Phones

Cheap way to build your own personal cloud server

The Aztech PSD500 can turn your USB hard drive or flash drive into a personal cloud server.
The Aztech PSD500 can turn your USB hard drive or flash drive into a personal cloud server.PHOTO: AZTECH

The Aztech Personal Storage Dongle (PSD500) was designed with a specific purpose - it turns your USB hard drive or flash drive into a personal cloud server.

It looks like a giant flash drive, with an Ethernet port that connects to your home router for Internet connectivity.

At the other end is a USB 2.0 port for the USB storage drive. A microUSB port at the side of the dongle is used to power the device.

Once everything is hooked up, there is a fair amount of cable clutter. But the upside is that the dongle is highly portable because of its small size.

Because the dongle is attached to your router and your USB storage drive, you are able to access the storage drive on your home network. More importantly, you can also access the storage drive outside your home via the Internet.

In other words, the Aztech dongle has created a personal cloud server.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $99

    INTERFACES: 10/100 Ethernet port, USB 2.0, micro-USB

    WEIGHT: 33g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Or, as I would call it, a budget network-attached storage (NAS).

However, the dongle comes with a few caveats. Firstly, it seems to work only with mobile devices via the Aztech Storage app (available for iOS and Android). On a PC, I was unable to detect the USB storage drive that was connected to the dongle on my home network.

Aztech says up to eight users can connect to the dongle at the same time with their mobile device, though I did not test it.

The dongle has no built-in storage or even a microSD card slot, which means you will need a USB storage drive (up to 2TB storage capacity). There is also no Wi-Fi support.

On the other hand, setting up the dongle with the Aztech app is simple - scan a QR code and enter a default password.

Once this is done, you can execute basic file commands, such as move, copy and rename. You can also upload or download files from your mobile device.

Streaming videos to my mobile device was smooth. But if the video is incompatible with your mobile device's video app, the dongle is unable to transcode the video to a compatible format, unlike most NAS devices.

For those with certain Aztech home IP cameras, the PSD500 makes sense. Once you set it up, the camera can upload its recordings to the dongle's attached USB storage drive instead of the camera's microSD card. This is useful because the dongle allows for larger storage capacity, compared with a microSD card.

Personally, I feel a proper NAS makes more sense than this dongle. While an NAS takes up more physical space, it supports larger hard drives, works with all devices and has more features.

They are not much more expensive, too. For instance, the Synology DS216j costs $250 without any drives, compared with $99 for the Aztech dongle.

Vincent Chang

•While the Aztech dongle has its uses, especially for those with an Aztech home camera, its limitations make it less than ideal for general users.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2016, with the headline 'Cheap way to build your own personal cloud server'. Print Edition | Subscribe