Western Digital My Cloud (October 4th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Western Digital
- - Inexpensive - Simple to set up - Great performance - Third-party cloud integration
- - Lacks advanced NAS features
Western Digital is attempting to reinvent the network-attached storage (NAS) concept with its new My Cloud device. The external storage aims to eliminate all of the network complications while expanding the available features. In our full review, we try to determine if the company has succeeded in simplification without sacrifice.
The My Cloud hardware shares the same overall appearance as Western Digital's My Book external drives, with a plastic shell that wraps around the front side like a book cover. The white housing, silver accents and blue status light bring a neutral design that won't stand out on most desks. A power adapter plugs into the backside, which also hosts a Kensington lock slot and ports for Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 connections.
A single 2TB, 3TB or 4TB hard drive is hidden inside the housing, along with a dual-core processor that helps handle the "cloud" features. We like the fanless design, in contrast to most other NAS systems that constantly maintain varying degrees of annoying noise.
Western Digital's software is what really differentiates the My Cloud from a typical NAS device. The company has focused on simplicity, avoiding the "NAS" branding that many consumers rightfully or wrongfully interpret as too complicated to simply work out of the box without calling a help desk or having an IT degree.
After plugging in the Ethernet cable to a home network, desktop configuration software quickly finds the device and mounts it as a local drive for easy drag-and-drop transfer without third-party software. The My Cloud desktop app also supports drag-and-drop transfer and management tools for multiple devices.
The My Cloud mobile apps for iOS and Android devices are an even better representation of the company's "cloud" strategy. Users can remotely access their My Cloud content and quickly download/upload files between their mobile device and the home storage. The apps also provide direct integration with third-party cloud services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive, enabling content to be accessed from or uploaded to the home storage or remote servers without leaving the mobile interface. Content can also be split between private folders and public folders to be shared with friends and coworkers.
We've tried quite a few different NAS systems, and My Cloud has been the simplest to configure and easiest to use for basic remote access. Western Digital promotes the device as a cheaper alternative to paid services, and this is certainly true for people that have a few hundred gigabytes of multimedia content that they want to access remotely, though it is important to note that My Cloud lacks direct tools for advanced NAS features such as torrent downloads and security-camera management. It is also not configurable as a RAID array for redundancy, though this feature might be added with the multiple-drive models that are promised to arrive in the future.
For a cloud device, data transfer speeds are obviously limited to the upload/download speeds of a home network and the remote connection. Many users will also take advantage of the My Cloud's backup capabilities, making local transfer speeds an important consideration.
When transferring files to the My Cloud on the same network, we were able to achieve write speeds beyond 50MB/sec and read speeds above 60MB/sec. We had expected the performance to be much worse, considering the device's comparatively low price tag, leaving us shocked when we verified the test speeds after a few runs. The My Cloud is not only the cheapest NAS we've tried, but also one of the fastest over an Ethernet connection.
Western Digital has succeeded in building an external hard drive with NAS features and no headache. Despite the lack of advanced features, the basic capabilities have been presented in a way that is straightforward and easy enough for typical users to figure out without consulting an instruction manual. And the best part? The My Cloud costs little more than Western Digital's My Book hardware. The 2TB version costs just $150, while the 3TB and 4TB editions carry respective price tags of $180 and $250.