As our digital lives grow bigger and bigger, the need arises for more and more storage. With digital photos, 4K videos and all the downloaded movies we accumulate, your computer’s hard drive can quickly become overloaded…and that’s a really bad thing. For every percentage of your hard drive that you fill, your computer is liable to work that much slower, until there is no room for it to do its basic calculations and you get the blue-screen-of-death. Crash!
Additionally, cloud storage is great, until something goes wrong. After you’ve been accidentally locked out of your account or after you’ve been hacked, you’ll quickly realize you should have been keeping your own copy of all those files as well as using the cloud. Both make perfect sense, but one without the other is not a good idea.
My Cloud to the rescue
Western Digital has an entire line of My Cloud products meant to solve those various scenarios listed above. Once you decide that you are going to take responsibility for maintaining your own files in addition to any “free” cloud storage you can get, the thing to consider is a NAS (network attached storage) drive. With a NAS, you create your own cloud (hence the “My Cloud” designation) and now you have access to your contents from home, office or anywhere you have Internet access.
I’ve been using the My Cloud EX2 Ultra (Model WDBVKW0040JCH) for the past couple months. It’s available in 4TB, 8TB and 16TB models. It has two bays, with two hard drives, so you can create redundant backups and really be sure your data is safe. It can be configured as RAID 0, 1, JBOD and spanning for some real flexibility. Just remember, if you choose RAID, you cut your total disk storage space in half for all practical purposes.
But there’s so much more
In addition to basic storage, you’ll be amazed at all the additional capabilities packed into this Expert Series of NAS storage devices. It comes with its own 1GB of RAM and a Marvel ARMADA 1.3 GHz dual-core processor, so it can perform some awesome functions all on its own. In addition, there are two USB ports on the back, so it can host additional drives for additional storage and additional functions.
With the My Cloud EX2 Ultra, I can use it as a:
- File server
- FTP server
- Backup server
- P2P torrent download server
- Music server with built-in iTunes support
- Movie streaming device to connected TV’s or gaming consoles with Plex server
Additionally, there are apps available for your smartphones to allow access to all your content and even more apps you can install on your NAS for even more capabilities. Want to host your own WordPress or Joomla site – can do. Want to store footage from your security cameras – for days or weeks – there’s an app for that. Want to install your own apps – can do that too. This is really a totally flexible system you need to investigate.
One of the features I like is that the MyCloud app will automatically back up all my iPhone photos to a special shared folder on the NAS whenever it’s near a WiFi source, so when I get back to the office, all my photos are already on my network and ready to be edited. Also, if I would ever loose my iPhone, the photos would at least be saved.
Here you can see I’ve got a Western Digital Passport Ultra portable drive plugged in the USB port. It’s easy then to load my Passport with files I want when I travel and then sync them back up with the EX2 Ultra when I get back.
Secrets to success
I’ll be honest. I didn’t succeed the first time (or even the second time) when I tried to use all the various features available with the EX2 Ultra. It took two calls to tech support, with escalation to Level Two support personnel to answer all my questions. But, A) they all DID get answered and B) the support team were some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever dealt with in tech support anywhere.
For example, I couldn’t get the NAS drive to recognize the USB drives I plugged in. Turns out, that by simply rebooting the NAS after they were connected, it recognized them perfectly. Now I am a perfectly happy customer. Check out all their My Cloud and My Cloud NAS models and be prepared to be amazed at all the functionality in one compact device.
Disclaimer: Western Digital provided the EX2 Ultra for me to test out so I could complete this review.
Also published on Medium.