Seagate Personal CloudReviewed by Ronald EpsteinMarch 2015 There are clouds everywhere you look. Tech-Savvy people are uploading and keeping their valuable information on a multitude of online services like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and Google Drive. All these services offer free limited storage with options of expanded storage for a monthly fee. For the most part, these services are generally secure, though there are always chances that your data could be lost or compromised. What if you had the opportunity to have your own secured server right in your very home that could be accessed from just about anywhere? That is the promise of Seagate's newest product, Personal Cloud Home Media Storage. Once connected to your home router, you simply connect with your home PC (Mac or Windows), upload your valuable photos, videos, documents and music to your personal cloud, and have it instantly accessible on every computer, tablet and smartphone you own, wherever you may be. Additionally, Seagate advertises that you can view all this content via streaming to your SmartTV. (Click on photo for larger image) Out of the box, Seagate provides everything you need for immediate hook-up including ethernet cable that gets connected to your wiring. Please forgive the pet hair that accumulated on the Seagate device in the photo. Those are not scratches. The device arrived in perfect condition, but its glossy finish does show fingerprint and dust accumulation. Product dimensions: 4.7 x 9.2 x 1.9 inches; 2.5 pounds (Click on photo for larger image) (Click on photo for larger image) Seagate makes installation an absolute breeze. In fact, out of box, I had it set up in under 8 minutes. I simply plugged the media storage unit into the wall, and then using the supplied ethernet cable, made a connection to my home router, a few feet away. Seagate provides excellent instructions for connection your Mac or Windows PC. Essentially, for my Mac, once the unit was connected to my router, I could see a personal server icon in my finder window. Once clicking on that icon, I was able to begin the initial setup by further clicking on the URL icon file. (Click on photo for larger image) This would be a good time to talk about the different personal cloud storage models that Seagate makes available. There are three single bay units in 3TB, 4TB and 5TB sizes. These are for budget-minded individuals that just want maximum storage space. The more expensive 2-Bay models come in 4TB, 6TB and 8TB sizes. These allow you to split the maximum storage size in half so that anything you upload is automatically copied to another bay. This gives you the most protection for your data as if one hard drive ever fails, your secondary has a copy. The photo above illustrates my 2-bay 8TB model. I have the option of having 8TB of data available to me. However, I chose to use a RAID setup where all my data would be dispersed across two 4TB drives for maximum protection. (Click on photo for larger image) (Click on photo for larger image) Uploading your files to your personal server couldn't be more simple. You can see that Seagate created a PUBLIC and PRIVATE folder for my data. Anything placed in the public folder can be accessed remotely by yourself or anyone you give permission to access it. The PRIVATE folder is securely kept on your computer and cannot be accessed from your remote devices. You can set this personal cloud storage device to perform automatic Time Machine (Mac) or Windows backups, if you choose to do so. I have not actually tried to restore my Mac from Time Machine backups, but I am concerned about reviews currently on Amazon that say it does not work as it should through this device. I should also note that the Seagate Personal Cloud unit has two USB ports (USB 2.0 and 3.0) for attaching and backing up an existing external drive you may already own. Through the Device Manager you can also configure your personal server to automatically back up its data to popular online cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. (Click on photos for larger image) Download the free SeagateMedia app for your mobile device and you have complete access to all the files in your PUBLIC folder (but not your PRIVATE folder). This means you can access photos and documents as well as stream your music and videos directly from your server no matter where you are. While access speed to various media was faster on a WiFi network (whether my own or another), I was able to successfully stream video while on my AT&T LTE cellular network. A great feature of the SeagateMedia app (at least as tested on iOS devices) is that you can automatically set it up to immediately upload any photo or video that you take with your iPhone or iPad. This means that the moment you capture your precious event, it's available on your personal server. Photos and videos that were previously uploaded to my iOS devices prior to installing the Seagate Personal Cloud were instantly uploaded to the server and available for viewing. The SeagateMedia app is available for iOS, Android and Windows phone. Note that for computer to computer access to your personal cloud, you need to be on the same WiFi network. I could not access my Seagate device on my laptop once I left my home WiFi network. It would be nice to see Seagate provide an access app for the desktop at some future point. (Click on photos for larger image) While the SeagateMedia app does an admirable job of allowing you to access your files, it seems ill-conceived and unusually bloated, for which I question what Seagate was thinking of in the first place. The app comes preloaded with thumbnails filled with videos of sharks, kittens, architecture and more. It has absolutely nothing to do with your personal files and it serves, at least for me, to make it more difficult to find your content. When you do finally get to the meat of the application, you'll find that your videos, pictures and music are somewhat neatly organized. (Click on photo for larger image) Both Chromecast and Roku offer the SeagateMedia app so that you can essentially stream your content to your display. I tested out the app on Roku and was very disappointed with the results. While I was able to access and view photos and videos that resided on my iOS device, I was not able to access any content uploaded to my Seagate Personal Cloud. At the time of posting this review, Seagate tech support was unable to figure out the problem. As with the iOS version, the Roku SeagateMedia app seemed half-baked, and browsing through folders and having to deal with the bloated content seems like a rather unimaginative experience. (Click on photo for larger image) Final Thoughts Though not as all-around refined as I had hoped, at its core, the Seagate Personal Cloud ideally serves its purpose as a storage device that can be accessed most anywhere. You can use it with software (such as Time Machine on the Mac) to regularly backup and restore your computer. You can access all your files while on the road through the SeagateMedia application. Owning one of these devices eliminates the need to pay high monthly costs for online storage systems. PROS * Simple and quick installation to your PC. Plug it in and configure in mere minutes* Access to all your documents, files, music and videos from any computer on your home WiFi Network* Access to all your documents, files, music and videos on your iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices as well as Roku and Chromecast. Works over WiFI or Cellular connection via SeagateMedia app.* Very effective for computer backups such as Time Machine on Mac or similar software on Windows operating system. Be aware that there are concerns expressed on Amazon reviews that Time Machine restore does not work as it should through this device.* 2-Bay models have mirrored raid connection for extra protection of your most valuable data* Set up Seagate Personal Cloud to automatically sync data with Dropbox, Google Drive and other popular online cloud services CONS * Mobile app is bloated with preinstalled videos. Finding your content can be cumbersome. Seems like not much thought was put into providing a simpler, more enriched mobile experience * Could not access personal content through SeagateMedia application on Roku device despite several attempts to work out bugs with Seagate support Overall, I'm not overly blown away by this cloud server and its remote access, but I am somewhat satisfied with the limited things I have been able to do with my Seagate Personal Cloud. This is definitely a product that could use further refinement, and one hopes that Seagate will put that effort forward. Until then, it simply serves its most basic purpose.