Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

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Product Review

Product Review: The New CloudPlug 2.0

The New CloudPlug 2.0

I recently had a chance to play with the new version of the CloudPlug 200 from CTERA. I reviewed the first edition back in October 2009. The latest edition is a marked improvement on an already good product. I’ll discuss the product and my experience with it, as well as a few suggestions for CTERA on what to do for the next version of the product.

Installation
Installation is a breeze. All you need to do is plug it in, plug-in a network cable, and add either USB or SATA storage.  My last review was based on an 100GB USB drive. I use this opportunity to buy a 1TB backup drive. I was able to plug this in easily, but I was asked for format the drive. I have not checked to see if this makes it unusable for anything else.

If you have an open DHCP server, the CloudPlug will grab an IP address. All you need to do is to point your browsers at that address, and you will be able to configure the CloudPlug via a decent-looking web user interface. It is pretty simple to use, though I did have some problems with the Google Chrome browsers. It worked fine on Internet Explorer and Firefox.

The unit I received from CTERA’s PR team had a helpful installation poster, and an installation CD. Mine did not come with a paper manual, but there may not actually been one, as I did not need it. You read that right. I did not need a manual. It is very easy to set up if you know what you want.

Configuration
Configuration is easy. The web interfaces gives you a clearly titled navigation menu on the left side of the browser window with AJAX based push-down menus. I set mine up to do FTP, Windows, NFS and RSync file sharing with simple name/password authentication. They all worked as expected. I tested the Windows file sharing with a Windows 7 desktop machine. It does not appear that the CloudPlug is fully integrated with Windows 7 Networking, as I could not see it via the HomeGroup method, but I could mount it standard “\\” notation.

Cloud Backups
It should be noted that I did not renew my subscription to the cloud backup services that CTERA offers. It appears to be roughly unchanged from my last review of the CloudPlug. As a result, I did not test this feature.

Operation
There is not much to say about the CloudPlug. It just works. And it is fast. The interfaces can handle gigabit speeds, and worked well with my NetGear WNDR3700router. It can be used in 2 modes. First, it can be used as a shared drive for the computers on your home network. I run a motley mix of Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 2 Tivos, and Ubuntu 10.4. For Ubuntu, the samba file sharing works fine, as does the FTP functionality. I tested out the Windows FTP usage with Explorer and FileZilla.

The greatest improvement has to be the inclusion of an "Agent” which is easily downloaded via the web interface (provided you have a name and password). One you configure the directories you want included, it will take a “snapshot” of those files every 24 hours.

Pricing
The CloudPlug is priced at $199 on various consumer web sites. This does not include the monthly charges you pay to be able to backup your files to CTERA servers. Pricing for this is handled by resellers of the service and does vary.

A Few Requests for the Next Version
Overall, it is a good product for a reasonable price. There are a few things I would like to see in future versions of the CloudPlug. They include:

  • A decent description of how to appropriately set up the CloudPlug for an Ubuntu Samba installation
  • The ability to schedule backup times via the client. I would also like to set the criteria of when not to do a backup as well.
  • An agent for Ubuntu and Linux in general.
  • Better support for Chrome, as it is currently the fastest browsers, albeit the flakiest one.
  • I LOVE the syslog feature. (Full disclosure: I work for a log management company.) But I would like to see more verbose logging messages so I can get an idea of what is going on inside the box. This could be helpful in debugging samba problems, for example.

Summary
In summary, the CloudPlug is a great little box, and and its getting better. Their latest offering is a great improvement, but there is a lot more they could do. But based on what I have seen, they appear to be on track to doing it.

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.