Most of my data nowadays resides in “The Cloud”.. a nebulous term for the remote server I use to store data, which then goes and syncs on all my devices. I personally use a combination of Google Drive and iCloud – although there are lots of others out there. I pay Google and Apple a bit of cash every month, and they manage the server infrastructure and services needed to make my data available to me. However, if I didn’t want to entrust my data to a 3rd party, but still wanted to convenience of cloud access, I’d go for a “Personal Cloud” product – like the Lima Ultra.
What It Is
The Lima Ultra is a Personal Cloud device – plug a hard drive into it, put it on your home network, and voila, you have access to whatever files are on that hard drive both locally and remotely – no paying Google or Apple a monthly fee, no more not knowing where you data is physically located.
“Lima is a smart device that stays in your home and sends you securely your files where and when you need them. It’s like the Cloud, except your files are stored at your place.”
Who It’s For
The Lima Ultra seems aimed at tech-focused consumers who are looking for an easy way to store lots of data at home, and make that data available online anytime. It’s not for the complete luddite, and it’s not for the business/enterprise user. It’s also not for the DIY user who wants lots of self-configuration options, open software, or truly solid data security.
I tested Lima Ultra at home over the course of three weeks, running on my home network connected to a 2nd Generation Apple Airport Express, Comcast 25/5 cable internet, and both USB Flash and USB hard disk drives. I installed the app on my 2011 13″ Macbook Air running MacOS Sierra, as well as on my iPhone 7.
Packaging is solid and smooth – the box is the perfect size for the gear, and it’s all securely packed in there. The box comes with the Lima Ultra, power adapter, and ethernet cable.
Getting setup the first time was easy – connect lima to my network with the ethernet cable, plug in the usb hard drive, connect to power, and then load up the Mac app’s configuration utility. It was fairly straightforward to setup my initial Lima account, and get my drive formatted and recognized on the cloud.
The device is small, and mostly unobtrusive in my electronics cabinet. It gets warm, but not hot. Additionally, the AC Adapter is smartly designed with a number of international plugs, and only takes up one spot on my power strip.
- The ease of first use is really great- it took just a few minutes to get all of the hardware plugged in, and it was quick to download and setup the software. The only small snag was that the Lima Ultra needed a firmware update the first time I turned it on – but that was smoothly handled by the app.
- Instantly having files I added to it available on my phone was a great convenience. The app is smart with data management, and if, for example, Im watching a movie on my phone, it will download the entire file while I watch the file.
- On my Mac, Lima Ultra shows up in the system as another hard disk connected locally – so to add files to my Lima cloud, I just have to drag it into my Lima hard disk like a normal local disk. Synchronization with the cloud disk and the rest of my devices happens in the background.
- The app supports Google Cast and Airplay – so movies I load on Lima can be easily streamed back around to my Chromecast – for me, that’s an essential feature – since it lets the Lima act sort of like a very stripped down media server. Don’t get me wrong – it still has a ways to go before it’s a truly useful home media server. It has the potential, but Lima hasn’t added any really great media server features yet.
- Once the first account setup has been completed, it was very very difficult to make big changes. At one point, I wanted to use a different hard drive with my Lima Ultra. Instead of simply plugging in the new hard drive and setting up Lima again, I had to go through a long and convoluted discussion with support in order to get them to reset my account on their end, and then I could go in and set it up again on my end. So to change hard drives, Lima support holds the keys. They stay it’s a security measure, which is fine – but certainly there must be a better way to do it
- Lima Ultra uses their own encryption on the disk – which means that if you plug in the hard drive you used with your lima directly into your computer, you just see an encrypted disk image. So there’s no easy to directly load content onto the Lima drive locally, and then use that same drive and content with Lima.
- The software, while it works, is sparse on features. Media streaming, downloading, and other management tasks aren’t there, and there’s no way to connect with other services, or to easily load your own management software.
- While the Lima Ultra is a fairly powerful piece of hardware that could potentially do much more than Lima lets it, there’s no way to extend it. I’d love to add a USB hub to Lima Ultra and then connect a bunch of hard drives, in addition to networking a printer, and driving a USB DAC for Airplay and Google Cast Audio. Those are just a few of the possibilities that could be enabled with better software. There’s also automated downloads, remote management, network management and monitoring, etc etc.
- The Lima Ultra uses a USB-A connector for the usb connection, and a tip-ring connector for power. I understand USB-A is still the most popular, and the tip-ring connector is needed for the higher power necessary to power both the Lima Ultra and USB hard drive connected. However, if Lima had a bit more foresight and used USB-C for both the hard drive and power connections, they could make a much more robust, extensible, and future-proof device. USB-C could handle the higher power, could handle higher speed data transfer, as well as could support thunderbolt hard drives, ethernet, and even graphics.
Should you buy it?
It you’re looking for a simple way to have your own basic personal cloud – either for everyday document access or backup, and you’re not going to need any advanced features, aren’t going to be tinkering with the setup, and don’t need more than one hard drive’s worth of storage, then Lima is great. If you’re looking to push it any further – for a media server, for syncing with other cloud services, for flexible administration and management, multiple drives, usb hubs, automated file downloads, or anything like that, keep searching.
Lima Ultra is a fine product that competently delivers its core functionality. However, a lack of open software, reliance on back and forth with support to make account changes and disk drive changes, and very limited expandability and connectability to other platforms leaves me very wanting.
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