by Jerry Jackson
The Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet is an affordable network storage solution that doubles as a standard USB external storage drive. This hard drive is designed for anyone who needs an independent network storage drive that can be shared by multiple computers but also wants that drive to work like a simple external hard drive at the touch of a button. Is the DriveStation FlexNet the next greatest thing in file storage? We decided to take a closer look.
The technical specifications for the Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet are as follows:
Internal Hard Drive: One SATA
USB Port: One USB 2.0
LAN Port: One RJ45 10/100Mbps
Dimensions: 6.15″ (D) x 6.89″ (H) x 1.78″ (W)
Weight: 2.5 lbs.
Power Consumption: 17W average
Power Supply: AC100-240V 50/60Hz
Build and Design
The DriveStation FlexNet is a simple-looking black plastic enclosure that contains a standard SATA desktop hard drive designed to connect to your computer either as “Direct Attached USB Storage” (meaning you connect the DriveStation FlexNet to your computer via a USB cable) or as “Network Attached Storage” (meaning you connect the DriveStation FlexNet to your network router via Ethernet cable).
The enclosure is all black and has a very simple design with the Buffalo logo on both sides. The top, bottom and back of the dual hard drive enclosure has vents to keep the drive from overheating. Also, on the front there is small Function button.
The back of the enclosure has a USB connection, power button, DC plug, LAN plug and reset button along with the vent. There is one security lock slot on the bottom of the enclosure; an odd location since you would need to leave the enclosure turned over on its side in order to connect a security cable to the lock slot.
Like most consumer-grade Network Attached Storage (NAS) enclosures from Buffalo, the DriveStation FlexNet makes it difficult to access the drive inside the enclosure. In fact you would need to break the enclosure to get inside, therefore voiding the warranty.
The main feature of the DriveStation FlexNet is that this external drive works as either a standard USB external drive or as a NAS at the touch of a button. The drive comes pre-formatted for immediate use, so this is literally “plug-and-play” storage. There is no additional software to be added in order to manage the hard drive. The FlexNet’s main NAS configurations are all accessed through a web browser by simply typing in the IP address.
Through web access, users can view all the shared content, add users/groups, manage network settings, perform disk backup, etc. from anywhere on either a MAC or PC computer. The FlexNet also features SecureLockMobile software (Windows only) that encrypts your data to prevent unauthorized access. The drive also comes pre-installed with Memeo AutoBackup software (also Windows only) that allows for quick backup of your files.
Performance and Benchmarks
Our review unit of the DriveStation FlexNet is the 500GB version ($149.99). The DriveStation FlexNet is rated at a theoretical maximum of 100Mb (megabits) transfer rate via Ethernet which equates to 12.5MB (megabytes) per second.
Atto is one of the standard synthetic benchmarks we use to test the performance of a storage drive. Below you can see the average read and write times for the DriveStation FlexNet over both LAN and USB compared to a desktop running as a networked drive.
Standard network share over 1Gb network:
The DriveStation FlexNet over 10/100Mb network using Standard packets:
The DriveStation FlexNet over USB:
In short, the main thing these benchmarks indicate is that the Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet doesn’t have the raw processor power of a server or desktop with a networked drive and standard 10/100 Ethernet is just plain slow.
Of course, if you’re using a desktop computer as your network drive then that desktop (and the system resources) are being shared with multiple users and the desktop being used becomes slower as a result. The DriveStation FlexNet solves this problem by giving you a completely independent network storage solution … at the expense of read/write speeds.
Heat and Noise
The DriveStation FlexNet runs in near perfect silence even when transferring files since it has no fan but can reach temperatures in the range of 110 degrees Fahrenheit as a consequence. Temperatures like these are in-line with most consumer NAS enclosures, and although these temperatures may present problems for long-term stability of the storage drive the DriveStation FlexNet performed as expected during the review period.
After everything is said and done the Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet is essentially a standard USB external hard drive that also doubles as a low-cost Network Attached Storage solution. Its easy setup and one-touch switching between USB and LAN make it the perfect choice for families and small businesses looking for a simple NAS enclosure on a tight budget. In truth, it’s the affordable price of the DriveStation FlexNet that makes it appealing.
Yes, like most low-cost NAS enclosures, the DriveStation FlexNet offers relatively slow transfer speeds. However, stand-alone network storage has never been the best solution for people looking for speed. This drive is designed for people who want to store their files in a secure drive that can be accessed via the web but also want the convenience of a regular USB external drive at the touch of a button.
Bottom line, if you don’t care about getting the fastest download speed possible then the DriveStation FlexNet is probably the best (and most affordable) stand-alone Network Attached Storage solution on the market.
- Easy to use, one-touch switching between USB and LAN
- Very quiet
- Affordable network storage solution
- Slow transfer rates for both LAN and USB
- No access to the drive inside the enclosure
Pricing and Availability
The Buffalo DriveStation FlexNet ($149.99 for 500GB, $219.99 for 1TB) is available for purchase on the Buffalo website or at many retail and online stores.