Pogoplug Biz: Remote Access to Files On Your Own Hard Drives

If you like the idea of having remote access to your files, but aren’t comfortable with cloud storage services, such as Egnyte or Dropbox, then Pogoplug Biz may be worth considering. The Pogoplug hardware allows users to connect up to four external hard drives directly to the Internet; more drives can be added with additional Pogoplugs. Data on the drives attached to the Pogoplugs can then be shared via an encrypted, HTTPS-enabled web interface.

The consumer version of Pogoplug has been around for a while, but now the manufacturer, Cloud Engines, Inc., is offering an updated version aimed at business customers. The company provided me with one to try.

Pogoplug Biz is a slightly oddly-shaped box, a bit smaller than most external hard drives. It includes a Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to your network, plus three USB 2.0 ports on the back and one on the front. The curved extension allows for easier cable management.

Setup is simple: plug the box into power and into an Ethernet connection, then plug one or more external hard drives into the device via USB. It took a few minutes for the Pogoplug to find my drive, but a green light appeared on the device once the drive was connected. One then goes to an online activation system which detects the drive, or if automatic detection doesn’t work, you can enter the drive’s 26-character unique ID.

Pogoplug differentiates its service from cloud-based storage systems by emphasizing security. According to the manufacturer:

None of your personal data is stored in our servers other than your email address. All of the data on your drives attached to your Pogoplug remain only on your Pogoplug…While it is being accessed, the data may be forwarded through our servers, but no copies are retained during this process.

Of course, remote access speed will depend on the upload speed of your internet connection.

Both the original Pogoplug and the new version offer file sharing limited only by the size of the hard drive(s) you attach to the device, as well as simple setup, remote access, and remote printing. Pogoplug Biz adds the ability to create multiple users (each of whom can have their own space to store and share files); customize the service’s web interface; share some or all files as “view-only;” and track and audit who accesses files.

Pogoplug Biz also allows you to create custom email addresses, which lets people email files to your Pogoplug. You can create custom upload folders and give them each a unique email address to share with your clients.

Pogoplug offers free desktop apps for Windows (s msft), Mac (s aapl), and Linux that activate what the manufacturer calls “Active Copy.” With this software, a user can specify certain folders that are automatically mirrored onto the external hard drive attached to the device, and then made available remotely. I tried the Mac version (2.1.2) of the software, which works, but is pretty rudimentary. It feels as though it were designed by someone who’s not a Mac programmer. It seems rather slow, and it doesn’t really run well in the background.

Pogoplug also offers a free iPhone and iPad app to allow remote access to one’s files. The app is nicely laid out, but I found the current version (2.3) impossible to use, as it crashes every time I try to go to certain screens. Others have reported similar problems, so don’t count on using this app until it’s been updated. There are also apps for BlackBerry (s rimm), Android (s goog) and Palm (s palm), which I haven’t tried.

The Pogoplug Biz retails for $299, which includes access to the web interface. The device is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7, Mac OS X 10.4 + (Intel and PowerPC), and Linux.

Do you have a Pogoplug? Let us know your comments on the device below.

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