LaCie CloudBox review

Innovative hard disk and cloud-based backup and storage solution
Photo of LaCie CloudBox
£179

For those who bother to back up at all, the choices are simple – local backup to one or more hard drives which may then be physically removed from the premises for safe-keeping, or online, cloud-based storage.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both: local storage is likely to be much quicker but subject to theft or accident, remote storage is secure and managed, but slow as a cart-horse – at least initially. So what about an offering that combines both, backing up to a 100GB external drive, which then – in the background – quietly makes a backup of its own onto an online server? Meet CloudBox.

Local and cloud storage
Designed by LaCie favourite, Neil Poulton, CloudBox is a simple black box, slightly smaller than four CDs stacked on top of each other. You connect it via an Ethernet cable to your router, run the supplied software and then any machine on your wireless network can access its storage and backup features.

It sounds like a good choice, then, for a small home or office network where one person can set it up and everyone else can use it. You get a contract serial number with each unit, which entitles you to 12 months’ online backup – and having set yourself up as an administrator complete with password, you’re ready to go; and it works on Macs and PCs.

In practice, our model was a little troublesome to set up, requiring a number of resets, switching cables and connections (and a bit of RJ45 cleaning). Eventually we managed to set the disk up via a browser – but we never did get the LaCie ‘assistant’ software to work.

Add users, schedule backups
Installation issues having been resolved, CloudBox becomes a device on your wireless network. Double-click to open it and you’ll see a folder with your admin name into which you can copy files manually, or use as a target disk for the included software, which can handle up to 10
machines on the network, backing them up automatically. Alternatively, if you have a preferred backup program, you can use that instead.

The browser-based interface for managing the CloudBox looks OK, but doesn’t feel solid and the lack of conventional navigational tools – menus, dialogue boxes and so on – means you’ll have to spend a little time working out how to get things done. From here you can re-schedule your online backups (the default is once a day at 18.25) add new users from your network, set a limit to the space they can use for backups, diagnose problems and more.

CloudBox supports 128-bit AES encryption and LaCie claims that no one (apart from you) can access your information; once data has been copied to the drive, you can even switch the PC off and it’ll still back up to the online server – and send you a polite email when the job’s done. If disaster strikes you can either restore individual files or the entire online backup to the
computer or the CloudBox.

Low capacity
Our hiccupy installation experience aside, we did have a few other reservations about the CloudBox. The device can’t back up individual files larger than 8GB, which may be a deal-breaker for HD video fans – and it doesn’t like files or folders that include ‘/’ or ” in their names either.

Our biggest issue, though, was with the capacity of the drive (and equivalent cloud storage). In a world where even a cheap notebook PC comes with 250GB of storage, the best Cloudbox can currently offer is 100GB, which means you’ll need to cherry pick your important files and then  make your own arrangements for everything else.

Company: LaCie

Website: http://www.lacie.com/uk

Positives
  • Once set up, offers secure, automatic local and remote backups.
Negative
  • High price for the small capacity.

Verdict

We've always thought the cornerstones of successful backup are simplicity and security. Once it's up and running, Cloudbox delivers on both counts, allowing you to keep copies of your most important data both locally and in the cloud - automatically. However, by limiting the capacity to just 100GB, LaCie also limits the overall usefulness of the device; remember too that you'll have to factor in the ongoing annual cost of the cloud backup (around £85 a year) to an already relatively pricey product.