Pogoplug recently joined the cloud storage craze, and now offers 5GB of free storage to everyone in a service similar to Dropbox, Box, iCloud, and SkyDrive. Before the cloud became a buzzword, however, Pogoplug was a hardware company, and the new $99.95 Pogoplug Series 4 is proof the company still believes mini servers that host personal hard drives are the solution for accessing data from anywhere, anytime.

Pogoplug's first piece of hardware (self-titled, like any true freshman effort), came out in 2009 and let you do one thing: plug in a USB hard drive and access its contents anywhere, from the web or from iPhone and desktop apps. The Series 4 does the same thing, except it has many more ports so you can connect multiple drives, and — more importantly — it's now integrated with Pogoplug's server-side cloud storage option and a wider selection of apps. There are Windows and Mac applications, along with iPhone, iPad, and Android apps that let you browse and play your files in addition to automatically uploading photos and videos as you take them.

The idea is that you'll start with Pogoplug's 5GB of free cloud storage, and when you need more space you'll "expand your cloud" with a hard drive connected to either a Pogoplug device like the Series 4, or an always-on computer running Pogoplug PC software. (Of course, if you'd rather not host your own data, the company does also offer increased storage on its servers for a monthly fee starting at $4.95 for 30GB.)

What we're looking at with the Series 4, then, is a feature-packed home server with an entire collection of apps that is designed to be easy to set up — unlike a NAS. Quite a lofty goal for a tiny $99.95 black box. Let's see how it fares.