Western Digital: Network Storage Made Entertaining

I’ll admit it: I’ve always been intimidated by servers and network storage devices. But Western Digital’s (s WDC) recently revamped My Book World Edition network hard drive has changed that. I spent several days testing out this drive, and I’ve come to realize that not only is it incredibly simple to use, it’s actually fun, too. In fact, this drive has me wondering why I was ever intimidated in the first place.
A network hard drive — sometimes called a network-attached storage device, or NAS drive — sits on your network, rather than being connected to one specific computer. You can transfer files to it and access them from any computer on that network, much like you would with a file server in an office setting.

But the My Book World Edition is more than a place to store your important files and documents; it also provides a place to store the big, bulky video and multimedia files that may be clogging up your PC. And it allows you to play that content back on any of the computers on your network or — even better — on a TV that’s connected to the network via a digital media extender.

To set up the drive, you just connect it to your router via Ethernet and plug in the power cord. Western Digital includes software, called WD Discovery, which you install on any computer — Windows or Mac — that you’d like to use to access the drive. You run the app, and it finds and maps the drive automatically. Then, you can simply drag and drop files of any kind to the drive. You can also schedule regular backups to protect your data.

Once the files are on the My Book World Edition, you can access them and play them back from any other computer on your network, as long as you have the necessary software installed. I tested it with a variety of files, including songs and TV shows purchased from iTunes, videos captured with my camcorder, and songs ripped from CDs. All of them — even the DRM-protected iTunes content — played back on my other computers without a hitch.

Western Digital’s drive is a convenient way to access the multimedia files you want, no matter which computer you’re using. It gets even more convenient if you have a digital media extender, like SageTV’s HD Theater, connected to your home network. And if the media extender is DLNA certified, it will be able to locate and play back files on your TV. I tested this capability with Netgear’s Digital Entertainer Elite, and was impressed with how seamlessly I was able to browse to and play back the files stored on the My Book World Edition on my TV.

My Book World Edition is available in 1- ($230) and 2-terabyte ($450) versions; both offer plenty of storage for your biggest files. But if what you really want to do is watch your media content on your TV, this is not the most cost-effective solution. A media extender will run you at least $200, or more, so if you don’t need the extra storage space a NAS drive provides, you may not want to spend the extra dough. And if you do need the space, a portable drive, like Iogear’s Portable Media Player, is an alternative that can connect directly to your TV. But if you’re looking for a way to transfer your media content between multiple computers, My Book World Edition can handle the challenge–and even allow you to have a little fun while you’re doing it.