Create your own cloud with PogoPlug - an innovative home-server solution.

PogoPlug is an innovative double-take on cloud computing that turns your home network into the server itself. This device clips to your router, and stores the data on a connected USB hard drive.

Visually the Pogoplug is a bit of an odd thing, coming in seaside pink and white styling (trying to look playful, to convey how easy it is to use). On its own, okay; but once we added network leads, USB cables and hard drive it looked a right mess.

That's not to say it's badly designed. On the rear are four USB and an ethernet port. A separate Wi-Fi adaptor is also available.

Inside is a Linux server and setup couldn't be simpler: plug it in, connect the network cable, attach the hard drive and install software from www.mypogoplug.com. You need to sign up for an account and the website scans your local network for the PogoPlug and assigns a password to it. The whole process takes five minutes.

From then you can access the hard drive attached to the PogoPlug directly from the desktop, or remotely using the MyPogoPlug website. The hard drive is given a pink PogoPlug icon and it works like Box.net or Dropbox: drag and drop files to it.

A second drive also appears on the desktop called Files Shared with Me. This enables other owners of PogoPlug to bounce files directly to you from their account.

A standout feature is Active Copy, a one-click solution for duplicating files and folders from your computer to PogoPlug. You can copy music, movies, and photographs; and every time you add a new file to those folders it'll be bounced over to PogoPlug's drive.

What isn't so simple is syncing services (in the same form as the venerable SugarSync or DropBox). The default mode for ActiveSync is to save files inside a folder named after the computer it came from – you end up with identical data for each device.

The second standout service is the MyPogoPlug website, which enables you to view content using HTML 5 directly from within a web browser. The MyPogoPlug service is pretty neat, enabling you to view, download, and share files, as well as play audio and video directly from the drive.

We had somewhat mixed results streaming media from the PogoPlug, and a lot of it will depend upon the upload speed of your ISP (which is almost certainly much lower than your download speed). We get 1Mbps upload and struggled to stream video, although audio worked just fine. Of course, with online services you only have to worry about the download speed — so we'd be careful if your primary interest is in remote media streaming.

The third standout feature is the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Palm apps available that enable you to share and view files remotely (although you can't use the iPhone's Open With functionality, and instead have to view files using the built-in viewer rather than Apple's QuickTime player). You can also view files on the PogoPlug using a Microsoft Xbox 360, PS3, or Seagate FreeAgent Theater (you can even view files that other PogoPlug users are sharing with you).

So on the whole the PogoPlug is a fairly versatile piece of kit that’s getting progressively better with each update. It's incredibly easy to setup, especially if you've ever been through the harrowing process of setting up older NAS drives, and it offers a range of services comparable to Apple’s iDisk and Box.net; although it comes up somewhat short against SugarSync and Dropbox.

And best of all, there's no monthly cost to using it and it's a great way to recycle an old hard drive. We do take umbrage at the price, however, which at $99, €99, and £99 suggests, at best, that they haven't taken into account regional exchange rates and just picked a good sounding number.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

Group test: what's the best portable hard drive?

PogoPlug [PCA]: Specs

  • Power requirements: 100-240V, 50/60HZ
  • Drive connection: USB 2.0
  • Drive Formats: NTFS, FAT32, Mac OS Extended Journaled and non-Journaled (HFS+), EXT-2/EXT-3
  • Network connection: Gigabit Ethernet LAN (10/100/1000)
  • Operating Systems: MS Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.5 and above (Intel and PowerPC) 32bit kernel only, Linux
  • Web browsers: Safari, FireFox 3, IE 7, IE 8, Chrome
  • Power requirements: 100-240V, 50/60HZ
  • Drive connection: USB 2.0
  • Drive Formats: NTFS, FAT32, Mac OS Extended Journaled and non-Journaled (HFS+), EXT-2/EXT-3
  • Network connection: Gigabit Ethernet LAN (10/100/1000)
  • Operating Systems: MS Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.5 and above (Intel and PowerPC) 32bit kernel only, Linux
  • Web browsers: Safari, FireFox 3, IE 7, IE 8, Chrome

OUR VERDICT

We're really taken with the PogoPlug. Despite its odd styling it's an incredibly easy to setup and fantastically useful. It's a shame that syncing files across multiple computers isn't possible, but for creating personal online storage it's hard to beat. And it's ability to stream to all kinds of devices, plus web browsers, makes it a great option for those who travel a lot.

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