A LONG DRIVE

We had a lot of trouble getting the Hammer myshare hard drive going, but when we finally did it was quite a ride.

This drive has a terabyte of storage. That’s a thousand gigabytes, a whole lot of digital room. It’s new, but on searching the Web we found it sells for less than $500. That’s 50 cents a gigabyte, and it’s not even the best feature. The best feature is that the drive can be accessed from the Internet. No matter where you are, if you can get on the Web, you can use the drive. You can also use peripherals connected to the drive, like a printer or another drive.Experienced computer users will point out that you can already access a computer and its drive through the Internet if you use a program like LogMeIn (www.logmein.com). Yes, but unlike that or similar software, you can access this drive whether the computer is on or not. In fact, you might as well turn the computer off when you don’t need it and leave the drive on permanently, every day, round the clock. Also, unlike LogMeIn, which arranges for remote access through its Web site, there is no third party involved in accessing the Hammer myshare drive.

The trick is, unlike other storage devices, the myshare drive has its own IP address. IP stands for Internet Protocol, and everyone connected to the Web gets a number. So in practice, the drive is connected to a router, and that router is connected to the Internet, whether through a high-speed line or dial-up. You call the router, the router transfers the call to the big hard drive, and you’re in.

This raises all kinds of interesting possibilities. For one thing, since it’s a disk drive and not a computer, it can be accessed by any computer, no matter what the operating system, as long as it can log on to the Internet. If the drive is connected to a wireless router, anyone with a wireless-enabled laptop can access it, which would be useful for libraries and schools, we would think.

Once connected, information can be downloaded or uploaded, depending on permissions. The drive can be open or set with several levels of security and partitioned to allow access only to certain areas. Once you have a terabyte to work with, you can have many rooms in that digital mansion. Music- and movie-sharing sites will be quick to move in here.

Companies could use this drive for an always-on resource for data and message collection from far-flung offices. It seems a natural for government and organizations to have their information available round the clock. The cost is slight for what you get, and since the drives are SATA II-compatible (an agreed-on protocol for chaining or stacking disk drives), the storage can quickly be increased to levels hitherto available only to large corporations.

The case, which looks strong enough to withstand a bomb blast, is heavy and about the size of a school lunchbox. It contains two drives, and those can be two terabyte drives if you wish. Either one can be set to “mirror” the other. That means one of the drives will always have an exact copy of what’s on the other one.

We were impressed by the power, features and Internet connectivity for this device, but not so impressed by the “Quick Start” guide for setting up the system. The company says the myshare drive is for home and small business users. By home user, it must mean someone who lives with Bill Gates. The guide tells you how to set up the drive on your local machine, but neglects to mention how to set up remote access. We don’t think many people would realize that they need the answers to questions like, “Do you want to access the drive through the Internet using HTTP, HTTPS or FTP protocols?” or “Do you know your router’s IP address?” Other installation options were even less clear.

It took us three days to get help from the company’s tech support, but once we did, everything went all right. (By the way: You can find your IP address by going to whatismyipaddress.com. The tech support guy at Hammer Storage didn’t know that.) More info is available at hammer-storage.com.

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