Get Plugged

october 8, 2011



Update: Please see this post about Pogoplug and the lack of privacy. I no longer recommend Pogoplug.

I came really close to giving up on my new Pogoplug Pro the day that I bought it. The box that it comes it is pretty sparse by any means: Pogoplug Pro, network cable, power cable, a getting started sheet (which just says “go to my.pogoplug.com”) and a warranty card. 

Excitedly I pulled out my Pogoplug Pro and plugged it in – then went to the website and activated it. The activation was fine – the Pogoplug Pro was discovered and activated and the status logo on the front of the Pogoplug Pro was green. By all means (and description from Pogoplug's website support documents) the Pogoplug Pro was active and ready. I plugged in a USB flash drive and then refreshed. Nothing showed up. “No drives active” the web UI kept complaining.

I tried other drives with no luck. I put the Pogoplug Pro outside of my firewall and nothing. Completely frustrated, I put the Pogoplug Pro back in its box and was ready to return it. Then later that night, I decided that I like punching myself in the face – so, I pulled it back out and stuck it in the DMZ. That worked beautifully. After digging some more, I found that the Pogoplug Pro needs to have UDP port 4365 open for both inbound and outbound traffic. Once I setup the port trigger for that, the Pogoplug Pro has been working beautifully.

Now that it works, I have to write about how much I love it. The device, after the network hassles, is pretty problem free. It updates itself and everything is done via my.pogoplug.com. The selling point of the Pogoplug Pro is that you can create your own “cloud” at home that can be accessed both from inside and outside your own network. This cloud can be as large or small as you want and there are not fees attached. It all depends on what size drives you attach to the Pogoplug Pro.

The data that you put on your own cloud is all stored on the drives that you have connected to the Pogoplug Pro. Cloud Engines (the people that make Pogoplug) say that they do not save a copy of your data anywhere on their servers, though your data may have to pass through their servers for you to access it (or at least that's what they promise in their privacy policy).

There are a few ways to access data. Mobile app, PC/Mac/Linux app, and through the web UI.

The mobile app for Android needs some serious work and is the worst part of the Pogoplug experience. The Android app doesn't have anyway to refresh any listing unless you logout and login again. Uploading any file is counter-intuitive and cumbersome: You launch the app, navigate to the folder where you want to upload, then use “upload” from the menu to upload ONE file – and yes, one file at a time. Cloud Engines needs to really invest some time into making the Android app more usable. What they need is for the app to be able to automatically upload files as they are added, like when photos are taken. I am not sure about the iOS or Blackberry apps as I don't have any of those devices to test with.

The Desktop apps (PC/Mac) are better. They are free to use and can even turn your PC/Mac into a Pogoplug device – though this is good and bad at the same time. Installing the app was quick and easy, but after the app is installed, it defaults to having remote access ON, not OFF. In my books, any remote access to a PC/Mac app should be OFF by default and the installer should opt-in to having their files shared – especially if it is across the internet. Outside of that, the Desktop app will mount your Pogoplug Pro as a drive on your system and you can access all your attached drives as folders – you can optionally change that and access each attached drive as a separate drive. The access is smooth and works well – I used SyncToy to copy all my music over to the drive and it worked fine. The Linux app is a bit more...technical. It is a FUSE plug-in that requires CLI action to make it work. It works fine, but don't expect it to work as seemless or easy as the PC/Mac version. Cloud Engines should work on making it better. The Linux app is also only for drive access, there's no way to share the files on your Linux box.

Lastly, there's the web UI, which is actually pretty decent. The web UI breaks down your files by type (music, pictures, videos, and others). The music section has a music player built-in and while it works, it can use some work – for instance, being able to make playlists would make it infinitely more useful. Pictures is a basic picture viewer with full-screen mode that has slideshow features. I haven't tried videos because the video transcoding happens on the Pogoplug Pro itself and it is really slow.
The Pogoplug Pro also has some basic DNLA functionality built-in so that music, pictures and videos can be streamed to a PS3 and/or a Xbox 360 without any problems – though, I noticed that the metadata on mine is taking a while to regenerate and music is not showing up.
The Pogoplug Pro also lets you share data with others. This is a really nice feature as you can share in a read-only or a read-write fashion; both with or without password protection. Sharing is granular down to the file. Also, you can link your Twitter, Facebook and MySpace (what's MySpace?) accounts to the different drives attached for sharing via links to these different services.

For security, one can turn on full security sessions, but this limits the data transfer rate when doing things on the local network. This is because it employs full SSL for everything and the local traffic sent outside then brought back in.

For the Linux geeks out there (raising hand), the Pogoplug Pro also has full SSH access. You can turn this feature on from the Security tab in the web UI. After SSH access is turned on, it's a matter of ssh'ing as root to the IP address of your Pogoplug Pro on the local network. There are some projects out there that will let you turn the Pogoplug Pro into a standalone Linux server – something that I am not going to do now because I like the sharing stuff, but maybe in the future.

The Pogoplug Pro also lets you upload via email. The Pro version has built-in wifi (which I am not using). And the Pogoplug Pro has printer sharing so that you can print via email – send email from an authorized email address with files attached and the Pogoplug Pro will print to a connected printer. One suggestion for Cloud Engines is to not only limit these actions by the incoming email address, but also employ a computer generated email address per Pogoplug account. Right now, all upload email goes to [email protected] and printing goes to [email protected]

One last Pogoplug Pro feature is Active Copy which will synchronize files from one folder to another. I use it to back up my files from one Pogoplug Pro connected drive to another. It seems to work nice and I haven't had any problems with it keeping the folders in sync.

The only think now that is in the air is the site reliability of my.pogoplug.com. I have found some reports of outages. I hope that they are not too frequent.


While the Pogoplug Pro is not perfect, the things that need fixing are all software-based so I hope Cloud Engines fixes them soon. As it stands, I do like the Pogoplug Pro and would recommend it. Here's hoping that Cloud Engines puts more work into their software than into making new incrementally different pieces of hardware.