HomePipe is a service that allows users to securely access and share files remotely on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, through a web app and free mobile apps for iPhone/iPod touch, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7.
Since its launch just over a year ago, HomePipe has been primarily focused on the consumer market, but the service has announced several features that will make it more attractive for business collaboration:
- Enhanced security. It’s now possible to specify who has access to shared files, and to require secure logins by users. All content access is authenticated and encrypted using TLS/SSL over what is essentially a VPN, thus making the system able to traverse firewalls.
- In-app editing. Users may now edit shared files directly, using whatever tools are available on their remote or mobile devices. Saved files are automatically re-uploaded to the server. In-app editing will need to be used carefully, as it doesn’t appear HomePipe provides automatic backups or version control.
- Audio streaming. HomePipe also supports audio streaming, and now includes systems for managing playlists and streaming audio in the background. HomePipe has included content acceleration for quick response. This feature may be of less utility in business environments, but could be helpful for presentations.
The basic operation of HomePipe is similar to services like Pogoplug and Buffalo CloudStor, which we’ve written about before, in that you don’t copy your content to the cloud. Rather, you can specify which content from your own hard drives and networks is to be shared, and with whom, through an unobtrusive “agent” app that can run on any Windows, Mac, or (in beta) Linux machine. The agent can also be run through an add-on for Google Chrome.
However, unlike Pogoplug, HomePipe requires no special hardware. In that regard, it’s more like such remote control solutions as Hamachi, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer, as well as cloud-based content-sharing services like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Docstoc.
HomePipe CEO Chris Hopen said the company envisions HomePipe as a private collaboration tool for groups of up to 15-20 people, or as a way of sharing content with similar-sized groups of family and friends. He also told me the service is making available an API, and will shortly provide connectivity to other cloud vendors.
If you’re looking for ways to share content without paying for cloud storage, HomePipe may be a useful option. It’s available in a free, ad-supported version that is limited to 10 remote access sessions per month, and in an ad-free “standard” version for $23.99/year. Group and enterprise plans are also available.