|At a Glance|
|Product||Cloud Engines Pogoplug Premium Software (Website)|
|Summary||Cheap software solution that turns any computer into a Pogoplug NAS with cloud connectivity.|
|Pros||• Very fast LAN transfers
• Better media handling when it works.
• Easy install
|Cons||• Free software is forced on users installing for just Drive connectivity
• Media Handling is finicky.
• Requires a computer, taking more power and additional management overhead.
Some readers might recall we already looked at Cloud Engines' Pogoplug Premium Software back when it was in beta. Cloud Engines informed us that much had been updated and bugs squashed since the release, so we decided to give it a brand new review.
Software Features and Costs
Cloud Engines has an excellent chart that I've screenshotted and posted below for reference. The actual chart itself is available on their website, and is regularly updated with new features and their ever-changing hardware lineup.
That said, we can see there are two different levels of software available. The Free software is installed with all Pogoplug appliance software these days. That is both a blessing and a curse, as you can't just get the Drive software anymore, and the cloud features are enabled by default, which shares your entire user account directory out to the cloud (more on that in a minute).
The $29 upgrade to the Pogoplug Premium Software (PPS) adds media streaming capabilities. Cloud Engines has been very careful to make sure all its products, including mobile clients, will not stream video files when accessed via the Free version. I did not have a problem streaming music files from the Free software however, which I'm guessing is an oversight on Cloud Engines part and will probably be fixed soon.
Installation And Setup
Installation is a breeze for your particular platform (Windows, MacOS X, and Linux supported). I tested this on my OS X machine, but the user interface in Windows and Linux is extremely similar except for some minor differences imposed by the particular OS (Aero for example on Windows).
Once installation is complete, you are automatically presented with a login window, where you can enter your information and be synced with the cloud. Note that the software installations do not require walking through the typical activation process associated with hardware Pogoplugs (which in and of itself is straightforward).
You also have the option when signing in to enter your Premium Software key. This is good for one computer installation, and Cloud Engines does not make it clear whether you can move this installation easily. You can go through "Unregistering" your "device" though, which is how to remove your PC from the web interface, and presumably free up the license.
Signing in presents you with a short product tour that explains what's been enabled and how to use it. The free and Premium software include the originally separate drive software to access hardware Pogoplugs if you have any. Sharing for your standard user directory folders (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, and Videos on OS X) is enabled by default. I would prefer this be an opt-in process rather than the current one where sharing is enabled by default, because many people will just be using the software just to access their hardware Pogos.
Check out the Gallery below for further views of PPS. But for the most part, the features are the same as the beta, which includes Cloud Printing (requires a hardware Pogoplug), Backup (called Active Copy), and Drive, which handles access to drives installed on hardware Pogoplugs.
Further setup is managed in the Pogoplug web portal, where you can enable most of what's available to standard hardware Pogoplugs. I pointed email attachments to be automatically downloaded into a folder in my Documents area. I also enabled cloud printing on my recently reviewed Pogoplug Video, just to see if the service has finally matured.
For the most part, PPS worked as advertised. I could access all my files in either the website or my mobile devices. I recently picked up an Asus Eee Pad Transformer Android tablet, running Honeycomb 3.1. I gave the Pogoplug software a try on this, and it crashed repeatedly trying to do anything more than enumerate file lists. Technically it's an unsupported platform though, so I didn't count this against Cloud Engines. Hopefully they are working on supporting it.
Media streaming has always been a weak link in Pogoplug's armor, and unfortunately PPS has not changed this. I am spoiled by the Pogoplug Video at this point though, which plays most videos easily if you have enough bandwidth. PPS howeve,r wouldn't stream the two out of the three test videos that worked on my Pogoplug Video, which does present a reason for upgrading to the $200 hardware device.
Music streaming worked flawlessly though, including playing entire folders in the background on iOS devices. I would like to see Cloud Engines add support for creating playlists soon, since I have over 400 GB of music and enumerating the directory list usually times out on my phone, especially over 3G. An argument could be made to just share individual folders. But that's a pain for when I buy new music, because I would have to remember to then share out the particular folder.
Sharing also works as advertised, either via a social network or through direct links that you might post to email or IM to someone. Password-protected sharing is available to secure the setup a bit. I generally don't share items on forums or things of that nature, so I generally go with the publicly accessible link and then deactivate it once I know my sharees have downloaded the items. This is bad security practice, I know, but I prefer to make it easier on my family when I'm trying to send photos around.
Cloud Printing works fairly well in this latest software release. I was able to enumerate, and print to, my laser printer. My Canon color printer did not show up though, which I can only assume is because there are no linux drivers for the Canon, unlike the Brother laser which does have Linux support. I then attached it in PPS to show up in OS X as a printer, and this worked as well.
Email attachments are similarly working well, and I was able to forward a 12 KB text attachment from my phone to the special "email@example.com" email adddress, which checks the sending address to figure out where to route the attachment. Hopefully this has been spam-tested, as I could see making a single email address the choke point for attachments a great way to attract a Denial-of-Service attack.
File transfer performance between machines has not dramatically improved since I reviewed it in beta. Cloud Engines has fixed some of the weird performance numbers, like Single File Copy performance, and it now matches fairly closely with what SMB performance looks like, which is good to see.
File transfers via the cloud is the traditionally slow spot with Pogoplugs. However this has been much improved, and Cloud Engines has gone so far as to provide a speed test to determine the quality of your particular internet connection. My 25/25 Mbps FiOS connection speed tested at 22/8, which is plenty fast to stream to mobile devices and for most applications.
Access, Support, Security
Access occurs through either the website, Pogoplug Drive software, or through one of the myriad of mobile clients. The website is the recommended path for managing the system, and is in fact the only place to manage the settings on the devices. The iOS clients can share files and folders from themselves, and this functioned properly when tested.
Support is minimal, via either a knowledgebase, or community forums. Cloud Engines has recently updated their Help Center in the Pogoplug Web Portal and made it more useful, which is good to see. I'd prefer a manual though, which doesn't seem to be available (even though there was one for the beta).
Security isn't documented well, but I'm assuming it's the same as my previous reviews. Enabling the "use full security sessions" didn't seem to impact the transfer speed over LAN like it used to, so perhaps this has been improved with the latest client software. Out of the box though, all files are transferred in the clear, with authentication being the only encrypted session.
In closing, Pogoplug Premium Software has come a long way since its beta days, and that's good to see. For $29, if you already have a media server in the house, it makes a no-brainer to avoid managing another device. If you don't though, I would definitely take a look at the hardware devices over this solution. They offer all the same benefits and more, with lower requirements, and less management overhead associated with a computer. I for one will be sticking with my Pogoplug Video for streaming, which works better for videos, and offers near-computer speeds.