Update 20/07/2015: For quite some time now, the app has become unusable under Android Lollipop (it still works fine under iOS 8). When launched in Android, the app force-quits immediately. The fix to the problem is to uninstall and re-install the app – though this is pretty annoying. Given that Lollipop was released almost a year ago, it’s pretty disgraceful that DLink haven’t resolved the issue.
I recently looked into taking my old NAS (network-attached storage) drive out of retirement by looking into whether it would be possible to upgrade its hard drive to a newer high-capacity version. I had read that the firmware for the device was stored on the NAS itself, as opposed to the drive, and that it should be possible. Having just about managed to get into it though (which proved to be a difficult task in itself), I discovered the drive used an IDE interface. Whilst it is possible to get little converters, I was not convinced that it would all fit back in, nor was I particularly satisfied that it would just work. Having had an (originally) expensive device become obsolete in this manner, I decided that the next NAS that I would purchase would be an enclosure rather than contain a drive (it helps that I have a 2TB 3.5″ SATA drive sitting around).
The results of my initial hunt led me to the D-Link ShareCenter Pulse – a 2-bay NAS enclosure, and one of the cheapest presently on the market (around £50 at the time of writing). On the Amazon page for that device, though, I noticed a link to a newer model, which when I looked at it presented a single additional feature which convinced me to buy it instead: the ability to access files externally using an Android (or iOS) app. This feature is referred to on the Amazon website (and on D-Links own site) as the mydlink Cloud Services. The service is advertised as follows:
View photos and stream music and videos from your iPhone, iPad and Android. Download files from your storage device from wherever you are to view later. Upload music, movies and photos to your ShareCenter and back them up, so you never lose any previous files or run out of space on your Smartphone or tablet!
This feature really appealed to me as there have been multiple occasions when I have wanted a file which would have been on a home system but unavailable wherever I was. It does of course mean leaving the device turned on a lot of the time. D-Link ensure that the drives are turned off as necessary in order to conserve power and prolong the life of the hard drives within. The drive I have installed is a WD Caviar Green 2TB SATA – a drive specifically intended to reduce power consumption.
The installation of the HDD was very simple. The only tool required is a screwdriver so that the pull-handles can be attached. These are rubber handles which will be used should you ever need to remove the drive from the ShareCenter. Other than that, installing the drive involves slotting it into place (ensuring the top of the drive points towards the centre of the NAS). It is necessary to push quite hard to get the drive installed – harder than I was comfortable pushing – but the drive eventually clicks into place, and remains there very securely.
The setup process is designed to be very simple, with a step-by-step application provided on a CD to get you on your way. In the first instance, you are guided through the steps to ensure your drive is connected to the network and turned on. Once you have gone through this process, you are able to pick the drive from a (potential) list of available NAS boxes. On picking your NAS, you are asked if the light on it is blinking, thus confirming that you have selected the correct one. Once you have the correct one selected, you can proceed through the setup process. There are various steps, including (but not limited to):
Supposedly (according to D-Link), it should be possible to skip the formatting step but this was not my experience. Every time I ran the setup tool, I had to format the disk (which took quite a lot of time). I initially tried to run the setup tool under Windows XP running under VirtualBox (with Ubuntu 12.04 as the host OS). On every occasion, I never got to the part where I was able to set up the mydlink account. I have no idea why – there weren’t any errors – the setup process completed seemingly successfully. This was a cause of great frustration.
Setting up the dynamic DNS service was relatively painless. During the setup process, the application stated that port 80 should be open on the router. I was not sure whether this meant port forwarding. I don’t think the instructions were particularly clear. So far things seem to be working.
Access to the device from Android is provided through an app. Searching for ‘mydlink’ on the Google Play store returns a plethora of available apps, including one whose icon is identical to the cloud services icon shown above. Whilst it may seem that this is the correct application to use, it is in fact incorrect. As is the ‘mydlink lite’ app. The correct application to use is in fact mydlink Access-NAS. If you see an application asking you to enter a server address (e.g. http://account.mydlinkcloud.com/) then you have downloaded the wrong app.
With the correct application, access to the NAS file system is easily achievable.
The Google Play store listing for the access NAS app lists the following as a feature of the app:
I have not yet found a way to download content to my phone or tablet. Update 07/08/2013: it seems as though the application has had support for downloads added now. Access to the the menu which provides download access is achieved using the context menu on an Android phone or tablet. From within that menu, you can select an action, causing the menu to disappear. If, for example, you selected to download something, you would then be able to select a number of files in the main app, and then press the context menu again and press ‘Download’ again to start the download process.
The whole process of using this drive from start to completion has been a real hassle from a user perspective. There are many aspects (perhaps the more advanced options) which make it confusing and counter-intuitive.
The Android app offers the same unintutive method of uploading files to the NAS drive – the context menu has to be loaded, the “Upload” button pressed, the files to upload selected, and the context menu selected again to choose to upload the file(s). Once you have completed this process, you will be asked where you want to put the files on the NAS. You’ll even be able to create new folders. Upon selecting a folder, he progress of each file’s upload will be shown in the “Task List” tab.
If you are thinking of leaving the drive running, then it may be worth considering scheduling the device to turn off and back on at certain times.
This is of course, not the only NAS drive available with this cloud feature. There are also products such as the Western Digital My Book Live, the Iomega Cloud NAS. Both of these, however, are not enclosures. They both contain drives already. Having been bitten by that situation previously, I was much happier with the idea of buying an empty NAS, which will hold two drives and which can be upgraded as I have need.