These days, we’ve got cloud-based applications, file storage and a growing host of capabilities that live in the murkiness of the Internet, waiting for us to invoke them from our networked devices. Then there’s HomePipe, which puts an interesting twist on sharing files across your own device fleet. But is HomePipe ready for the business network world? That probably depends on your sense of adventure and willingness to try new ways of doing things.
Whether you are a user of Google Docs or a subscriber to any one of several online backup services, you have made use of the cloud. And when the topic of file sharing among far-flung and dissimilar devices is at hand, thoughts generally tend to include some sort of hosted repository in a data center somewhere beyond the bounds of what we need to really understand as technology users. HomePipe is different in that it acts more like a "sharing broker" than anything else, establishing a relational framework between permitted devices where some clever interactions take place.
Before I recently became a HomePipe user, I had the chance to be introduced to the service by Chris Hopen, HomePipe’s CEO. Hopen was pivotal to the development of the SSL-VPN space, and elements of that come through fairly obviously as you consider the security and operational feel of HomePipe. Though Hopen conceded that many of the "Hey, can HomePipe do_____?" questions that I had map to development features not yet available, the substance that HomePipe delivers today does provoke thought.
The quick and dirty goes like this: For whatever devices that you want to participate in file sharing, you install a very small agent and set appropriate permissions. The cloud is used only as a secure pathway and rules-of-use enforcer between devices. From there, you have speedy (compression and traffic optimization at play) access to view, stream, edit and whatever else you want to do from files on a given device from another device. Who needs Pandora when you can stream your home library when on the road?
It’s important to also understand what HomePipe is not. There is no cloud-based storage or file synchronization. Your files stay where they are, on each one of your own devices, and become more like mapped drives that negate the need for replication and synchronization. That comes with a downside--no real file backup of any sort is present, as would be with cloud-based file sharing. At the same time, most businesses will otherwise back up their machines, so perhaps this isn’t that big of a deal beyond the individual user use case.
It was impressive to quickly bring a few PCs, an iPad and my Droid smartphone all into my HomePipe account. I found the snappy new interconnection to be pretty handy, and it has already cut down on my VPN/remote desktop addiction.
HomePipe has a free edition that allows 10 users monthly, or a $24 standard edition aimed at individuals. There are group and site licensing options, but I can’t quite reconcile in my mind how I’d make use of HomePipe beyond perhaps a department with mobile users. File navigation is fairly intuitive, but the absence of a search feature (on the roadmap) could be enough reason to keep HomePipe from gaining traction as a legitimate business application. At the same time, I’m finding myself becoming quite fond of HomePipe as I move among a lot of devices in a single day.
At the time of publication, HomePipe is not a client of and has no business relationship with Lee Badman.