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Storage

Hands On

The CloudStor Solo is one of the simplest NAS/Cloud devices I’ve ever set up.  After it booted, I was set up and running in minutes.  You don’t have to deal with port forwarding or Dynamic DNS for remote access to work.  It just works.  Set up of private folders and creating additional users took only a couple of additional minutes.

Since there is no included software, if you’re not connected to the internet, it would be difficult for a novice to figure out the IP address of the device to configure the NAS features of the product.  Arguably, however, you are purchasing the CloudStor Solo because you are connected to the internet and really want your own personal cloud.

During testing, I uploaded close to 80,000 files and about 320 GB of data to the Solo.  New owners should note that while all of their files will be available immediately, they won’t play immediately through a web browser. 

As noted earlier, the Solo aggregates media by type.  But in addition to indexing and building libraries, the Solo also generates thumbnails of all of your images, and transcodes all of your videos.  Most popular video codecs are supported.  Video is transcoded into H.264 and stored in a hidden folder on your CloudStor Solo. 

Under media settings, (Figure 8) you have the option of when to transcode videos (always, never, on demand), and the option of viewing them using HTML5 (iPhone/iPad). 

Media settings showing transcoding progress and options

Figure 8: Media settings showing transcoding progress and options

Note that if you have a lot of photos and videos, especially videos, it can take days, not hours, to fully transcode all of your media.  A full length two hour movie could take up to 15 hours to transcode.  This is due to the relatively low-powered Kirkwood processor running at 600 MHz. 

According to Buffalo, the CloudStor Pro (CS-WV/1D) models, which run a much faster 1.6 GHz processor, transcode at about twice the speed of the slower processor found in the CX models. But that would still mean 8 hours to transcode a single 2 hour movie!

App Access

In addition to web access, you can access your personal cloud using the free Pogoplug iOS and Android apps. I downloaded and installed the Android app for my Droid X.  Figure 9 shows the opening screen. 

Pogoplug Android app

Figure 9: Pogoplug Android app

If you click on Files, you can see all of your Pogoplug cloud devices. (Figure 10).

Pogoplug app device list

Figure 10: Pogoplug app device list

I was able to browse my files, and yes, even edit this review on my Droid.  I also could play music, steam video that had been transcoded, and view photos.  Photos and videos were presented in a timeline view by year/month.  For music, you can choose song, album, artist or genre views.

Performance

Tim ran the Solo through the standard NAS test suite and posted the results in the SmallNetBuilder NAS performance charts. The firmware loaded was 1.12 build 2.30, which was posted back in November 2011. The benchmark summary in Figure 11 isn't particularly impressive.

CloudStor Solo performance benchmark summary

Figure 11: CloudStor Solo performance benchmark summary

If you filter the NAS Charts for single drive NAS products, you’ll see (Figure 12) that the CloudStor Solo, based on file write copy performance, comes in near the bottom of the pack, with only three other products posting poorer write performance. 

If you compare the features of the lowest ranking single drive NAS products as well as the once that rank just above the Solo on the chart, you’ll see that there’s a direct correlation between performance and processor.  The Kirkwood 88F6281 running at 600 MHz turns in slightly poorer results than other NAS products using the same processor clocked at 800 MHz.

CloudStor Solo write performance ranking

Figure 12: CloudStor Solo write performance ranking

The story gets a little bleaker for relative read performance as it drops almost to the bottom of the chart (Figure 13). But note that read performance is almost twice write performance. The Solo's read performance is also 4X better than Tim measured on the original dual-drive CloudStor (CS-WX1.0).

CloudStor Solo read performance ranking

Figure 13: CloudStor Solo read performance ranking

Note that the same version 2.30 firmware is posted for download for the original CloudStors. One would hope that fixes the miserably low 6.3 MB/s read performance measured for the dual-bay CS-WX1.0/1D with the original 1.00 build 1.17 firmware.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for remote access to your files, you have a number of choices. You can purchase a traditional NAS that has some remote access features. Or you could buy cloud storage (or live within the free 5 GB account offered by many vendors) and copy your most important “stuff” to the cloud. You could also purchase a Pogoplug device and external drive to go with it, or you could consider the CloudStor Solo. 

You can think of the CloudStor Solo (and its dual drive siblings) as a hybrid – it combines the flexibility of Pogoplug’s cloud system with the features of a standard NAS.  Buffalo has positioned the CloudStors as primarily cloud devices.  But they have also included a number of “value adds” to differentiate themselves from a “cloud only” solution. 

In addition to the Pogoplug-powered cloud features, the CloudStor Solo provides full SMB support for local LAN access.  You can create local users and additional shared folders.  For each shared folder you can decide if it’s going to be published as part of the cloud or whether to make it a Time Machine backup target or a BitTorrent target.  BitTorrent fans will appreciate that the built-in client is based on the latest uTorrent stack and has RSS feed capability.

The Solo is not without its downsides, however.  It lacks a USB port for either storage expansion or printer sharing.  And, as a single drive device, it’s not fault tolerant.  If you were buying the CloudStor Solo strictly as a NAS for local network storage, the relatively poor performance could be a problem, depending on how you use the device.  But as a device that you would use for local backups for a home network as well as your own personal cloud device for remote access, the performance for many will be more than adequate.

If you've decided to buy, the current pricing makes for some interesting purchasing decisions.  The 1 TB CloudStor Solo is currently available on Amazon for $160 with the 2 TB version costing only $33 more. However, the CloudStor Two-Bay device (CS-WX2.0/1D ) with a single 2 TB drive is available right now for only $135.99!

If you need 2TB of storage, you’d be crazy not to purchase the CS-WX2.0/1D rather than the 2TB Solo.  You get the added advantage of a USB 2.0 port for printer sharing or additional storage.  And, with the single-drive 2 TB version, you have an empty drive bay that you could use for additional storage or configure for RAID 1 fault tolerance. 

Bottom line: I like the platform and features, but I wish the performance were better.  For me, the single disk 2-Bay CloudStor is the sweet spot.  It has the additional NAS features I want (expandability, printer sharing and fault tolerance) and offers a good value and good cloud experience. The only question is whether the latest firmware fixes its horrible read performance.

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