A mixed bag of additional features
Maxtor touts the ability of Central Axis to "automatically back up the content of your networked computers." Do not use the backup program included with Maxtor Manager -- it's full of glitches. For example, the program doesn't let you select folders with dashes in their names (such as "Proposals-New York" on my system) because the Maxtor backup program doesn't recognize them. Furthermore, I scheduled the backup program to run every evening at 6 p.m. It reported a successful backup at 6:05 p.m. one evening, which was impossible because the drive hadn't been powered on.
Because the drive is recognized as just another drive letter by your system, I suggest that you configure a favorite backup program and choose the Z drive as the backup destination, as I did successfully with both Handy Backup and www.titanbackup.com.
The drive spins at 7,200 rpm and makes a slight whirring sound that shouldn't disturb you. Lights on the front of the drive indicate when the unit has power and when it is connected to the network; a third light flashes during disk activity. Speed is adequate thanks to the 32MB cache buffer. (Our traditional hard drive benchmark tests run only on physically connected drives, not those available through the network.) However, be aware that you won't get the speed of a traditional, USB 2.0-attached file. For example, we copied a 1.25GB video file to the Central Axis in 2 minutes, 32 seconds. We copied the same file to a Maxtor One Touch with a 300GB capacity in just 52 seconds. Such a discrepancy is common, but it's unlikely you'll notice the speed in everyday tasks such as saving a Word document. The slower speed is more annoying during backups -- but that's the price you pay for sharing data among all users, not just a single user.
If you sign up for a free Seagate Global Access online account, you can tie your user account and Central Axis drive to an SGA account, which allows you to upload and download Central Axis files from any folder for which you have permission.
On the back of the drive is a USB 2.0 port that lets you add a printer you can share or connect an additional external drive (FAT32 formatting is required) for additional storage. It worked perfectly with a Buffalo 1TB external drive. (Connecting a Western Digital drive with New Technology File System formatting gave all users instant read-only access to the drive.)
For sharing files among several family members or colleagues at work, the Central Axis fills the bill. Users can share files in a public folder or have their private space. A better backup program and more detailed documentation would make it a more useful product.