB of your data. You must first install the Wuala app to your computer, and you can then easily sync the app to your CloudBox folder. To access the content, you then download the app to your iPhone or Android smartphone and log in with your user account. (Note: The login name is case-sensitive.) I will admit that the app was a bit confusing to me. I could see all of my content, although much of it was marked "Incomplete upload." To listen to a song, each one needed to be downloaded individually.
The Bottom Line
The CloudBox couldn't be easier to set up and use, and it would be a wonderful solution for a family to looking to simplify their data storage among several computers or tablets.
*The CloudBox was actually designed by Neil Poulton, who also designed LaCie's Rugged USB Key.