Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Review: Cloud Storage Simplicity

by Reads (26,262)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8
      • Features
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Functionality
      • 9
      • Total Score:
      • 8.25
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Multiple drive options and price ranges
    • Remarkably easy to setup and use
    • WD My Cloud App is simply AMAZING
    • Did we mention how EASY this thing is to use?
  • Cons

    • Not the fastest NAS on the market
    • Drive access should be easier for the diskless version

IMGP8363Why spend money for cloud storage from Amazon or Google when you can have your own personal, secure cloud at home thanks to the Western Digital My Cloud EX2? While this new network attached storage (NAS) device isn’t the first “My Cloud” product from Western Digital, the EX2 might just be king of the hill in terms of delivering the perfect balance of easy-to-use cloud storage access, storage capacity options, performance, and price.

The problem most consumers have with NAS devices is that they usually work great when you’re at home or the office and connected to your local network, but things usually get complicated when you try to access the networked drives via the web … because most NAS devices require you to to open ports on the router or even setup a dynamic DNS in order to access their files remotely. Western Digital (WD) was one of the first companies to offer mobile applications for iOS and Android to make it easier to access files, but the early apps were limited to viewing photos and videos and you were out of luck if you needed to access that Excel spreadsheet on the road.

The previous generation of “My Cloud” drives solved that problem, but two additional problems remained. First, the setup and use of the drive was still too complicated for many end users. Second, the single-drive My Cloud solutions weren’t ideal for backing up multiple PCs and there was no real safety measure in place in the event that the hard drive inside the NAS fails.

Those were the biggest reasons people paid for the alternative services such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, and other. If the average household has more than 3TB of digital content they need to backup and access from anywhere then that data has to be safe and it has to be easy to access.

My Cloud WebThe WD My Cloud EX2 solves these problems by dramatically simplifying the setup process (really, we’re pretty sure even a total computer novice could get this NAS up and running). Additionally, if you purchase the EX2 with the drives included then the drives are already setup in RAID 1, meaning your data is duplicated on both drives … so if one hard drive fails you can still recover your precious files. The WD My Cloud EX2 web interface also allows you to setup a regularly scheduled backup of your important files or even backup your files to a USB flash drive that you can plug into the EX2.

 

What’s In The Box

IMGP8364The Western Digital My Cloud EX2 is bundled with a 36 W(12V @ 3A) adapter. The power adapter is customized to the country of sale. A network cable is also included in the package. Our 4 TB evaluation unit came preinstalled with a two 2 TB drives but the EX2 is available in diskless, 4 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB capacities. The EX2 models with hard drives use two WD Red drives of equal capacity but you can also swap out those drives or purchase the diskless version and use your own hard drives.

While the larger, four-drive WD EX4 features a tool-less mechanism for hot-swapping the drives, if you want to change the drives in the EX2 you’ll have to unscrew a metal flap that secures the drives and then forcefully pull the drives out using the attached pull tags. Granted, most people who purchase an EX2 for home or office use will buy one that already includes the drives and won’t remove the drives unless there’s a hardware failure, but you should know it’s tough to get the drives in and out if you’re thinking about getting the diskless version.

As for the exterior of the EX2, it shares a smooth, industrial design with the original single-drive WD My Cloud and features a single GbE port, two USB 3.0 ports and a DC power jack on the rear side of the enclosure.

 

my cloud ex2 setupSetup Made Simple

To set up the devices, you can plug in the power adapter, plug the EX2 into your network with the included Ethernet cable, then download an application to your computer from the Western Digital website. The WD software will find the My Cloud EX2 drive by itself and walk you through setting it up.

Once the surprisingly simple setup is complete, you can either access the drive from your PC, use the web login to access it from any device with a web browser, or install the WD My Cloud app for iOS or Android to access the My Cloud EX2.

 

WD My Cloud Kicks App

my cloud appFrankly, it’s the WD My Cloud app that really sells the EX2. Most people who use smartphones or tablets for work end up needing to transfer files off their mobile device or simply require more storage space. While Dropbox or Google Drive get the job done, you have to pay if you want serious storage space, and there is the question of data security. Once your files are being stored one someone else’s server you are no longer in control of what happens to those files … or who has access to them. A network-attached storage drive connected to your home or office network is far less likely to be a target for anyone with prying eyes.

What makes the WD My Cloud app so great is that users upload 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 don’t have to transfer up to some server and then back down to your device.

You can also use the apps to view or stream video, music, and photos to your devices, or download important files (PDFs, Word docs, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) for offline viewing. You can embed these files directly in emails from your phone or tablet, 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 later on.

Another main attraction to the WD My Cloud app is the way WD integrated this app into other cloud services. If you already use a Dropbox or Google Drive account, you can tie those accounts to your WD My Cloud app. This means you can back up your My Cloud to one of these services, or you can back up one of these services to your My Cloud. Interestingly, you’re able to use the WD app to browse and embed these accounts as well, meaning that some people may want to download and use the app to manage their multiple cloud storage accounts even if they never buy a My Cloud device.

 

my cloud app 2Performance? Not Bad … But Not The Best

For those readers who are interested in the speeds and feeds, the My Cloud EX2 uses a Marvell ARMADA 370 processor (a single-core ARM v7 running at 1.2 GHz) and has 512MB of DDR3 system RAM.

We could offer up some boring charts with numbers showing the data transfer speeds and encryption speeds of the WD My Cloud EX2, but in all honesty there’s little tangible difference between the raw read or write speeds you’ll see on this networked drive compared to other networked drives we’ve reviewed in the past. In simpler terms, if you need to back up a major work project involving 25.5 GB of photos and HD videos you can copy all that data over to the EX2 via a typical home or office network (which isn’t optimized for local data transfers) in approximately one hour.

That type of transfer speed means the EX2 isn’t the fastest NAS on the market, but it gets the job done. Again, the main advantages to using the EX2 are the ease of setup, simplicity of the My Cloud mobile app, and the ease of use from anywhere on any device. Average power consumption varies from just over 5 W at idle to just over 27 W while actively writing data to the drives, meaning you shouldn’t see a dramatic increase to your utilities expenses if you leave the EX2 running 24/7.

In case you’re curious about which computers on your local network can connect directly to the drive, the My Cloud EX2 is compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, Snow Leopard. The EX will also function as a media server in your home and is visible to DLNA/UPnP enabled devices.

My Cloud EX2 is currently available at U.S. retailers and online at the wdstore.com. Prices range from $199.99 for the diskless My Cloud EX2, $369.99 for 4 TB, $469.99 for 6 TB and $569.99 for 8 TB. The WD My Cloud mobile app currently is available for download for free from the App Store and Google Play. My Cloud EX2 comes with a two year limited warranty.

IMGP8365Pros:

  • Multiple drive options and price ranges
  • Remarkably easy to setup and use
  • WD My Cloud App is simply AMAZING
  • Did we mention how EASY this thing is to use?

Cons:

  • Not the fastest NAS on the market
  • Drive access should be easier for the diskless version


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