The standard Cloud Engines Pogoplug device is a great way to share files on your USB drives across the Internet. Since it supports only a single user, however, it's really suitable only for personal use. Enter Pogoplug Biz: This network-attached storage device gives multiple users direct access, adds a host of management features and facilitates off-site backup, too.
Befitting its more serious role, Pogoplug Biz ditches the single user Pogoplug's bright pink exterior in favour of white. A smidgen of pink remains on the front "active" light, but hey, that's the company's thing. Otherwise, the two units are physically identical, with four USB 2.0 ports for attaching drives and printers (the latter is a new feature), a gigabit ethernet port and a power jack. You can add a Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n adapter to access your network and the Internet wirelessly.
The Biz shares the plain Pogoplug's simple setup. Plug the unit into AC power and then into the router. Afterward, go online to Pogoplug.com, create an account or sign in to your existing one, and step through the online wizard that automatically detects the unit. You don't even need to enter the serial number in most cases, though according to the company some users may still have to (why is unclear).
You can attach or detach drives at any time, but only what's attached will be available online. You may access files on the USB drives attached to the Pogoplug from a PC anywhere on the Internet via a web browser. You may also access files across the local network from your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop with the installation of the Pogoplug Drive client. Apps are available for accessing your data from an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Palm device, too.
The Biz version does have differences that set it apart from its pink, consumer-oriented sibling. It supports multiple users, each of whom can have their own dedicated storage folders. It also supports printing from anywhere to any printer attached to the Biz. The main account holder can allow viewing but prohibit downloading, as well as customise the online workspace with the company logo.
You can also upload a file by attaching it to an email addressed to [email protected] Following the logic of the interface, this approach should work for all users. However, I was unable to upload files with anything other than the master/owner account. CloudEngines has acknowledged this bug, and is working on a fix.
Another new and very welcome feature is Active Copy, which mirrors selected folders or files to other Pogoplugs (Biz or normal) registered to your account, wherever they might be. This function allows you to take advantage of the Pogoplug Biz for backing up to another drive that's off-site, an intriguing alternative to using expensive online backup services. Active Copy will also automatically back up folders from local PCs to the Biz using the Pogoplug Drive client. Note: In my test, Active Copy copied files but didn't automatically recreate the folder I mirrored when I selected the root folder as a destination. Make sure to create a destination folder when you set it up.
Pogoplug Biz's online file and configuration interface is intuitive, though the company could do a slightly better job of putting the help material out front on the website. The process is simple, but not so simple that a decent user guide wouldn't ease the learning curve. If you're familiar with filesharing and storage services, though, you'll do fine.
I'm not easily impressed, but the more I explored the features, such as the ability to preview multimedia files online and to upload files via email, as I did from several PCs as well as my iPod and Palm Pre, the more I was struck by the usefulness of the Pogoplug Biz as a small business tool. The only caveat is that the unit's performance is dependent on the speed of your Internet connection. Otherwise, it's a truly great filesharing tool that could save you time and money in a variety of ways.