D-Link is one of the first wireless router vendors to create mobile apps for remotely connecting and managing D-Link routers in customers’ home networks. Previously, more complex technologies such as VPNs and port forwarding had to be set up by tech-savvy users to access their home networks from external locations.
D-Link had a bit of a shaky start with its early apps and its mydlink cloud service, as we discovered when testing an early release of the mydlink App (for Android). D-Link just released a new version of its mydlink SharePort app for accessing files residing on storage devices connected to the USB ports of some of the newer, cloud-based D-Link routers. The new SharePort app is a more mature product than the original mydlink app and is an easy way for users to remotely connect to data on their USB external drives despite some nuisances.
What It Does
SharePort is an app for both iOS and Android that allows you to access and play media (and documents) stored on a USB drive (or an SD card for D-Link routers that support that functionality) from a mobile device. With the app, you can access these files when you are home locally on your network, or if you are away from home.
I downloaded SharePort from Google Play. It’s a quick install, and not a storage hog; the specs in Play state the app is 6.7MB in size—after installing on my Android, the app size reads 8.50MB. SharePort supports Android version 2.3.3 and up.
Mydlink SharePort app is not the same as D-Link’s SharePort mobile app. The latter only lets you access files from a mobile device that is on the same local network as the connected USB drive. With the new mydlink app, you can access files both locally and remotely.
App Compatibility and Install
The new SharePort app is only compatible with D-Link’s line of cloud routers. These include: DIR-508L, DIR-816L, DIR-820L, DIR-850L, DIR-860L, and the DIR-868L. It’s advised to update the routers to the latest available firmware. D-Link states that more routers will be supported soon.
After installing the app on an Android device (I used a Droid Razr M) there are a few housekeeping tasks to do on the router. First is of course is connecting a USB drive to the D-Link router (I tested with the DIR-868L). I connected a Western Digital My Passport drive. Next, if you want different users to connect locally to the USB drive and you want to set various Read/Write permissions, you can set those user up accounts at this point within the router interface. Remember, for remote access, you need to create a mydlink account and the router has to be registered with the mydlink cloud service.
Settings and Interface
When you first open the app, you are given the option of connecting locally or remotely to the USB drive. If connecting locally, you can supply the router’s admin account, or any other user account you’ve set up in the router’s management UI. If accessing remotely, you must supply the credentials of your cloud mydlink account.
The app’s UI is modern, crisp, and simple. You can swipe through a carousel of icons that represent different folders. Any files you upload to a USB drive attached to the router are automatically placed in the appropriate pre-configured folder based on file type. By default, the folders already created are Pictures, Music, Videos, Documents, and Favorites.
I uploaded a few different types of files to the USB drive. Sure enough, images were in the Pictures folder, movie clips were in Video, and so on.
You can tap a star icon next to any file. This adds the file into the Favorites folder so you can quickly access it.
Tapping open a file gives you a few options. You can—as mentioned—add the file to favorites, view all images as a slideshow or delete a file. Sharing, editing, viewing or streaming any file requires you have the appropriate program installed on your mobile device. For instance, I am able to open an image tap the “Share” icon and can quickly send to email, text message, Facebook or any other social media or messaging service I use.
You can upload files to the USB drive either by browsing through a file explorer to the connected drive on a desktop; by enabling SharePort Web Access within the D-Link router’s interface (which allows you to access the SharePort console via a browser; or with the app. Uploading via the app is done by selecting the Folder icon. Your USB drive is then displayed. Click on the drive and a listing of folders and files on the USB device is shown. When this listing displays, there is a “Upload” arrow you can select and can upload from your mobile device to the USB drive. You can also copy the uploaded file into any folder.
When I uploaded a Word doc, the app correctly categorized the file and placed it into the Documents folder. I uploaded a Notepad .txt file and the app did not place it into Documents. D-Link states an update in the near future will categorize text files appropriately.
You also can’t download files from your attached USB drive to your mobile device, which would be cool if you were on a slow connection and wanted to edit a document and then upload it back to your drive.
Minor Annoyances But Overall Strong App
There are a couple other minor annoyances: When you open the app and put in the wrong credentials by mistake, the app still opens and shows an error (of course you can’t see your data because you are not authenticated to the router or the mydlink service).
This is annoying because you have to back out of the app one screen back to get to the login prompt again. D-Link reps say this will be fixed in a future update as well.
It’s also unclear as to how many remote accounts you can setup per device. In order to establish a mydlink account, you have to register a supported router. That account associated with the router is the one you use to access connected USB drives remotely with the SharePort app.
However, I did not see anywhere in the mydlink site, in the app, or in the router interface to set up additional remote user accounts for the same router. This is unfortunate because perhaps you would want to give your kids access remotely to a Homework folder and nothing else. If everyone uses the same remote account, then everyone has the same level of access.
Still, D-Link’s SharePort app showcases the true potential of the mydlink cloud service, in a way that the mydlink app did not. This may be one of the easiest ways for users to access files remotely although there are some limitations such as the inability to download and others mentioned in this review. Yet, it’s free and does add value to D-Link’s portfolio of cloud-based routers. Mydlink SharePort earns four out of five stars for Android networking utilities.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc