I thought I hit upon the perfect solution! The Belkin Network USB Hub pictured above. The device plugs into your network router or hub and provides 5 USB slots, two at the front, three at the back, of which you can use this to share Printers, External Hard Drives, or any USB device.
I plugged the box into the network, installed the drivers and was up and running in a relatively short time. However there are a few gotcha’s with the device…
The LAN speed supported is 100mbs, which is adequate for printing, but not good for drive access. USB Web cams are also very slow and jittery. To be fair the instructions do warn you of this.
The printer “Sharing” is basically you have exclusive access whilst printing before the device releases itself to be available to the next computer. Hard Drive sharing is non-existant, only allowing a single user at a time.
When installing a driver to our two MAC’s (A new Intel iMac running Leopard, and an old iBook G4 running Tiger) the drivers were two flaky causing both machines to lock up.
So I looked around and realised that you get what you pay for in life! I ended up buying an Apple
4) True File sharing support and True Printer Sharing Support
5) Guest Network support so friends and family can connect to the internet but not your home network!
In fact it’s hard to fault the device. Again within a couple of minutes installing the software on a PC and MAC the device was quickly recognised and configured in seconds.
I now have 2 x 1Tb hard drives and 3 printers all shared simultaneously across the network. No fuss, no faff, it just works! Best of all full speed access to the external hardrive is like being connected to a PC.
So if you are looking at truly sharing your devices on your home network with the kids, family or even a business then this device is for you!
You can even set username and passwords and lockdown drive access and both PC and MAC live in harmony.
This is a cheaper alternative to an Apple time capsule, < £200 for a 1TB Time Machine can’t be bad!