Netgear is offering a network drive system in which a home user could store all of their documents, photos, music, whatever in one location. The files would be available to all computers on the home network. But there is one question that is tough to answer, and that is: who is going to use it?

Microsoft tried with its Home Server software, which has not been very successful. Now it is Netgear’s turn to try something new. A recent article states:

The Stora comes with a 1 terabyte drive …

… with space for a second drive that would serve as an automatically updated back-up copy. Its software makes it easy to gather media files and documents from computers on a home network, as well as to share them with any compatible device on the network (it follows the DLNA standard for recognizing and communicating with consumer electronics). It also acts as a Web server, enabling people to access their files via the Net when they’re away from home. Such features may be found on competing products, but Netgear argues that it offers more capabilities for the money.

The company may overcome the ease-of-use problems that have plagued some of its rivals, but the Stora can’t serve as a truly comprehensive digital storehouse because it’s flummoxed by DRM. That means it can’t store authorized copies of Hollywood movies, whether they’re downloaded from an online store such as Sonic’s CinemaNow or transferred from a DVD or Blu-ray disc. All of those files come encased in DRM. In fact, they come in one of several incompatible flavors of DRM.

Drew Meyer, Netgear’s director of marketing for storage products, said the Stora is “not designed to be the portal through which you stream the stuff you buy from the cloud.” Instead, he said, “we fully expect people to rip their Blu-ray discs onto the drive.” Umm, but Hollywood hasn’t enabled disc ripping — in fact, it’s done everything it can to stop it. Witness the lawsuits against RealNetworks and Kaleidescape, two companies that sold products that ripped DVDs into more secure computer files. Meyer may have been stating the obvious — people who want to create home-video jukeboxes can easily find disc-ripping software online. Yet that’s probably a bridge too far for the average consumer. It’s just not as easy to load movies onto the Stora as it is to move MP3 files. And until that day comes, the Stora will have a hard time leveraging the increasing penetration of connected TV sets. I mean, it’s nice to be able to view one’s digital photos on the big screen in the living room, but that’s not as compelling as being able to play any movie instantly from your DVD and Blu-ray collection.

My question is this: Do you use a network with files available to all computers or other devices in your home? If you do, how is it working for you?

Comments welcome.