When we first caught wind of the Pogoplug -- a small box that essentially lets you turn any USB hard drive (and drives only) into a network device -- we were pretty darn excited. Having a house full of disparate storage boxes and no easy way to connect to them made the prospect of the 'plug seem very enticing. Not only does the Pogoplug make your drive accessible via your PC (with accompanying software), but it -- we think more importantly -- makes the drive accessible via a web front-end and an iPhone app. We finally had a chance to break one of these out and see how it performs, and our findings are below.
The setup for a Pogoplug seems straightforward enough: just plug in any NTFS, FAT32, non-journaled HFS+, ext2, or ext3 drive into the box, plug the box into a router, follow a quick setup guide, and away you go. Easy enough, right? Yes -- but not without a few minor hitches. Our first problem was a basic one -- why do we need to physically plug this into a router? Not only did it make finding a spot for the box and the drive that much harder, but in an age where everything is going wireless, this seems like a bit of a step backwards. Secondly, when it came time to input the access code for the Pogoplug -- inconveniently located on the side of the adapter -- we had to run over to where our router was situated and copy it down. Kind of a pain, given how many other ways there are to handle something like this.
Regardless, once that code went in and we created an account on the company's "My Pogoplug" page, we were all set.
The Pogoplug definitely works as advertised. In fact, we can't think of another box that makes it this easy to get web access to your data. Once you log into your account, you're presented with your drive just as if you're browsing to it on your desktop (though obviously via a web interface). The layout of the site is clean and simple, and makes navigating your content fairly simple. From the portal, you can browse files, view some video or image files, listen to audio, and download those files to your local drive. If you have write access, you can also do basic management like deleting, renaming, or moving files.
You can also pick specific folders and share them with others, providing a quick way to give access to files for viewing or downloading. The app sends a link to the people you choose to share with, and you can also create an RSS feed of particular folders.
Additionally, you can download a small piece of software that lets you mount the networked drive as you would anything else on your computer, and there's an iPhone app that lets you get at those files in almost exactly the same way you would via the web. The iPhone app doesn't seem to be bug free; it didn't display entire lists of files properly, though on the upside, it allows you to listen to some audio in the background (of the Pogoplug app that is), view compatible image and video files, and download files locally to the phone (though they're only viewable in the app).
All-in-all, we like the Pogoplug a lot, but we do have a couple of quibbles. Mainly, we wish this were a WiFi enabled device, which would spare some cables and setup pain. Additionally, it would be nice to see a device of this nature with multiple USB ports instead of just the one -- yes, you can attach a hub, but you're already dealing with a mess of lines as it is. Still, for $99, the ability to turn a random drive into not only a network-accessible device, but a remotely-accessible device is huge, and we plan on putting it into heavy rotation around here.