Several hours later (transferring my data took quite a bit longer than I thought, and the process was accompanied by an insistent “crunching” sound) and the CloudStor was ready to stream. Not all files were completely ready to go at once, though; videos and pictures first needed to be optimized for streaming, and thumbnail images for videos, pics, and metadata like album art had to be generated. For some files, this process happened pretty quickly; for others, it didn’t happen at all. (Update: Several weeks after loading up CloudStor, I’m still waiting on metadata to be processed for many files.)
For those accustomed to the user-friendly, feature-rich iTunes/iPod interface, Pogoplug’s front end will seem clunky and austere. You can browse music by songs, files, artists, and genres, but there’s no way to add playlists (although you can create a “slideshow” from music files — a clumsy workaround). Also, unlike with iTunes, files of a specific type don’t necessarily pop up in the relevant folder within the Pogoplug UI. I often found myself searching a general “Files” folder in order to locate items that should have been grouped with Movies, Photos, or Music. Nonetheless, I was ultimately able to locate, access, and stream every file I had loaded on CloudStor via both the Pogoplug Web interface and the mobile app, even if it did sometimes take effort to dig them up.
Audio files that you stream via Pogoplug are conveyed without additional compression, while the H.264 transcoding it applies to videos is generally transparent. For these reasons, Apple Lossless-encoded files in my collection that I streamed sounded great, and I had no complaints about videos, even when watched on my laptop computer screen instead of my iPhone.
To test CloudStor’s BitTorrent feature, I called up the Device settings menu via the Web interface and selected the BitTorrent option. After using a BitTorrent search engine to find a movie I wanted to watch, I uploaded a torrent file (you can also enter the address of a tracker if you want). A few hours later, and I was streaming a pristine-looking copy of a recent DVD release of a major film from the CloudStor to my iPhone. So much for Netflix!
Is the CloudStor Pro NAS worth the $225 you’ll pay for it? If work or whatever else takes you on the road for long stretches at a time, then the idea of having access to your entire music library, as opposed to just a segment of it, should make the CloudStor very appealing. Of course, Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music Beta both offer a similar option, but CloudStor/Pogoplug is completely free — there will never be any service charge (something you can’t say about Amazon’s service, and, most likely, Google’s). And then there’s the ability to easily share photo slideshows and videos and with friends without having to first upload them to a hosting service like Flickr or YouTube.
Pretty much the only thing that would make me hesitate from buying a CloudStor is the pending arrival of Apple’s own Cloud-based music service (iCloud, or whatever they’ll call it). You can bet that it’s not going to be free — Apple is a company that knows how to make money. But you can also bet that it will have an elegant, well-conceived user interface and, like the Lala service that Apple engulfed last year, will scan your computer’s hard drive to determine which music files you already own, and then grant you access to shared copies rather than make you upload them. But even if you eventually find your silver lining in another cloud, Buffalo’s CloudStor offers enough cool features to make it worth consideration over other NAS drives on the market.
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