Spark Blog Notes from the Spark Team

January 3, 2013

How to Make Your Own Cloud

Cloud services, offering storage that’s always accessible via the Web, can give you anywhere, anytime access to your digital stuff. There’s a ton of free services that offer about 5GB of free cloud storage, including Dropbox, iCloud, Skydrive, and Google Drive.

But if you’re a true digariti, 5 GB is chump change. You need much more storage – but to get it, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.

Or you could create your own cloud-like service.  Here are two simple ways to do it using your home’s wireless router:

1. Connect a USB storage drive to your router

First, check to see if you if your router has USB ports. If so, you can connect a USB external storage drive to it. Then, map to the drive to your home computers. 

Cisco/Linksys’s Web site has a good explanation of how to do this on both Mac and Windows systems. It takes a little bit of technical know-how, but it’s not too tough if you have your router’s manual handy.

Keep in mind that this is not a true cloud solution.  Your files are stored on a drive that can only be accessed via your home’s Wi-Fi network, not on the Internet. But it does allow you to easily view files on all your devices at home.

2. Set up a network attached storage drive for “anywhere” access

If you have an external storage drive with an Ethernet port, you can connect it to your router and access files from anywhere. This kind of set-up is called “network-attached storage” (NAS).

Most NAS drive makers, including Western Digital, have utility software for setting up your drive for remote access. Once you complete the setup process, you’ll be able to access files via an FTP server, Web browser or even a mobile app (for iOS, Android or Windows phones). Many also have advanced user management features, such as creating separate accounts with privilege levels (such as limiting which folders can be viewed).

Setting up a NAS drive can require more set-up and management time than a simpler USB storage unit. But it can be incredibly handy. I recently help a friend set up her 3TB Western Digital My Book Live, and she already couldn’t imagine life without it.

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