Cloud access to personal files and media is heating up as HomePipe announced today the addition of many new features to their Android app intended to secure your data as you access it over the Internet and share it with others in what the founder called a new way to make a “mix tape”.
The company cashes in on their co-founders’ security backgrounds in order give you peace of mind as you stream your music, videos, photos and documents from a home or office computer to your Android phone. From the new Android app, you can make on the fly playlists that other users can enjoy from the app on their phone, in a kind of 21st century mix tape. Unlike DropBox (with its security issues lately), SugarSync, Google Music or Amazon Cloud Drive, your data stays on your own computer.
HomePipe’s SecurShare service sets up a “pipe” through the Internet to your data at “home”. You can access it out on the road, on vacation, or anywhere you have an Internet connection. The service is a direct competitor to the new PogoPlug Cloud service released a few weeks ago.
Users hear a lot about security vulnerabilities in file sharing and syncing services. Android’s openness provides users with a lot of options, but it also makes security more important. HomePipe’s founders came out of the secure networking arena and founded a VPN and SSL provider called Aventail, which provides enterprise level SSL and VPN solutions. Taking that expertise they created a consumer friendly service called HomePipe with security as one of its most important features.
The service works by connecting a client app on your Mac or PC connected to the Internet to apps running on a smartphone or through a website. Take your laptop, tablet or smartphone with the updated app or browser and access to all of your files as if they were local on the laptop or mobile device. In my quick tests, I found that streaming and delivery of files was pretty fast. The company provides the pipe and the technology to help crunch those files so they will fly through the net to your device. They promise that their security features keep them safe while they are transmitted, but also will keep others from accessing them when you don’t want them to.
They have had Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps already. Today they are updating their Android app to include some new security features that the service in general is also getting. They are:
- HomePipe SecureShare – now you can share data with friends so that they have to sign in and can access the files a predetermined amount of time so that you they won’t have it forever or you won’t have to go back and turn off the sharing once they get the files. SecureShare can be set up to let them access the content once, a few times or for a period of time.
- SocialShare – you can now send file and media links to your Facebook account from the updated Android App so that friends and family can view or download the files from your computer. The file remains securely on your computer and is only linked to Facebook so that you retain control over the content.
- TextShare – you can share links like you can with SocialShare only via text message from within the updated Android App. The link will be shortened and the file will again stay safely on your computer where the recipient may download it once or multiple times and you can set it up so they will have to login to get the files so that you know when they access it.
- Automatic Sign Out – when you exit the app it signs you out automatically so that streaming is cut off when not in use saving battery life and no one can get it if your phone becomes compromised.
- iTunes Streaming on Android Phones – HomePipe users can access their unencrypted iTunes files with the ability to stream music and videos and create what they call A La Carte Playlists from iTunes or Amazon music files. You can stream the music while doing other things on your mobile device. You can also share the playlist with others so they can listen to your music without you illegally giving them the files. Just like the above services you can set how much they can access it. This is the 21st Century digital version of making a mix tape or CD for someone.
The apps are available in the Amazon App Store or the Android Market. They also distribute an iOS app. Find links at the HomePipe website. They apps are all free of charge. There are multiple levels of service as follows:
- Light Edition is free with up to 10 uses per month with ad support
- Standard Edition is $23.99/year or about $2/month with unlimited uses and no ads
A “use” is not simply any time you open the app or access the web site. A use begins once you start streaming content. So you can start viewing a video file on your computer from a hotel room while on a business trip. Then as you ride in the taxi to the airport you can continue viewing it on your Android smartphone. That counts as one use, not two, even though you opened two devices and accessed it via two pieces of software. The usage expires after about two hours.
In future they may change the way they handle this, because their co-founder Chris Hoppen admitted to me that it was a little confusing. He said they didn’t want to “nickel and dime” people on the ad-supported free version, but felt like they needed to offer a premium version for heavy users who won’t want to look at ads.