2012 is going to be “Year of The Cloud”, no doubt about it. First, there was great hoohaw made by Apple’s announcement of iCloud earlier in the year. This was then followed by a number of products and services that offered ‘private’ cloud storage services – one of which we just blogged about last week: Netgear N600 Router – Personal Cloud Server with its “ReadySHARE Cloud Service”.
Of course, Google has been offering Cloud services for several years with their Google Docs and application services.
Now, here’s another one to add to the mix: Pogoplug Mobile.
Pogoplug has been making devices that allow you to share your media storage to your network – and beyond. Pogoplug Mobile focuses on the doing the same for your content to mobile devices but goes a step further in round-tripping data from mobile back home again.
Pogoplug’s sales pitch is that it let’s your iOS or Android device get access to your photos, music, movies and files from anywhere in the world via ‘The Cloud’ while simultaneously backing up your portable device back to ‘The Cloud’.
‘The Cloud’ in this case is your own personal storage – plugged into a black box device that sits on your network called Pogoplug. In other words, you supply the actual storage (a USB external hard drive and/or SD Card) and the Pogoplug makes it accessible from anywhere.
It’s a barebones approach to a private Cloud service. Your files aren’t actually in the Cloud – they are on your own storage media. All the Pogoplug is doing is providing you with a simple way of making them accessible from anywhere.
This is more like giving you a personal DropBox or SugarSync solution than Cloud Storage.
Pogoplug is unusual in that it isn’t charging a fee for providing this service. Rather, they are charging you $80 to purchase the device and then – that’s it – no extra fees to gain access to their free cloud server service.
Click here to read their FAQ.
The product is anticipating an October 1st launch but Pogoplug are taking pre-orders now.
At the end of the day, Pogoplug isn’t really offering anything particularly new except an iPhone and Android App that allows you to see all your files in one place and stream them to your device. There are plenty of good pogoplug alternatives, such as routers (like the Netgear WDNDR3800) that offer the same functionality, or even a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device like READYNas. Or, SugarSync. At least the NAS would have redundant storage in a RAID configuration. What happens to all your data when that portable hard drive that you plugged into the Pogoplug dies? That’s when you will wish you really had ‘Cloud’ storage with a backup in the Cloud to boot.
In fact, I find that the term ‘Cloud’ is getting abused a lot lately. Google’s services are truly Cloud services, because they worry about backup, redundancy, versioning, latency and all that highly technical stuff – while we just worry about it being available precisely when we need it. This is a far cry from a service like Pogoplug that simply makes the contents of your hard drive available to you on the road. That isn’t a Cloud Service, it’s a Remote Service.
Apple’s iCloud falls somewhere in between the two extremes. It still relies upon the end-user to manage their own storage but caches data in the Cloud until it can be safely replicated to your other devices. The more devices you have, the more redundant your data will be. But, it will be your onus to look after your devices and your data. At least Apple isn’t offering to keep all of it for you at their end forever at the present time – although expect to see that offered as a service for an additional fee in future.
In fact, if you are an iOS user, then iCloud is probably going to end up being your best pogoplug alternative, because it pushes your valuable data to all your iOS devices – storing it temporarily in the Cloud until it can do so.
For non-iOS users, then a Cloud Server enabled router or NAS is a good pogoplug alternative – for users who are technically savvy and don’t mind interacting with firewall settings, although the Netgear ReadySHARE Cloud Service looks pretty simple to set up.
But where Pogoplug could find a nice niche is for the non-technical user and for people who need something in a pinch. For example, if I was suddenly called away on a business trip, it might be handy to have a device that I can plug a hard drive into and very easily access it from the road on my iPhone/Android, while simultaneously backing up my phone device while on the road. Being dead-simple could be a sales point – but this isn’t really a safe and secure, long-term solution.
Of course much of the utility of this device will depend upon its App – what files can it stream, what formats does it support, how easy is it to use to get what I want? This remains to be seen.