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Mac Hardware Review: PogoPlug

As more and more of our digital world moves to the cloud, PogoPlug offers a simple solution for accessing files from anywhere.

It’s a real sign of the times that we expect to be able to access all of our files from any location
. We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve forgotten a file and assumed there must be a simple way to grab it from our desktops, only to be stumped by a lack of a solution. Of course, there is the Back To My Mac service offered by Apple, but it’s not always a possibility on a networked work computer. And there’s MobileMe and iDisk, but that comes at the cost of a subscription which mounts up year on year. But another possibility is this clever product, the oddly named PogoPlug. It’s basically a base station that connects to your router and can be connected to up to four hard drives. These can then be accessed and written to from any computer with an internet connection.
There are a number of similar products to this available on the market but their success hinges on one major factor: ease of use. It was apparent from the moment of unboxing and logging into the PogoPlug website that it had totally nailed it. The system is simplicity itself. The website will guide you through the set-up process and then you can add a number of perks – like a dedicated desktop app and an iPhone app (but more about those later).

Once you’ve plugged in the very funky white and pink unit (it’s probably not to everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely a conversation starter) and connected it to your router the light will turn green, which means it has found the internet connection and is using it. You can then attach all the drives you want. We were a little disappointed that there was no FireWire option, but we consoled ourselves that – given the files are uploaded over the internet – speed isn’t going to be a massively attainable goal. There are enough connections for four hard drives, which means that as your storage needs grow you can just add more drives. Once that’s all sorted you can log into the system by creating a new account. All you need to do is provide an email address and create a password. You will then be sent a confirmation link to activate the account. Once activated you’ll be presented with a very pink but very MobileMe-esque interface. This allows you to navigate the connected drives to view pictures, and you can also upload to them and download from them via this interface too.

Much of the success or satisfaction you will get from this system, given that it works so well, is going to depend on your internet connection. It’s worth remembering that while uploads from your home connection, where you pay a premium for speed, may not translate into speedy access should you have to connect from a slower public computer elsewhere. We found that the actual service itself was flawless, but connection speeds greatly affected our satisfaction when accessing, uploading and manipulating files. The major benefit of this system over where the files are kept on the system’s servers is that there’s no limit to the amount of space used. If you have four 2TB hard drives connected you can view and access 8TB of data – granted it may not be speedy, but it’s doable

This system as it is would be more than worth the single payment of £99, but PogoPlug gets really serious by offering not only a desktop app for ease of use at home, but also an iPhone app so you can keep tabs on things wherever you are. We’ve no doubt that at some point an iPad app will also appear, but at the time of writing it’s just the iPhone app available (which could be run on an iPad anyway). It’s a simple app that has some incredible features. As long as the files are formatted correctly and you have a quick enough connection, you can listen to music, view pictures and even watch movies on your iPhone using the bundled app. This will be a killer feature on the iPad, which doesn’t have massive storage, so remote access to your files is a huge plus. The desktop app is a very simple drop-box system based around a Finder-like interface – it’s functional and intuitive, which is more than we can ask for.

We are incredibly impressed with the PogoPlug and think that, not only does it offer one of the most simplistic set-up systems available on the market, but the remote access from iPhone (and hopefully soon iPad) makes this base station exceptional value for money. We have no doubt that some people will instantly be put off by the pinkness of the unit, but we urge all of you with aversions to bright colours to see beyond it and try this product anyway. The PogoPlug makes remote access to files a breeze and can provide you with a way to access your entire movie library from a mobile device wherever you are. Awesome.