Review of the Seagate Personal Cloud (3TB) at Computer ShopperIf you’ve been in the information technology (IT) business as long as we have, we’re sure that you marvel at the evolution of its terminology the same way we do. Take, for example, the term “cloud,” which emerged in the 1990s as an abstraction for the complicated inner workings of the telephone company, and later to represent the massive infrastructure of the Internet. The term was used by IT people to symbolize the too-complicated-to-explain conglomeration of servers, routers, switches, and data lines. The cloud was a mysterious entity out there where intricate and wondrous things took place.

So how, then, did we get from that vast abstraction to everyday network attached storage (NAS) appliances being called “clouds,” like the $169.99-MSRP Seagate Personal Cloud 3TB we’re reviewing here today? Or, more simply: How did a humble data-storage device, sitting beside you on your desk, get associated with a term of such immense reach?

In short: The term keeps morphing and evolving. After all, Seagate is not the only drive manufacturer to use this “cloud” conceit in naming its personal storage devices. Western Digital (WD) offers multiple versions of its My Cloud NAS product, networking veteran ZyXel offers a Personal Cloud line of NAS drives, and Seagate sub-brand LaCie makes the CloudBox. The term “cloud” evolved from referring to the Internet’s massive wide area network (WAN) to refer more specifically to the storage repositories on the Internet—such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive—where many of us save or back up our data these days. Before long, concerns arose about entrusting your only copy of key data to these offsite services. And so, with some brilliant marketing judo, storage-device makers adopted the term for storage appliances that let you keep a copy of your data in-house while making it accessible to the wider Net. And just like that, the enormous, intricate, and highly complex has been reduced to a data-storage gadget residing in our homes and offices.

Which brings us back to the Seagate Personal Cloud. What we have here is a one-hard-drive version of the Personal Cloud 2-Bay we reviewed back in 2015. In addition to this 3-terabyte version we received for review, Seagate offers 4TB ($219.99 MSRP) and 5TB ($239.99 MSRP) alternates.

The primary advantage of the Personal Cloud and NAS drives like it, compared to online cloud sites, is that with your own NAS drive, you pay a one-time charge for your data storage—the cost of the drive—and can add as many users as you want. In contrast, Dropbox charges $12.50 per month to rent 2TB of online storage, and if you need an account that supports multiple users, that goes up to $20 per user. It doesn’t take long, then, to burn up the cost of a small NAS like this in cloud-storage fees.

Seagate Personal Cloud (3TB) (Left Angled)

The primary disadvantage of the Personal Cloud and its competitors is that if anything happens to the NAS device—fire, theft, and the like—you’ll lose your data. Another disadvantage, of this Personal Cloud drive in particular, is that it contains just one hard drive mechanism, as opposed to higher-end NAS appliances that house at least two (and some of them, four or more). Multi-drive NAS devices let you configure their internal drives in redundant arrays designed to protect your data should any of the drives in the array fail. A shortcoming, then, of the Personal Cloud and others that contain just one drive is that if the drive inside fails, so goes your data, unless you have backed it up somewhere else (such as, say, a cloud site) or what’s on it is just a second copy.

That said, the Seagate Personal Cloud is easy to set up and use, and it comes with handy apps and services for backing up the PCs on your network and other routine tasks. Also included are a few feature-rich and adroit media-streaming servers. In testing, it was speedy enough, and it has a USB 3.0 port for adding supplemental external USB storage to the Personal Cloud, or for backing up USB external drives and thumb drives. And given that the street price is under $150 at this writing, the value proposition for a 3TB drive paired with all these extras is hard to beat.

For what it is, we like the Personal Cloud as a personal backup and media-streaming device, as long as you don’t rely on it alone for storing your only copies of critical data. For that kind of storage, this drive needs a backup plan itself.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper