A cloud in a plug - brilliant

Last week a company called Codelathe sent me one of the cooler devices I've ever had the chance to use. In response to my personal cloud post over on Between the Lines, they said, "Have we got the product for you!
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Last week a company called Codelathe sent me one of the cooler devices I've ever had the chance to use. In response to my personal cloud post over on Between the Lines, they said, "Have we got the product for you!" I'm paraphrasing, of course, but I have to say that I'm completely impressed by their TonidoPlug, both for the education market and as well as for pro-sumers in search of slick network attached storage and web developers looking for an inexpensive web server.

The TonidoPlug is very similar to a device I highlighted early last year. OK, it is the device I wrote about early last year, but now marketed by a company that has a remarkably useful software stack installed. When I wrote about the Marvell Plug, I asked,

Want to create a small firewall for testing in a lab? How about handling DHCP or DNS? How about a portable server that could move between schools for troubleshooting or serving up multimedia (think 8GB USB stick attached or a small USB hard drive)? Want students to experiment with clustering and load balancing? At $100 a piece, this suddenly becomes something that you can do in a classroom setting.

I don’t think this is just the gadget geek in me, either. This seems like an incredibly cheap way to give students the ability to play with their own server (or at least a small group of students), giving them an easy sandbox for setting up all sorts of Internet and networking applications.

Well, the TonidoPlug is still selling for $100 ($99, to be exact) and can do everything I proposed and more. The default stack immediately provides users with the ability to share files in any attached USB device. Sharing can range from simple network attached storage to streaming music files online to any computer. Files on other computers in your network can also be shared, either with each other or outside the network.

The inside sharing piece is fairly straightforward and the web interface to the little box is relatively intuitive. This isn't for the average end user who just keeps looking for that "Any" key when they want to continue. However, for a school needing to share media and content easily or for someone looking to tap into that personal cloud idea without needing to consult Adrian Kingsley-Hughes on hardware requirements for their home server, the TonidoPlug rocks out loud. This software stack, by the way, is actually called Tonido and can be purchased separately if you already bought one of those Marvell Plugs.

For the more adventurous, Tonido also offers a custom LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) image for installation. As Tonido COO, Venkataragavan Ramasamy, explained,

We created the LAMP image to target the web developers...We can create a turnkey a solution for education.

I suggested he call it the EduPlug. I'm installing the LAMP image now for more experimentation, but it's just a Ubuntu server. It would be easy to add Moodle and Joomla with sample content and preconfigured databases. Bundle it with a big USB hard drive and set the web/class content to point to the external disk, and you have yourself a working educational web server in a matter of minutes. As noted on the website,

This product requires that you are familiar with Linux and operating on the command line. The full instructions are given here so please ensure that you are comfortable with this procedure before purchasing this product.

However, even the LAMP image includes Webmin and other visual management tools for the server. An educational layer (or a home layer, or a small business layer, or whatever) would be easy to add.

I'll be writing more about Tonido and my personal cloud explorations soon. For now, though, if you need a website or enhanced NAS functionality quickly, cheaply, and energy-efficiently, you owe it to yourself to check out TonidoPlug.

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