Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Windows Live… to many people, these cloud services spell nothing more than additional expense for quick access to your files. If you have larger amounts of photos, videos, music, and documents to share, you’ve probably already found that the free couple of gigabytes that come included with an account run out pretty quickly. PogoPlug‘s solution to this is to convert an external hard drive you might already own into a cloud computer. This way, you can get around paying the monthly fees other cloud services charge by just investing once in the external plug-in.
But how well does it work? Is it safe? Is it pleasant to use? We address all your possible questions in this hands-on review.
The PogoPlug Series 4 kit, its top of the line model, works with any USB-based external hard drive, and is designed to be set up right next to your router. The three important ports you need to know about are the power supply, ethernet, and USB. One juices the device, one provides it Internet access, and one syncs with your files. These will work with all three major operating systems; Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Upon setting up the hardware, you are prompt to visit my.pogoplug.com/activate for the Web client to scan for your nearest PogoPlug device. From here, set up an account log-in and the files on your external hard drive are officially accessible via the Internet. The PogoPlug also offers connections for SATA/USM drives or SD cards as well, if you want to access those through cloud.
While three may not be that many cords, we were hoping for a much more wireless lifestyle at this day and age. It would have been nice if the PogoPlug was able to connect via Wi-Fi to eliminate the ethernet wire. If you have an efficient cord organization system, this might not be an issue, but at our office desk, cramming the wires into our already set up computing system proved to make a bit of a mess.
Accessing the cloud
Once your PogoPlug is set up, there are several ways to store your files on the cloud. You can download the PogoPlug software so you can drag and drop files directly from your computer onto the cloud, or continue to plug and unplug the external hard drive to store items. The good thing about PogoPlug is clearly its unlimited storage capabilities, which becomes a competitive option since the PogoPlug kit costs $100 while other cloud services are charging anywhere between $3 to $20 a month, to start.
The PogoPlug app is also available on iOS and Android so you can view your files on the go. On our Samsung Galaxy S3, the app has a simple interface that orders your files chronologically. Unfortunately, if you don’t like list-type organization, you’re sort of stuck; there are no options to sort the files in thumbnail view.
Music and videos are also streamable through the app, though we find this feature to be a bit buggy. It seems like PogoPlug often experience issues converting video files to mobile format, thus making random types of files randomly hard to view. For example, AVI files are not supported, which is annoying since it’s nice to use cross-platform. But when it works, however, it works a charm. The video quality isn’t as great compared to viewing on your computer, naturally, but the stream is smooth and relatively bug-free for MOV files. Stream quality will also depend on your phone’s network and the size of the video being accessed.
Directly from either the PogoPlug web client, mobile app, or the computer software, you can optionally share your online files to friends and family. You can do this via direct links, Bluetooth, SMS, or social media shares on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the likes.
What bugs us a bit about the PogoPlug is while it’s great to convert your external hard drive into a cloud computer, remembering to plug the USB wire from your laptop back to the PogoPlug seems to be quite the task. The PogoPlug also requires to be on and connected all the time, otherwise your files are inaccessible. Another issue is the amount of users who can use the PogoPlug. The kit allots for one free member, but to add others, you’ll have to pay $20 a year for five accounts. This isn’t a giant fee per se, but an additional expense to an otherwise decent hardware.
Overall, the PogoPlug is a good piece of tool for those who don’t want to be stuck with subscription services. It’s a one time fee (assuming you don’t plan to add other users) and all your files are now accessible online. If you’re afraid of your files being accessed from hackers, you can always turn the power off your PogoPlug and everything should be offline. That sort of security that you know lies in your hands feels like an added comfort blanket that other cloud services cannot provide.
Is it a bit expensive? Yes. But if you plan on investing in cloud storage, which seems to be nowhere near disappearing from our technological future, it’s a pretty shabby toy. Upload, download, and user interface could use a bit of work but the system provides a foolproof way for a DIY cloud computing. If PogoPlug can begin adding more file capabilities to its mobile app, that would also make the device that much more worth the value.