Plug delivers private 'cloud' storage at cut-rate prices

A new file storage device aims to combine all of your devices and hard drives into a single private cloud solution.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
3 min read

(Credit: The CGC Team)

A new file storage device aims to combine all of your devices and hard drives into a single private cloud solution.

You might think that your need to access your files anywhere and everywhere has been taken care of, but a new device begs to differ. Called Plug, it aims to put all your files in the one place — letting you stream your content to all of your devices instead of relying on local storage. It provides a single, centralised "brain" for your content.

How it does this is a little confusing on the device's Kickstarter page. Basically, it creates a private, asymmetrically encrypted VPN that connects all your devices with the Plug application installed. In the background, it automatically syncs all the files from your non-system folders, allowing you to free up space on your actual devices. It also creates backups of your system folders, as well as cached backups of your files, so if something goes wrong, there's always an earlier version to which you can revert.

Plug, to be clear, is not a storage device. It's a "just add storage" device. Potentially, your "cloud" can be enormous. Using a USB hub, you can connect up to eight external drives to Plug for what can amount to some massive storage capacities.

Once connected and set up, you can access your files not through the device itself but through the Plug app. This means you can stream your content to compatible operating systems seamlessly — iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux — without using local memory. They are, as the creator of the CGC Team said, a "frame" for viewing your content, all with the same amount of storage: the size of your external drive. This means that you can stream a film to your 16GB iPad without taking up its memory, or listen to your music on public transport — anywhere you have access to the internet, you'll have access to your files. Plug's own testing showed average transfer speeds of 30Mbps, but this definitely suggests connection to National Broadband Network (NBN) levels of network access.

When Plug is installed on your computer, our application intercepts all the input/output operations performed on your files, using several patent-pending technologies. When Mac OS X, Windows or Linux want to store or access data, they ask our application instead of manipulating the hard drive. When needed, these operations are redirected to Plug. Thanks to this, we give you the best experience possible. We show in your OS all the files you have in your Plug, even if they're not actually in your computer.

This differs, the CGC Team said, from NAS, in that it never needs to take up space on your hard drive — although you can move files back to your device to make them available for offline viewing.

You can also send files quickly and easily to your Plug contacts, and choose files to synchronise with other users. And, if you have two Plugs, they will work together to replicate your content in both locations and stream back from both locations, potentially giving you double the speed. At this point, a single Plug device does not support multiple users.

A Single Plug is available for a pledge of US$79 on Kickstarter, and an external terabyte drive can be obtained for around AU$100 — and that's all you pay. There are no ongoing service fees. Meanwhile, a terabyte of storage on Dropbox starts at US$795 per year.

The idea of personally managed private "cloud" storage is something that demands high-quality network speed and reliability. So it may be that for many today, Plug is not yet ready for daily use. But for those with the access to good fibre services, Plug could have a lot to offer.

If you're interested, head on over to the Plug Kickstarter page to learn more.