The GoFlex Net is a Pogoplug inside different packaging, with holes especially chiselled out to take Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex and Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drives only. Thankfully, there's a USB port on the back into which you can plug any drive, but perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves. What's a Pogoplug exactly?
The junior NAS
Having been in the US for years, the Pogoplug is essentially network attached storage (NAS) for young players. You can plug in a hard drive or three, and it makes the content available over the internet. Seagate's version even offers handy capacity metres at the front, should you wonder when you're running out of space.
Installation is simple — after plugging in your hard drive(s), power and network cable, you visit a website to create an account, and at that point you're pretty much done. The device is then detected by the website, you're sent a confirmation email and you then have access to your files anywhere in the world through my.pogoplug.com.
Getting at the storage
Once you log in, the web interface is well designed and a pleasure to use, with even beginners likely to be able to find their way around with little trouble. There are only a few basic settings available to the user (like social network log-ins), links to the hard drives that are plugged in, and a few filters like Movies, Pictures and date ranges.
The interface is clean, well thought out, simple and looks nice. (Credit: Pogoplug)
Techies might be freaking out right now about the lack of flexibility, but never fear. Unlike other Pogoplug devices that require hacks to enable local network access, after the initial log in through the internet you can set up Windows File Sharing (WFS) on the device, allowing you to browse through SMB. Sadly, you can't manually set the IP of the GoFlex Net, and the only way to find out the IP of the device is through the web interface that requires internet access. You'd better hope your router doesn't allocate the GoFlex Net a new IP when you're not looking and the internet goes down.
Although we haven't played with it, we'd guess that OpenPogo, along with a myriad of other programs that are available to extend the capability of Pogoplug devices, may satiate the power user's needs.
Thankfully, the networking is smart enough to use the local network to transfer if it exists rather than the internet, meaning significantly faster transfer speeds and no touching of traffic quotas, but all this is done without ever using the scary word of "network" — it just does it.
There's an interesting hybrid option to access your storage as well, in the form of an application called Pogoplug Drive. After installing, it requires you to log-in online, and then mounts all volumes in your GoFlex Net as local drives. This isn't just limited to Windows — it's available for OS X and Linux as well, and Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm mobiles are supported as well.
This program can also automate backup from selected folders, and either this or WFS is required for uploading files over 4GB in size — the web interface won't let you do it. It will let you queue items, but if you hit the browse button to add more items to the queue while it's transferring, all transfers annoyingly get cancelled.
So what else can this piece of hardware do other than expose your files on the net? You can email yourself attachments, which will be automatically saved in a folder, preview images and videos through the web interface (with reasonable success, although as usual x264 encoded MKV is a stumbling block), filter your drive by movies, photos or music (but there's no way to enter custom file masks, so it doesn't recognise all file types) and you can build custom slideshows and filter by the date the file was added to the drive. It even has a UPnP media streamer built in so you can stream movies to your Xbox 360 or PS3.
You can also share files through email, Twitter, Facebook or MySpace, with a web link being generated that connects directly to the file in question.
Its internet-connected nature means that it inherently opens itself up to multiple users, but there's one shortcoming we've noticed with the GoFlex Net — there's no way to tell if a drive is currently in use by someone else, and there's no physical button to remove a drive safely — this has to be done through the web user interface. Regardless, we can see the situation arising where someone physically removes a drive from the unit while someone else is transferring — an annoying prospect.
Playing with the GoFlex Net started with us bridling at how limited the box was, and ended with us falling in love with its simplicity. While techies would be much better suited to a fully fledged NAS, for the mainstream this little device could be quite helpful.
For the next iteration we'd love to see a button that allows us to safely eject hard drives rather than having to do it through the web interface, but for now if you want an easy way to get your files online without having to worry about hosting, the GoFlex Net is one of the friendliest ways to do it.