|At a Glance|
|Product||Codelathe’s Tonido Software (Website)|
|Summary||Software for Windows, MacOS and Linux that enables cloud-based access|
|Pros||• Quick Setup
• Excellent mobile client.
• Easy to use interface
• Customizable through installable apps
|Cons||• No support
• No software to access cloud drives via a network share
• Requires a computer, taking more power and additional management overhead than the TonidoPlug
• Media streaming limited to formats supported by device
After recently reviewing Pogoplug Premium Beta, which turns your Windows or Mac OS computer into a cloud-connected NAS, I thought it would be good to look at Codelathe’s Tonido. The Tonido Plug is probably the Pogoplug’s biggest competitor, although Tonido has taken a slightly different direction.
What I believe both companies have realized is that the Marvell plug computer form factor is underpowered for the demands of NAS duty. Consumers interested in NAS products want the NAS to do everything and then some. Just take a look at any of the recent NASes from Synology, QNAP, or NETGEAR, and you’ll spend ten minutes going over the feature list. It’s actually a little excessive at points (what consumer needs iSCSI initiator and target capabilities?) but it’s there for you if you do.
Tonido took this path a little sooner than Pogoplug, and it’s evident in their software’s maturity. Let’s take a look at the feature set.
Features and Pricing
Tonido’s software is free for the base package. This core pack takes whatever hard drives are installed on the system, and makes them available to access via a custom url from the tonidoid.com domain. I’ll go into that further in a bit, but let’s look at the rest of the features.
Tonido has really gotten into the whole “app” concept so there are a number of free apps that come loaded by default, with more available to install. These include a Jukebox feature where you can stream audio to your webrowser or mobile phone and create playlists. Searching is also available, and Web Sharing which makes content on your system availble on the web via a URL you can later disable.
Some additional free apps include a Backup system to backup certain folders to either a local disk or a remote computer running Tonido. Money and Fitness are for tracking their respective activities. Screenshare takes screen shots every so often and uploads them to a special URL you can watch remotely. Just recently released is a Torrent manager that does something similar to the web UI on other BitTorrent clients, but without having to deal with port forwarding.
Not all the applications are free, however. To get the same level of sharing as you would had you purchased a TonidoPlug, users of the Tonido software must purchase WebSharePro, which is the only application that is currently a “pay for” app. It enables drag-and-drop file sharing along with other amenities to make large file sharing easier. For $30, this might be a bit high, but CodeLathe has to recoup its development costs.
Installation and Setup
Installation is fairly standard for your OS of choice. Linux users have MEPIS and Ubuntu distributions available to them. Windows users get the added choice of using the installer, or running Tonido off a USB drive, with no install required. This might be useful if you want to quickly share something with someone, or if you’re using the backup software. But, even then, I would think installing the software would be best and easiest to manage.
Once installed, the system starts up a web server on port 10001 and you are presented with account creation. If you already have an account, you log in and add the computer to your account. At this point ,Tonido is set up and ready to start sharing.
I was at first a little apprehensive about having everything on my Windows system immediately available on the cloud. However, it does make things easier on the end user to not have to go through designating which folders are available. Tonido also makes any mapped network drives available, meaning my home file server was now also on the cloud. I viewed this as convenient, but I would prefer to be told that it was going to occur in the first place.
The only setup step once you’re done installing.
The Home screen of Tonido, with addons installed.
The settings area contains a speed settings that by default limits you to 50 kbps. I didn’t notice this in testing as my 3G connection downloaded at over 1 Mbps.
The standard view for files in Tonido.
Uploading files is a "one-at-a-time" process.
You can also see a more modern "gallery" style view.
Working Movie Playback.
Tonido recommends VLC’s plugin if Flash can’t play it.
Sharing files is fairly simple, and provides a URL if you have WebSharing enabled.
Using Tonido showed how mature the system is compared to Pogoplug’s software. The interface is laid out really well, as can be seen in the gallery and feels really simple to navigate. Sharing folders was fairly easy, although, just like Pogoplug, you have to give people direct access to files on your machine. As long as you’re OK with this, you can either make users have usernames and passwords to get your files, or share them out on the web publicly. There are use cases for both. But unlike Pogoplug, you don’t get the ability to have users upload their own files.
That doesn’t mean there is zero collaboration. In fact, there’s a fairly robust project management system in the free app called Workspace. But it requires everyone have his or her own Tonido ID, which means everyone will need to create their own Tonido username and password. You can then invite them to be part of a “group”, which then has access to Workspace (and other apps that apply to that group). This is a level of administration that will probably turn off some users from using Workspace.
Sharing links publicly work as advertised, as do nearly all of Tonido’s features. I tried out the mobile application over AT&T’s 3G to my iPhone 3GS, and it was fast and easy to use. I only once managed to get the app “stuck” and even then it wasn’t really stuck.
Streaming video to my phone worked well for SD movies as long as they were in the proper format for the iPhone. Unlike the Pogoplog Premium software, Tonido does not try to transcode for you. The app will merely tell you it can’t do anything with the file if it can’t play it. The app can also take advantage of the Jukebox’s playlist to play music back, or it can play it directly from a folder.
The system itself is very smart and if you are detected as being on the same LAN, it will point you to the local computer’s web server, rather than having you relay through Tonido’s cloud. I had problems properly speed testing for this reason, as I don’t have a reliable second Internet connection to test with. I do have a Clear Wireless mobile hotspot that averages 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, and I was able to saturare that fairly easily.
Streaming SD Videos took about 1.5 Mbps to my phone over AT&T 3G. Overall Tonido will saturate whatever Internet connection you throw at it, similar to Pogoplug. I will update the review with a proper speed test using a similar Internet connection to my 25M/25M FiOS once I can borrow a friend’s network.
A missing Tonido feature is some way of making the cloud drive appear as a network share on the client computer. This is accomplished on Pogoplug by installing the PogoDrive client software. “But Matt, we can access the drive using SMB/CIFS on the LAN.” Ah this is true. But if you need to transfer a significant amount of files when elsewhere, dealing with the web interface is going to quickly become frustrating. Even as good as Tonido’s web interface is, it doesn’t match a true file-browsing experience using any of the native file browsers (Explorer, Finder, etc.).
Access, Support, Security
Your files are accessed mainly through the web interface. It’s a simple interface to follow, and there is a good manual online to walk your through it. Major mobile platforms are supported, and I tested the iPhone interface. Tonido’s app worked quite well over AT&T’s 3G, as mentioned above, although this is very dependent on how your particular cell network is handling the load that day. The app on the iPhone / iPad is similar to other cloud storage apps though in that it’s merely a viewer that can cache files for offline access.
Support is virtually non-existent. There is a combined online manual for both the Tonido software and the TonidoPlug. That is where documentation ends unfortunately, so have fun figuring out how all the addon software actually works. The Tonido Forums are active and patrolled by members of CodeLathe, the company responsible for the software. There is no other way of contacting CodeLathe though, which puts them behind Pogoplug, which at least has an email form.
Security is decent, and in some respects better than its major competitor. The Tonido software is much more intelligent at determining when you are on the same LAN with the server, which means less get transferred over the Internet. When they do have to cross the ‘Net, files are transferred over SSL, and will go through a relay server if there is an impediment (like a firewall) in the way.
Overall, Tonido software works as advertised and it was tough to find any faults with it. The best I could probably ding CodeLathe for is not having a way to access the cloud drive as if it were a shared drive. This feature is of limited use however, as I foresee most people just needing to download one or two files at most.
If you have a home file server that you want accessible over the cloud, the Tonido software is a no-brainer, as long as you don’t mind the few minutes of setup.