GCN LAB REVIEWS
Got old hard drives? Turn them into cloud servers.
- By Greg Crowe
- Jun 28, 2012
When an old system is replaced in the office, usually one of two things happens to it. The IT guys might keep it around as a spare unit, or they will cannibalize it for certain components before giving it the final send off.
Since many computer technologies have changed within the last five years, most components are not worth keeping from much older systems. However, hard drives, while getting more capacious and faster, have used the same interface for about eight years now. The industry sticking with Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) for this long means that you are more likely to find use for the hard drive from an old system than any other type of component.
Of course, since new systems already come with hard drives, the IT storage room tends to fill up with the old ones. These SATA drives technically are usable, so most IT people are loathe to simply throw them away. But it would be nice to find a use for one or two of them, say, as a cloud server, for instance.
Akitio Cloud Hybrid
Pros: Can access from anywhere, use any drive.
Cons: Tools required for setup, interface less than intuitive.
Ease of Use: B+
The Cloud Hybrid from Akitio might help some of those cast-aside drives to find a new purpose. It is a drive enclosure that measures 8.25 inches by 5.5 inches by 2.25 inches. It houses one SATA (that is SATA-I, SATA-II and SATA-III if you prefer those designations) hard drive and its connections allow that drive to be accessed over a network or the Internet.
We found the set up of the Hybrid to be easy enough to accomplish, though we were a bit surprised that we needed a screwdriver to accomplish that. Perhaps we are spoiled by the computer industry having gone with tool-less entry in so many areas, one of them being inserting a drive into a bay. However, since the Hybrid is portable, and the stand lets it sit on its side, we suppose erring on the side of securing the drive to the frame is probably wise.
Once we plugged a drive in and screwed it down, we then connected the gigabit Ethernet port to a nearby switch and went to http://myakitio.com/ to continue setup. There is nothing better to drive home the point that this drive is now a server with cloud capabilities than to go to a website to manage it rather than a direct connection. We entered the MAC address of our Hybrid (found on the sticker with the serial number) and the login portal had no trouble finding it. If we had trouble, though, we could always have entered the MAC address as local into the browser. Either method gets us to the same admin screen.
At this point we needed to reformat the drive for use with the Hybrid. This was when we found that the admin interface is not the most intuitive. For example, to format the drive we clicked on settings, as expected, and entered the admin login. But then we had to go to the “Maintain” submenu and the “Disk” tab of that submenu before we could click on the “Format” button. We felt there simply should be a more intuitive way to organize all these settings.
Once the formatting was complete, we needed to decide on what uses the drive could be put to. We could simply use it as a file share by assigning drive letters to either its internal or external IP number. The Hybrid also has the capability to serve files using the Server Messaging Block (SMB), File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) methods. It also had the capability to serve media under Bit Torrent or Universal Plug and Play Audio and Video (UPnP AV) protocols.
We were pleased to see that it supports Point to Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE) for more secure data transfers. It even had Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) capability, though we imagine this will be turned off in most cases as not to interfere with the networks existing DHCP server.
What impressed us the most about the Akitio Cloud Hybrid was the price. We felt that $99 was a good price to pay to make use of an old hard drive that was otherwise just gathering dust.