By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated November 14, 2011.
There's another cloud in the quite cloudy, virtual sky. On Monday, San Francisco-based Pogoplug unveiled its Pogoplug Cloud, a free online storage space for mobile users -- offering yet another choice for businesses and consumers who want to back up and share their content.
Users can sign up from their mobile phone or tablet, and receive up to 5GB of space on the Pogoplug Cloud. Additional storage can be purchased, or users can set up their own private, unlimited cloud by buying a Pogoplug box.
For iPhone, iPad, Android
The services allow a participating user to automatically upload photos and videos to the Cloud, or to share anything stored in the cloud through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Music and high-definition videos can be streamed from the cloud to the mobile device.
The service is available for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. The user signs onto the network, and the Pogoplug Cloud icon appears, as if it were just another drive.
The company is known for its Cloud Engine Pogoplug, a device that, along with the company's free service, gives easy access to several storage devices in a home or office via the Web. A software update last year also enables the device to offer Web printing from any smartphone or tablet.
There's also Pogoplug Mobile, a small black box for attaching a USB drive or a SD memory card, which allows the content to be shared remotely. The company also offers Pogoplug software for turning any computer, Mac or PC into a personal cloud.
Pogoplug, backed by venture capital funding, is one of many companies that are looking to the clouds. Apple's iCloud, for instance, allows users to sync content between Apple devices, such as a Mac, iPhone or iPad, and another Apple device -- or a PC running Windows. There's automatic backup, as well as a calendar, address book, Web e-mail, and functionality to support iWork, Apple's productivity suite.
With iCloud, the first 5 GB is also free for OSX and iOS 5 users, with additional storage levels available for purchase. But the storage limits do not apply to photos, iTunes-purchased music, apps, or books.
Last month, Dropbox announced a new cloud service for business teams. With Teams, users employ the same user experience as individual Dropbox -- saving any file to the downloaded Dropbox folder on the user's local machine.
New files are immediately synced across all devices that have that Dropbox folder installed, and the service is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. Files are available locally when offline, and users can view an unlimited version history for any stored file.
Dropbox is one of several smaller cloud-based storage companies in a rapidly proliferating category, including YouSendIt.com, Box.net, Mozy, CX.com, 4Shared, SpiderOak, in addition to services from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
The key driver is that many users have multiple devices, including a computer, a tablet and a smartphone, and being able to exchange and sync files between them, and with colleagues and friends, can be a significant housekeeping effort.
Forrester Research, for instance, has found that almost 60 percent of adults who go online have at least two Net-connected devices, and 3 percent -- more than four million users -- have at least nine different such devices.