Pogoplug Mobile Review

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.

D-Link Cloud Storage 2000

D-Link Cloud Storage 2000D-Link Cloud Storage 2000 is the newest addition to D-Links’ line of cloud storage options. It offers remote sharing, streaming and management capabilities. You can download, upload and delete files and folders either remotely or locally. It will allow you to access files stored on the ShareCenter from any computer via the mydlink.com portal. At this time this does require that you have Java 6 installed if you are using Chrome on a Mac. You can also access the same files via the free app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. With the free app you can view photos and stream music and videos from the ShareCenter directly to your mobile devices from anywhere. The D-link Cloud Storage 2000 also has a DLNA capable server which streams music, photo and video to compatible media players including the Boxee Box and PlayStation(r). It has a Photo Center which allows the administrator to create photo albums and view them with a side show. It also has a built in web file server and secure FTP server. With the USB port you can add an USB Drive or printer. It supports, local backup, Apple Time Machine backup, Amazon S3 backup, and PC backup among others. You can schedule it to power off at a certain time and it will automatically notify by email of the Device Status.

The Cloud Storage 2000 replaces D-Links DNS–320 storage device with a faster CPU and a gigabit Ethernet port for high speed data transfers. It can support up to two 3.5 inch SATA hard drives. It supports multiple users streams simultaneously. It is easy to install and is equipped with Raid 1 technology for security. The D-Link Cloud Storage 2000 will be available for $149 both online and in retail outlets in North America.

Cloud Storage and the Law

As a business or an individual if you store your data in the cloud, you are probably concerned with security and the ability to get your data back. The one issues you may not have thought about is where it is being stored, well maybe you should be according to Technology Review. The term cloud storage is misleading, it makes it seem as if the data is out there some where. The truth is data that is stored in the cloud is being stored in a data center which maybe be located anywhere in the world. The problem is who can get access to the data is unclear. Do the laws in the country where the data is being stored determine who can have access to the data or is it where it originated or maybe even where the company who owns the data center is incorporated. This maybe become an issue between Europe and the U.S if strict European privacy laws start to block U.S. attempts to access information it deems vital to national security. Many European countries have stricter privacy laws then the U.S. In the U.S. the Patriot Act which was passed after 9-11 enhanced the ability of law enforcement to intercept and read email and other records. If a European stores their data with a cloud company whose data center is in the United States would the stricter European privacy laws still apply or would U.S laws. The United States insist that it’s laws reign supreme even if the data is stored in another country if the company that owns the data center is incorporated in the United States. This was what Google and Microsoft both told European courts when they indicated they would have to abide by U.S law no matter where the data is stored. Not only is privacy an issue but also how long data must be kept is becoming an issue. Some country’s laws are based on how long the data must be kept, others are based on when the data must be deleted. These two viewpoints can collide and often do.

Because of this type of uncertainty, both companies and public institutions are starting to rethinking where their data can be stored. Some like the Canadian providence of British Columbia insist that all public healthcare records must be stored within the providence. Swiss financial institutions also say that any of their banking data must be stored in data centers located in Switzerland. As more and more sensitive data is being stored in the cloud these issues are going to continue to come up. This is another area where technology has clearly outpaced the law.

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Does The Cloud Have A Dark Side?

Does The Cloud Have A Dark Side?For some time we’ve been hearing about the virtues of cloud-based computing.

Certain functions seem to lend themselves to the cloud. Online word processing, spreadsheets, etc. can seem to make sense in some situations, such as collaborating with others.

In everyday use scenarios, does the cloud really make sense in more traditional private computer-use situations? I contend that it does not.

Right now I’m typing this into Microsoft Word on my MacBook Pro. At the moment I have rather lousy Sprint and Verizon connectivity, even though 12 hours ago at this very same location I had really good connectivity from both. The only thing that changed is the time of day. If I was currently limited to using Google Docs chances are I would be unable to write this. Network demand constantly fluctuates depending on the time of day and location.

Is there enough bandwidth available? With the tsunami of smartphones that are on the immediate horizon, will the carriers be able to keep up with the average five-fold bandwidth demand increase that the average smartphone user pulls from the network? Can carriers keep up with a smartphone-saturated public all trying to pull down data at the same time?

However, for the sake of argument let’s say that mobile Internet connectivity isn’t an issue.

What if the Internet is turned off due to a declared cyber attack and all of your documents are online? What good would the network appliance approach to computing be then?

Can e-books be revised after the fact? If government can simply decide to turn off the Internet, then it’s not that much of a leap to imagine laws and regulations being passed banning certain types of blogs or even books that have been deemed dangerous or seditious. There have already been books sold such as “1984” by Amazon that were deleted from Kindles after the fact by Amazon when it was determined that Amazon didn’t have the legal right to sell it in e-book form. What if instead of banning books, they were simply rewritten to remove the offending parts? What’s to stop instant revision of e-books that have been declared dangerous?

IDC Predicts Big Change in IT and Telecoms

The analysts over at IDC reckon that 2010 is going to be a year of “recovery and transformation”.  On the recovery side, they’re expecting global IT spending to increase by 3.2%, returning to 2008 levels but a large chunk of this spending is going to occur in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

But more interestingly, the transformation part is going to be increased adoption of  cloud services and the arrival of “enterprise-grade cloud services” and complementary application platforms.  IDC thinks this will be the most important development for the next 20 years particularly when linked in with the growth in mobile devices.

Regarding mobile, IDC sees these competing with PCs as user’s main devices, with over 1 billion mobile devices, fuelled by increasing adoption of smartphones and Apple’s iPad tablet.  They predict over 300,000 iPhone apps and 5x growth in Android apps.  Interestingly, they also predict “apps stores” for netbooks, which I think has already been evidenced by moves from Intel.

Other predictions include “socialytic” apps which mashup business apps with social networks, further reductions in CO2 through IT solutions and more mergers, acquisitions and partnerships.

Personally, I think the cloud services linked to mobile devices is right on the money.  I’ve recently started using a Palm Pre and it links to several on-line services including Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote.  Looking at just Google, there are connections to Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reader and I’m expecting Tasks, Documents and Notebook to be available before long.  So I’m already living in the cloud and I love it.

The whole press release is over at IDC.

Dropbox — File Sharing

dropbox-logo A nice item to have in your geek toolbox is a way to share files on the Internet. Sending large photos or videos through email is simply not possible so you need another way. There are a number of sites that allow you to do this, but there is one that I’ve been using that has some unique features. It’s Dropbox.

Dropbox is a file sharing site that works on the Mac, PC, Linux, and even through your browser. You go to GetDropbox.com and sign up for a free 2 GB account. You download and install the program on your computer and it creates a Dropbox folder where you simply copy the files you want to share. Anything placed into the folder is sent to the “cloud” and can be accessed by you on other computers or after logging on to the GetDropbox.com website. You can also place files in the Public subfolder and send the unique URL through email or place it on your blog to share photos, videos, and documents. There’s even a mention of using the Public folder in Dropbox to host a small website.

If someone you know has a Dropbox account, you can send them a link to a folder you want to share on your computer. When they accept the shared folder, it appears in their Dropbox folder. Any items placed into the shared folder appears in the other’s shared folder. It’s a great way to share project files.

I’ve been using Dropbox to make some documents and photos available so I can access them later and as a way to move them between my Mac and PC computers. Since it keeps older copies of files you place  in your Dropbox folder, it’s a great way to keep backups of your important data and you can even access files deleted from your Dropbox folder.

One word of caution about storing anything sensitive in your DropBox folder.  In theory only you have access to the files, but this is the Internet, so it’s possible that others could gain access. I would encrypt any file containing sensitive data before placing it in the Dropbox folder.

If Dropbox is free, how are they making money? Well, the site is still very new but for the moment they are offering two additional storage accounts for those who find the service useful but need more storage. They offer a 50 GB account for $9.99 USD a month, and 100 GB for $19.99 USD a month.

You can sign up for DropBox by going here. Using this link will give you 2 GB of free storage plus an extra 256 MB as a bonus (you won’t get the 256 MB bonus if you go directly to the GetDropbox.com site). As a disclaimer I must mention that if you use my link for the bonus data, I get credit in the form of extra storage in my account.

There are a number of sites offering free cloud storage and there is nothing stopping you from signing up for a few. You never know when they may come in handy.

73’s, Tom