Hands On: Western Digital Makes Personal Cloud Storage Easier with New ‘My Cloud’ Networked Drives

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Western Digital isn’t new to the networked storage game, not by a long shot. And previous NAS, or network-attached storage, devices were pretty good – you put your computer on the network, pushed your data to the hard drive, and accessed it later on. As long as you were at home, things worked just fine.

Western Digital WD My Cloud Personal Cloud Storage

It was when you left the house that it began to fall apart a little bit, as users were forced to open ports on their routers or perform some sort of arcane dynamic DNS setup in order to access their files remotely. At some point, WD offered mobile applications, but these were often limited to viewing only photos, for example (leaving that PDF you needed for work stuck at home).

It’s this latter part that their new line of ‘My Cloud’ drives are hoping to mitigate. WD’s strategy is to market them as alternatives to paying for the premium versions of services such as Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, and more. Quoting Gartner’s study that suggests the average household will possess more than 3TB of digital content in the next couple of years, Western Digital is contending that their one-time hard drive purchases represents a better remotely accessible value.

At launch, the new drives will be available in capacities of 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB. The 2TB will be available for $150, and the 3TB for $180. The 4TB version won’t be available for another month, but it’ll cost $250 when it ships in November. Given that Dropbox costs $500 for a year of 500GB of storage, it’s easy to see why WD might be successful.

It’s the perfect time to launch such a product, too – given how many stories we’ve all read recently about government and hacker intrusions into what many people previously thought was a sacred space (for what it’s worth, that doesn’t exist on the Internet), there’s an uncertainty floating around for many people as to whether they should be keeping information “in the cloud” at all. A private, home-based storage cluster might mitigate some of those fears.

Western Digital WD My Cloud Personal Cloud StorageWestern Digital WD My Cloud Personal Cloud StorageWestern Digital WD My Cloud Personal Cloud Storage

To set up the devices, you can plug it into your network with an Ethernet cable, then download an application to your computer or mobile device. The WD software can find the My Cloud drive by itself and walk new users through setting it up.

And it’s these apps that will really determine whether Western Digital can sell the My Cloud concept. While we’ve only had some brief experiences with the mobile apps (they are going live on iOS and Android shortly), they offer a lot more functionality that software that the storage giant has offered previously.

What we liked about the apps is that users will be able to upload photos and other files directly to their My Cloud drives from their smartphone or tablet. The drive initiates a peer-to-peer connection between the user and their storage, so your files won’t have to transfer up to some server and then back down to your devices.

You can also use the apps to view or stream photos, music, and videos to your devices, or download them (and other apps, like that PDF you needed so badly) for offline viewing. You can embed these files directly in emails from your phone, and if you want to send a file that’s too unwieldy to download on the go, the software can intelligently insert a public link to the file in your email, letting your recipient download the data from a better connection later on.

Our hands down favorite feature of the applications, however, is the way WD integrated them into other cloud services. If you’ve got a Dropbox or Box account (among others), you can tie those accounts to your WD My Cloud app, back your My Cloud up to one of these services, or even back one of these services up to your My Cloud. Interestingly, you’ll be able to use the WD app to browse and embed these accounts as well, meaning that some people may wish to download and use the app even if they never buy a My Cloud device.

The units are sleek and white, with just enough updating to give Western Digital’s traditional designs a fresh, modern look. A Gigabit Ethernet port connects your drive to the network, while a USB 3.0 port lets you expand the onboard storage with any USB-capable hard drive. While at home, the units also serve as DLNA-compatible media servers.

Two- and four-drive versions of the My Cloud will ship later this fall for an undisclosed price.

 

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