A few weeks ago we tried and failed to mount two Western Digital storage devices - one was targeted at the home market and the other for small medium business. With this in mind we were keen to review the new Cisco Media Hub because, quite honestly, I have had a gutsful of storage companies and their dodgy stand-alone storage devices that either fail to mount, or when they do, offer nothing than what an additional hard drive does.
As for the new Cisco Media Hub let's not forget that this is a networking Company that is moving into the storage market that is currently owned by the likes of Seagate, Western Digital and bottom end players like LaCie. So how does the new Cisco offering stack up?
As I see it the new Cisco Media Hub is a bit like the Apple iPhone and it could well have the same effect on the storage market as the Apple iPhone did on the mobile communication market for two reasons ease of use and simple smart software.
It is so easy to install that out of the box, the device took only 2 minutes to mount the software, find the device and start copying content.
Within seconds the media hub's own unique software had loaded to the screen of my PC and was prompting me to search for content. All I had to do was connect an Ethernet cable to my office network, turn it on, and voila! we were into the land of smart storage management.
And because the drive supports UPnP and works well with Windows, Apple iTunes, the Mac and even Linux, you can expect to see the drive on your network without installing a driver or fussing with an IP address.
Only when you do want to manage the advanced features will you need the included setup CD or to access the drive's IP.
After going through the key process of establishing device names and passwords I was very quickly in content management mode.
While other storage vendors expect you to be a certified Microsoft expert to simply load the device, Cisco has gone out of its way to make life easy by delivering a piece of software that seriously questions the need for Microsoft's own Media Centre software.
Most storage systems do not have content management software. They do have backup software which after 30 days they expect you to pay for. What they expect you to do is use a third party piece of software to manage the content and when you are ready to store or access the content find the drive on you network.
And as Apple found out with both the iPhone and the iPod it is software that makes all the difference.
For example a simple click of the Media Hub remote access capability allows one to share content instantly via a new service that is accessed via www.ciscomediahub.com
This service allowed me to later locate the media hub in my office while accessing the content from my home notebook.
I was also able to search my phone for content and use an Xbox 360 as my media hub to playback content stored on Cisco device.
As to performance the device is adequate. In a test done by Digital Trends 6 MPEG-4 movie files took 7 minutes to transfer to the Media Hub, whereas the same transfer took 3 minutes to send to a home-built Windows Home Server and only 1 min 40 seconds to copy to the HP Media Smart server.
A 700MB collection of photos and documents took 50 seconds to write to the drive and 50 seconds to read, about 15 seconds longer than it took on the HP Media Smart.
The Hub comes with a small LCD screen on the front that displays information such as the amount of space used by music, photos and video files though I doubt if anyone will use this as the software gives one easy access to content information.
One handy feature is a button on the top of the Hub. This pops open the lid of the unit to reveal a spare drive bay so that you can quickly drop in a second hard disk to add some more storage. The Media Hub supports RAID 1 'mirroring' mode to store identical copies of your files on each drive. That's the only RAID configuration available, and the drives aren't hot-swappable in the event of drive failure. But at least RAID 1 gives you the option of providing some extra protection for your important files.
The device comes with a 500GB hard drive which I believe is inadequate however it is extremely easy to add an additional drive. All one has to do is pop the lid on the top of the Media Hub as I did insert a new 1TB drive.
What is import is that you power down the device before inserting the drive. You also have to go into the configuration software and re configures the software so that it instantly recognises the new drive.
On the downside this device is pricey at $699, especially as it only comes with a 500GB hard drive. However, it is a solid device and well worth the money especially as a 1TB drive is going to cost you less than $175 in coming months. Also limiting is availability with only six retailers, including five Harvey Norman stores, set to sell the device.
However, one interesting retailer is Len Wallis Audio in Sydney. I know Len very well and as one of Australia's leading custom installers of entertainment and automation systems in Australia Len does not take products on board that do not meet his demanding performance criteria. When I spoke to him about this he had nothing but praise for the device.