The primary focus of the Pogoplug technology is to turn any USB-based storage device into an easy to setup and use NAS device, with simple remote access for file sharing. We reviewed the original Pogoplug device back in July--for in-depth details into the technology and how it works, see our review here. The original Pogoplug has a single USB port for networking a single drive. The new FreeAgent DockStar, on the other hand, has a total of four USB ports, including a port located in the device's dock for interfacing with a FreeAgent Go drive. Similar to the original Pogoplug, the FreeAgent DockStar also has a Gigabit Ethernet port and requires an external power supply.
Drives connected to the FreeAgent DockStar can be accessed via a Web browser-based interface or by mapping to the drives on both Windows and Mac systems. Remote sharing content on any FreeAgent DockStar-connected drive is as easy as typing in the designated sharer's e-mail address. Access can be limited to specific folders and can be set to either read-only or full write/upload access. And if you want to remotely access your content from your iPhone, there's an app for that too.
CloudEngines is adding a new social networking feature to the Pogoplug technology, which will also be part of the FreeAgent DockStar. In addition to sharing content with others by giving them access to select folders on the drive, you can also set the content of individual folders to be shared on social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. The ability to send folder content updates out as RSS feeds has already been a part of the Pogoplug technology.
We will warn users, however, that if you choose to make content on the device public or link to content stored on it on a social networking site, you could potentially generate enough incoming traffic to exceed any bandwidth limitations your ISP might have in place for your account. You should also check your ISP's service agreement to make sure your account is allowed to host files on a server, which is essentially what you are doing by opening up content stored on the FreeAgent DockStar to remote users. If you just share content with a few family members and friends, you probably won't run afoul of your ISP. But opening up photo or music folders for the world to see might get your ISP's attention--and not in a good way. And we won't even get into the potential legal ramifications if you choose to share content that you don't have rights to, such as commercial music or video.
This actually marks the first time that CloudEngines has licensed out its Pogoplug technology. While it is uncertain if there will be additional licensees, CloudEngines remains adamant that it is committed to supporting its own Pogoplug product:
"This is by no means the end of the Pogoplug product from Cloud Engines. We are committed to innovation around the Pogoplug experience and our hardware device is an important part of our roadmap. We appreciate all of the support and input from our community and look forward to welcoming DockStar as a new member of the Pogoplug family."
The FreeAgent DockStar measures 86x85x38-mm and weighs 0.5-kg. It is available starting today, for $99.99 from Seagate and other online retailers. What is not necessarily obvious, however, is that the remote access and file sharing capabilities of the device are dependent on an online service. The first year of this service is free, but after that, it costs $29.99 per year to continue remote access capabilities. This contrasts with the Pogoplug, which does not charge any additional fees to utilize the service needed for remote access--the service fee is considered to be factored into the cost of the $99 Pogoplug. Also available beginning today are three additional storage capacity options for the FreeAgent Go portable hard drives: 750GB, 880GB, and 1TB (existing models are 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, and 640GB).