Review: Pogoplug Wireless Adapter

By Gerry Blackwell

December 06, 2010

The Pogoplug simplifies sharing one or more external hard drives over the Internet. With its new wireless adapter, you're free to place it anywhere you have a drive.

The first-generation Pogoplug, from CloudEngines, has been around for over a year now. A small business-targeted edition, Pogoplug Biz ($299), appeared earlier this summer. Then, last month, the company introduced the wireless "Little Buddy" ($29, free to some existing customers), a custom Wi-Fi (11b/g/n) adapter/bridge that makes it possible to place the Pogoplug somewhere other than right beside your router.

This is, to be sure, not a revolutionary breakthrough in private cloud infrastructure, but it does add to the ease of use and flexibility of the Pogoplug - and ease of use is one of the key value propositions with this product.

Let's back up a minute, and make sure we understand the Pogoplug itself, how it works and how it installs. Then we'll take a look at how easy or difficult it is to make it wireless. (Preview: it's pretty easy.)

Pogoplug's private cloud

To use Pogoplug, you attach a USB hard drive or drives to it - the unit we reviewed has four USB ports. Note that the device doesn't have any storage capacity of its own. You provide the disks.

Next, you attach the Pogoplug to your router. One of the keys to Pogoplug's ease of use is that when you activate the product at the company's website, it automatically sets up a password-protected, optionally encrypted, remote connection to the attached drives, dealing seamlessly with all the firewall traversal and dynamic DNS (service included) complications.

Theoretically.

The company's claim is that the activation process, which you begin by clicking the 'Activate Pogoplug' button at its my.pogoplug.com page, takes less time than it does to nuke a bag of Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn.

Sorry, not in our experience. But close.

Easy set-up

The 'wizard' that launches when you click the activate button walks users through a simple set-up process, starting with ensuring you've done the hardware connections properly. Then it tries to find your device on the Internet.

In our case, it couldn't find it. It meant going to the device, turning it over - keep in mind it has wires and disks dangling from it - and copying down the 26-character identifier printed on the bottom, then typing the characters into a form at the website. (By this time, my wife has eaten the popcorn.)

After that, the set-up went smoothly, including signing up with e-mail address and password for remote access.

You can log in to the device (over the Internet) from the Pogoplug site in a browser window, or download software for whichever device you want to use as a client when you're mobile. The company offers free client software for Windows, Mac, Linux, BlackBerry and, most recently, iPad/iPhone.

Windows Explorer compatibility

With the Windows version of the client software we tested (and presumably the Mac and Linux versions as well), you get an applet that lets you adjust simple settings and configure the ActiveCopy feature (which automatically copies media files from your computer to one of the drives attached to the Pogoplug).

The client software also adds the Pogoplug as a drive in Windows Explorer. It means that anywhere you go, you can now access files on the Pogoplug-attached drives from within any application on your mobile device as if they were on a local hard drive. You can stream media files from Pogoplug too.

So that's Pogoplug. There's more to it, but that's the basics. It's pretty cool. It offers home users and small businesses something like the kind of private cloud infrastructure that big enterprises are now starting to deploy.

A private cloud emulates and shares the benefits of public cloud applications such as online storage and backup - including remote, anywhere access - but has the advantage of letting you retain physical control of data and network security. It also eliminates monthly charges for cloud services.

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