Flatly saying that an external hard drive on a PC or laptop is a personal cloud is a bit of a bold statement, but that is exactly what Toshiba is telling the world with its latest 3.5 inch hard drive, the Store E Cloud.
After announcing internal 3.5 inch drives using technology acquired from Western Digital, Toshiba has quickly followed up with 2 TB and 3 TB external drives aimed at performing backups over an Ethernet network.
Of course, some in the industry might prefer to call this a NAS (network attached storage). At any rate, control software is installed on a home computer, and then all kinds of data, libraries of music, videos and pictures are backed up to the device automatically from connected Windows computers, Android devices and Apple iOS gadgets using Toshiba's Canvio software.
It can also stream movies to a smart TV. To be sure, just as similar products from Seagate and Western Digital, users can log into the software over the internet once the device is hooked up to a wireless router.
It's an internet-accessible external hard drive sharable between domestic smart systems. It's got some disadvantages, such as only having a single drive inside. The device doesn't even have space for two drives to provide protection against a disk failure.
And there's no automatic uplink to a real cloud storage service to provide that kind of protection either. The Store E Cloud only holds 3 TB - a handful of USB sticks will hold more and you can carry them in your pocket.
Toshiba is late to the domestic fat shared disk drive party, and this is its very first product. It has first-generation written all over it and for sure version 2 and 3 products will come out with multiple spindles, some kind of RAID protection, better backup features, and more connectivity options.
They might even head in a Drobo direction with multiple bays for users to populate. What's needed is a drive vendor-built home storage hub with decent compute power and functionality to protect and deliver data-- but simpler to run than a PC.
You want to plug it in, set it up and forget about it. That's the intent that Toshiba is mining with this product.
Even Apple sees a need for a separate system to link its Mac desktops and notebooks to the TV as well as providing shared external Time Machine backup systems.
Will home users want to keep a local copy of their files, bringing islands of content together as Toshiba puts it, instead of choosing to dump everything into an off-site cloud and stream stuff from it to their playing devices?
That is unknown, and Toshiba, like other home storage hub vendors, is betting that consumers' distrust of cloud storage service providers will predispose them to keep their data close by.
The Stor.E Cloud product will be available in October 2012. Can Toshiba develop its new product and catch up with Apple, Seagate and Western Digital?
Well we don't know yet, but expect this to develop fast, even if you think calling it a personal cloud is a bold marketing statement.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if this product takes off the ground, whether it's at home or in the business segment.