If you use a mobile device regularly, or your home and work computing usage tends to overlap, then you're most likely already using (or have considered) a cloud storage solution such as Dropbox or Windows Live SkyDrive. (Read a short review of Windows Live SkyDrive here.) Transferring files via USB drive is so last decade (and not very secure), and using an FTP is cumbersome. So, these cloud storage solutions come in quite handy.
But, perhaps you're like many techno-elites who lament throwing all your files up in the cloud. If so, HomePipe is the solution for you. HomePipe essentially works like Dropbox from the end-user side, but it uses your own physical storage (your home computer, your company network, etc.) instead of a third party's cloud storage. Then, you can access those files from your smartphone or other computer, or you can share them with other people.
So, it's sort of a hybrid between a virtual private network (VPN) and a cloud storage solution. It's no wonder, since the founder of HomePipe, Chris Hopen, was the co-founder of Aventail, a company that developed SSL VPNs and was acquired by SonicWALL. (Related: SSL VPN 101)
So, in brief, the benefits of HomePipe are:
- There's no artificial limit on storage—you can use it for as much data as you have physical space for.
- You still keep the data in-house—meaning your data is more secure. (The data transfers over an encrypted network.)
- You can access it from just about anywhere—the platform works with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7, plus Windows XP and up, Mac OS 10.5 and up, and modern versions of Linux. HomePipe is still working on getting BlackBerry compatibility.
A few of the drawbacks are:
- No version control—unlike a document management solution such as SharePoint, you have no version control with HomePipe, so it wouldn't make much sense as a widespread collaboration tool.
- Not usable with a few platforms—HomePipe doesn't work on Windows Mobile or BlackBerry currently.
HomePipe is available for free in a Basic Edition, which has a limit of 10 uses per month, or a Standard Edition, which costs $23/year per seat (the mobile apps are free). Coming soon is a Professional Edition that will give more security controls over caching, adding additional passwords to file access, controlling duration that files are available, etc.