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Fusion lets user share digital world

By Larry Magid

Special to the Mercury News

November 27, 2006

If you work for a big company, chances are there is a computer server somewhere that lets you share files with colleagues and, perhaps, gives you remote access through a virtual private network. With Maxtor Solutions’ Fusion (maxtorsolutions.com) you can do the same for your home network.

Fusion is a network storage device, measuring 5.4-by-3.9-by-8.5 inches, that you plug into an Ethernet port on your broadband router. Once installed and configured, any PC or Mac on your network can store or access files on the device. Because it’s using Ethernet, access isn’t quite as fast as an external USB drive, but it’s not too sluggish, either.

In addition, the Fusion’s software allows you to create an Internet address for the device so that family members or others can access some or all files via a Web browser. This could be used to give you access to files while you’re on the road, but it can also be used to share your photos, documents, video or music with friends or family. It’s also possible to add files from a remote computer, which could be used to back up important files while you’re traveling.

The device’s software allows you to access files through a Web interface, but with a little bit of configuring you can also mount it as a virtual drive on any of your PCs or Macs.

I’ve set it up as the “X” drive on three Windows machines on my home network, and have used both Windows Explorer and third-party backup software to copy files from each machine to a directory on the Fusion’s drive. That way, I can access those files from other machines or if one of my PC’s hard disks were to fail, I’d have a backup. For even more security, the Fusion has a USB port that lets you back it up to other external hard drives.

With a street price starting at about $650, the Fusion is pretty expensive, and there are cheaper alternatives, including non-networked external drives that can be shared over a network.

One advantage to the Fusion, however, is that it’s not dependent on a host PC so you don’t have to keep a PC running 24/7 to provide remote access to the device.

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