The calendar year is 2013. Cloud is all the rage and so is crowdfunding. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when a Kickstarter project like the Transporter came along but I was – very pleasantly. In the past, like many folks, I’ve depended solely on cloud storage providers like Dropbox, Google Drive and Skydrive. I’ve always managed to look past the privacy issues and the fee-based structure for these services (for additional storage) but the Transporter changed all that. The Transporter basically lets a user set up a personal cloud without depending on third party providers. After reading up on the device and its purpose, I pitched in, hungrily read, digested all updates sent by the Transporter team and waited for my very own Transporter to be delivered. Well, that day came a number of weeks ago and I thought I’d share my experiences with the Transporter so far.
Setting up is quite easy. The instructions included in the box are literally pictures and consists of only a handful of frames. It’s really that easy.
You have the option to purchase a Transporter that ships with a hard drive but since I’m swimming in spare parts, I just ordered a bare unit and plugged in a 320GB notebook hard drive. The Transporter also ships with a WiFi dongle that is literally the size of a thumbnail in case you don’t have a connection port free on your router. Otherwise, the unit can be hooked up via gigabit Ethernet. This is the recommended method for performance reasons. Wifi is nice and all but when it comes to transferring massive amounts of data reliably, wired is still king. Once the unit is hooked up to the router, I plugged it into the surge protector and watched it come to life. There is a nice ring of light that turns on once the unit is plugged in to let you know that it’s live. The unit automatically formats the hard drive and the ring of light flashes to let you know that. Once the light stops blinking and stays stable and blue, you’re good to go.
Before you can start sharing files, a user account has to be created. By creating an account, the owner of a Transporter can search for other Transporter users or just people the owners wish to share files with. When logged in, a Transporter owner can manage list of people the owner is sharing files with, manage shared folders and even keep tabs on storage space left on the unit, and even dim or brighten the ring of light on the unit. Basically, a user can manage his or her Transporter unit from anywhere on the globe as long there is Internet connectivity.
Getting your friends and family to sign up is easy too. Just choose to add/remove people on the web interface and a window pops up. Within that window, just add a personal message notifying the person that you wish to share data and the included link in the email that is sent takes them to the sign-up page. Once the account is created and software is installed, the user is then automatically added to the folder that you originally wanted to share!
Usage is very straightforward. In order to access the folders locally on your laptop (Mac or PC), just download the Connected Desktop software from the Transporter website, and then sign in. Once that is done, the software automatically mounts and maps the folders under Computer on the PC and under the GO menu on the Mac. There is really nothing else to say about it. Once a file is modified or added or deleted, the Connected Desktop software syncs the changes and updates to the files on the Transporter. Simple.
I’ve been using a single Transporter for a few weeks now. I use the thing every day. If there is a file that I need access to on the road or from work, I make sure to place a copy on the Transporter drive. All the articles I write are now on the Transporter, as are family photos that I’ve created a separate folder for. I had family members sign up for a Transporter account to make sharing simple – and they can share their photos with me. The social aspect of the Transporter is great – if I ever wanted to collaborate with someone who already owns a Transporter, all I’d have to do is search for that person’s name and add him/her. Of course having your name searchable is optional as well so that’s good news for those who want to limit their exposure on the site.
There are a few things I have issues with however. I asked about accessing the cloud device via mobile devices such as Android and Apple phones. This question was answered quickly. The iOS version of Connected Desktop is in the works but the Android version is sadly not…not yet anyway. So basically, Android users will have to wait until the iOS version of the software is completed before the Android version is worked on. Well, I have to say that while the lack of a droid app is a downer, I still love the Transporter since when I’m doing some serious work remotely, I’m not using my phone. I’m on my laptop – well, the Surface Pro anyway and it fits my needs perfectly.
If you wish to wait until the mobile software matures to purchase a Transporter, that’s fine, but considering the fact that privacy is hard to come by with the solutions out there today, the shortcomings seem tiny and inconspicuous so there really is just one in my opinion. I wholeheartedly recommend this device to anyone who wants to set up a personal cloud for sharing artwork, family photos or to small businesses that emphasize on keeping shared documents private and stress online collaboration between coworkers.
UPDATE: As of posting, the iOS version of the Transporter software has been released. It doesn’t really feel “complete” as a workaround or two must be employed in order to upload files to the Transporter drive. Search for “Connected Data” in the App Store. That of course brings me back to the last paragraph – “wait until the mobile software matures…”