Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

Belkin Network USB hub – Hardware Review

We are nursing a tired old desktop that is due for replacement. The problem is that backups have become a pain due to only having USB 1.0. I know we can slap in a USB 2.0 card but I prefer not to disturb the system unless absolutely necessary.

We found a Belkin Network USB Hub for about a hundred bucks at Staples. The device plugs into your ethernet network and allows you to share USB devices including printers, scanners and drives. It won’t do some high speed devices such as certain webcams.

Once you install it, you need to install the software on each machine you want to have accessing the USB devices. We tried several times to install the version 1.5 software and it kept hanging. We found the 1.4 version on the Belkin support site and that installed fine on our XP Home machine.

We plugged in our MYBook 500 USB hard drive and it connected easily. The advantage of this lashup is that USB 1.x supposedly maxes at about 12mbs. Theoretically, USB 2.x is somewhere around 450mbs but the wired network is limited to 100mbs. Either way, it should be faster than USB 1.1.

Another point to consider when putting hard drives on the network USB hub is that it appears that you only one machine can ‘own’ the drive at one time. In other words, if my desktop is connected to the drive, then you cannot connect simultaneously with your laptop. You could get around this by sharing the drive from the desktop. (We haven’t tested this yet). The problem is that you would end up chewing up some of your network bandwidth that way for larger files.

It does look handy for sharing things such as a photo printer where only one machine at a time is accessing the printer. It can also be useful in helping to physically organize your devices in your office. If you want more flexibility in data storage, then you might want to look into one of the network addressable storage options. There are some boxes you can put on the network that will allow you attach one or two hard drives to the device and make them available as network drives.

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