Seagate FreeAgent DockStar

Last year I reviewed the Pogoplug from Cloud Engines.

To recap, the Pogoplug is a low-end, personal Network Attached Storage (NAS) server (you have to add your own USB drives) that can be accessed from your local network or from anywhere on the Internet. The Pogoplug also provides access controls and can even run applications. In short, it is way cool.

A number of companies have since jumped on the bandwagon by licensing the Pogoplug technology to work with their products. Included in this group is Seagate with its FreeAgent Go DockStar which combines the server functionality with dockable storage.

The FreeAgent Go part of the system is a slim (5.12"h by 3.15"w by 0.83"d and weigh just 0.35lb), elegantly styled USB 2.0 drive available in capacities ranging from 250GB ($89.99) to 1TB ($229.99). They offer power management (you can set how long to wait before entering power-saving mode) and, using the Seagate Manager application, you can schedule automatic backups and use the drive to synchronize two computers.

A recently released update of the Seagate Manager adds a new feature: Encrypted folders. This is a good idea but, I presume, due to export restrictions, you have to apply to Seagate Technical Support and supply the serial number of your drive and your address to get this version.

This is irritating enough without having to deal with Seagate's labyrinthine Web site to make the request. Seagate appears to use much the same approach to customer service as SAP, which is to say bureaucratic and counterintuitive. I also notice the Seagate uses SalesForce for its customer service. Is it just me or do you also think that SalesForce makes a horrible support platform?

Anyway, as a portable storage device, the FreeAgent is way cool. While you can just plug it into your computer using the supplied USB cable, you can also get a dock for the drive, either the Go Dock or the Go Dock+ (the Go Dock+ is also a three-port USB 2.0 hub).

The Go Dock+ is only $19.99 but for an extra and measly $60 (total price, $79.99) you can get the DockStar which has the Pogoplug technology embedded.

Like the Pogoplug, the DockStar (which also provides a three-port USB hub) turns its attached storage, the FreeAgent Go drive, into an Internet accessible storage system. You simply plug in the power adapter, mount the drive in the DockStar's slot, plug in an Ethernet cable and, once you've registered with the Pogoplug service, you're good to go; you can now securely access the FreeAgent Go storage from any Web browser anywhere on the Internet.

If you install the optional Pogoplug client software you can map the DockStar storage to a local drive on your PC. And here was where things stopped working with the Seagate Manager backup service.

The Seagate Manager recognized the mapped drive as a FreeAgent device and offered to backup to it except the backup function didn't work, at least under Windows Vista Ultimate.

The Seagate Manager unhelpfully reported "The backup has been completed, but with errors" and the error is reported as "The destination is not accessible". As I could navigate to the mapped drive using Windows Explorer and then save and delete files I think it is safe to say there's a bug involved.

Even so, this isn't much of an issue as I'd rather use a much more sophisticated backup and synchronization tool such as Good Sync (I discussed this tool here in Gearhead last year).

Despite the backup bug and the annoying customer service Web site (though, to give them their due, Seagate customer service got back to me pronto), I'll give the Seagate FreeAgent Go DockStar combination 4.5 out of 5. The engineering (other than that of the Seagate Manager) is excellent, the Pogoplug service is great, and the price is right.

Store your comments with Gibbs (who is in Ventura, Calif.) at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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