September 16, 2012

Updated: Polkast - Connect To Your Computer From Your Mobile Device

At ShowStoppers for the Holidays this past week, I had the opportunity to learn about a new application that allows users to access the files on their Windows or Apple computer directly from mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad and most Android devices. That application is called Polkast.

According to the website: "Polkast is secure – - we never store your files, and your account is protected by password and SSL encryption — the same methods used by banks and the military."

I just loaded it onto my Windows 7-based PC and also onto my Android-based smart phone. Both actions were pretty simple. During the installation on the PC I needed to create an account using an email address. To take advantage of the fastest mode, I turned on WIFI on the phone and then launched Polkast. I then logged in with the account I created and chose the displayed computer as what I was looking to connect to. Because there is a lot of stuff already on my computer and because I was simultaneously downloading updates to other apps on the phone, it took a few minutes before Polkast completed figuring out what was on my PC.

Once everything was in sync I was able to quickly access music and photos and such on the computer. The computer needs to be on and not in sleep mode in order for this to work.

Although I have several user IDs set up on the PC, Polkast assumes I am the Administrator and logs me in as the Administrator with access to documents in the Administrator's folder but without asking me for my Administrator ID password. I cannot, however, see files and photos and such that belong to other users on the computer. To me this is something that needs to be revisited so that I could actually connect to the PC as a particular user with only the rights associated with that user ID.

Luckily I have most photos, videos, and music in public folders and so I was able to view and/or listen to them and could also choose to download them to my phone.

I then turned off the WIFI on the phone and accessed the computer from the phone. It was a little slower, but not any slower than waiting for a website to load. (I am on a 3g network.)

There are some other features that I have not tried out yet that sound interesting. These include posting photos that are on the PC to Facebook from your phone or other connected device; sharing specific files with others; connecting even more devices to the computer.

The free app allows unlimited devices to be connected to one computer. If you need to be able to connect to multiple computers, there is an upgrade available for $4.99/month. If I understand this correctly, you can do this for a month or you can sign up for a year at a time.

Polkast is referring to this product as a "personal private cloud platform for the post-PC era". This is an interesting product and removes the need for first uploading files to the cloud or to some other device on a file by file basis before you can share it with others or even access it remotely.

So I [originally] recommend[ed] checking Polkast out, keeping in mind the issues I've cited. However, I did additional testing by going out and traveling some distance away and trying to connect. First I tried over 3g and it would not connect. Polkast told me the pc was offline. Then I switched to WIFI. No change. Came home. Checked the PC. It was not sleeping. Tried again via 3g. Still didn't work. Turned on WIFI (the same network the computer is on) and finally was able to connect again. Switched back to 3g. Not connected. Strange that 3g appeared to work earlier.

So at this time I can only recommend it as a way to access some items on your PC from a mobile device so long as you are on the same WIFI network as the computer you wish to connect to.

Richard L. Kuper,
The Kuper Report