by Jerry Jackson
Network drives or "cloud storage" have become extremely popular with laptop users who need to access huge amounts of data but might not have enough storage space inside their notebook or netbook hard drive. We've reviewed many Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, but what if you don't have the budget (or the technical skills) needed to purchase and setup a home or small business network drive? ZumoDrive comes to the rescue with what they call "Hybrid Cloud" storage that promises to deliver high speed network storage without the expense or headaches of setting up your own network drive.
We live in a mobile world where many people use laptops and smartphones to stay connected to their friends, family, and coworkers. But what happens if you're on the road and don't have access to files stored at the office or on your family desktop? Even in our own homes many families use multiple computers but have important files (like family photos, music, or financial records) stored on only one computer.
Wouldn't it be great if you could access all your data from any computer or iPhone with an internet connection? That's exactly what the creators of ZumoDrive were thinking. ZumoDrive is a simple application that you can install on any computer (Windows or Mac OS X) or iPhone that allows you to access all of your important files as if they were stored on your computer.
Installation and Use
How does this work? Well, simply install the application from the ZumoDrive website, then follow the on-screen instructions to setup an account. You can start with a free 1GB storage account or purchase storage plans ranging in price from $2.99 per month to $79.99 per month. Once you setup ZumoDrive on your computer it shows up like a regular hard drive or USB drive on your computer.
This is the real beauty of ZumoDrive. Unlike other network storage solutions that require a constant internet connection in order to access your files, ZumoDrive works almost exactly like a regular hard drive. The secret to this "Hybrid Cloud" storage is that ZumoDrive creates a cache file on your computer's hard drive and tricks your computer into thinking it's a regular hard drive. This cache file is automatically synchronized with the network storage whenever you are connected to the internet.
You can use the default settings that ZumoDrive creates or you can increase the cache size to fill up your entire hard drive. The cache consists of all the frequently used or recently used files that you've stored on the ZumoDrive. This allows you to keep working on important files while you're on an airplane without a network connection. As soon as your flight lands and you connect to the internet the cache file automatically updates the copy of the file on the network so any computer with access to the ZumoDrive can see the changes you made.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that the backup and synchronizing of files is entirely automatic. You never need to wory about updating files manually as long as they are being stored on the ZumoDrive. On the same note, if your laptop is stolen all you have to do is install ZumoDrive on another computer, type in your user name and password, and your files will be restored in minutes!
This is fantastic for netbook owners who have a small SSD but need to find a way to store and access large amounts of data. Your netbook SSD might only have a 4GB capacity, but ZumoDrive can be as large as 500GB!
The Hybrid Cloud storage is also great for sharing music while on the road because ZumoDrive makes your entire music library available across all your devices with "almost" no work required on your part. The cache on your computer keeps the songs you most recently listened to, and the rest of your music library is available via your internet connection. This is great for notebooks, netbooks or iPhones with small storage drives that can't hold an entire music library.
You might notice that I said "almost" no work when I talked about sharing music with ZumoDrive. During testing we discovered that in order to add new music files to ZumoDrive you must go through the entire import process again to update iTunes. This is a little frustrating if you're constantly adding songs to your library. Still, this is more an issue with iTunes software than ZumoDrive.
Performance and Benchmarks
OK. So the ZumoDrive sounds like a great network storage solution, but how does it perform? The answer: ZumoDrive is really quite speedy ... at least with frequently used files. The secret to ZumoDrive's performance comes from the "Hybrid Cloud" storage technology. Since ZumoDrive uses a cache of recently used files on your computer's hard drive it doesn't have to rely on your internet connection to access the files you frequently use. In other words, if you just need to work on a Word document or image file that you recently opened then ZumoDrive is extremely fast (because a copy of the file is already on your hard drive). When you save the file ZumoDrive will save a copy of the file to your computer's cache and a second copy on the network drive ... essentially automatically backing up your files.
Here are some benchmarks comparing the data transfer speed of the ZumoDrive to other network or local storage drives:
ZumoDrive (1GB account)
Western Digital My Book World Edition NAS
Western Digital My Passport Studio USB Hard Drive
Standard Network Share (1Gb network) Server Using Seagate 7200.11 1TB Drive
As you can see in the images above, the ZumoDrive benchmarks exceptionally well thanks to the use of local cache to store part (or in some cases all) of your recently used files on your computer's hard drive. Read speeds for the ZumoDrive actually exceed what we see from a server running a standard network share. Of course, when you have to access a file that isn't stored in your local cache the data transfer speed is limited to the speed of your network connection.
ZumoDrive for iPhones
Who cares if you only have an 8GB iPhone? With the "Supersize Me" ZumoDrive iPhone app on your iPhone, you get access to all your content. You can play your entire music library directly over the internet connection, open and edit your documents, and see all your photos without syncing. The creators of ZumoDrive promise it will soon be available for android and other mobile platforms, but for now the only smartphone supported is the iPhone.
At the end of the day ZumoDrive turns out to be a pretty impressive network storage solution. Although the performance of all network storage solutions is limited by the speed of your network connection, ZumoDrive "feels" as fast as a regular hard drive thanks to the use of cached files on your computer or iPhone. This makes the ZumoDrive extremely fast compared to a stand-alone NAS. That said, if you need to access a large file that hasn't been cached to your computer or iPhone then you will encounter the same network speed limitations as a regular network drive.
We like the fact that a 1GB ZumoDrive account is completely free and that a 10GB data plan is just $2.99 per month. This makes the ZumoDrive extremely attractive if you don't need massive amounts of storage or don't have the budget or technical knowledge to manage a network storage solution in your own home or office. However, the larger data plans such as the 500GB plan cost $79.99 per month, and at that price you could afford your own 1TB NAS in as little as three months. Honestly, you're better off buying your own NAS unit if you need that much storage.
Bottom line, if you don't need a huge amount of network storage but need to access important files from multiple computers then the ZumoDrive is a fantastic solution.
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