Tuesday, 23 April 2013 00:04

Review: Seagate Wireless Plus WiFi hard disk


When is a router not a router? When it’s actually a hard drive. Long established storage manufacturer Seagate has released its Wireless Plus portable WiFi hard drive bringing together storage, portability and WiFi sharing in one small unit.

The Wireless Plus provides 1Tb of storage with pre-created folders for music, video, documents and other generic media categories. A nice touch is a ‘Recent’ folder which contains smart links to files and folders which have been recently created or modified.

While, logically enough, the drive provides wireless access to its contents, it also provides a USB 3.0 removable SATA interface adapter and can work fine as a typical USB hard disk, or even an internally or externally connected SATA hard disk.

As a 1Tb hard drive, it performs as you would expect – copy files to it, copy files from it, store programs, documents and multimedia. This all works well and the USB 3.0 connectivity delivers a swift transfer rate.

Where the Seagate Wireless Plus stands out from a regular hard drive is its wireless mode, which is bolstered by an internal battery meaning the unit can operate without being plugged into a computer or to power. WiFi mode is turned on and off via a power button on the side of the drive.

Now, the Seagate Wireless Plus operated differently to what I had expected, that – like NAS boxes – it would connect to my existing WiFi network. Instead, the unit broadcasts its own WiFi network and you connect your computer or smartphone or tablet to that WiFi network instead of your regular one.

For iOS and Android devices Seagate provide a free Seagate Media app from the Apple app store and Google Play Store. There is no Windows Phone 8 equivalent at this time. This app will allow you to browse and control the Wireless Plus drive via WiFi, and copy photos and files between your smartphone and the drive.

The Seagate Media software also performs two vital functions, one being to connect the Wireless Plus drive to your Internet-connected WiFi network, and the second being to set a WiFi password on the SEAGATE WiFi network broadcasted by the drive, with the default being no password.

What this means is you can still use the Internet but you have the rather unusual situation where your computers and smartphones are connected to the Internet via a hard disk. Still, it works, and by password-protecting the drive’s WiFi network you can protect yourself from unfettered access by all and sundry – which exposes both your data as well as your Internet connection.

While your computer can use the drive as a USB device, as mentioned, the intention is the drive can be wirelessly shared among multiple devices. As such, it offers a built-in web server that allows Windows, MacOS and Linux computers alike to work with the drive, even though officially it only has Windows and MacOS support. Similarly, you can browse the device from your Windows Phone 8 smartphone even though there is no Seagate Media app for that platform.

It is also possible to connect the drive wirelessly as a drive letter or shared folder, providing more conventional drag-and-drop, or File/Save As usage.

For a frequent traveller the Seagate Wireless Plus offers a variety of valuable usage scenarios. For example, it allows photos to be backed up directly from a smartphone or tablet without the use of a computer.

Where I envision the Seagate Wireless Plus offering most value is in team collaboration activities or conferences where a team can all connect to the one unit and work on a project, even if no Internet connection is available, without needing to resort to swapping USB sticks. Another plausible scenario is in the delivery of presentations: connect the drive to one computer which in turn is connected to a projector. The team can upload presentations to the drive without interrupting the flow of the conference through copying files, unplugging and plugging in the projector, swapping laptops and other constant distractions that occur.

At the end of the day the Seagate Wireless Plus is, logically enough, more expensive than a conventional non-wireless portable hard drive but for your money you get freedom and far greater collaboration and backup options.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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