We create and consume far more content today than ever before. We have these huge music libraries to go with the thousands of high-resolution photos that we keep taking. It's important to have a backup of all this treasured data, but at the same time, you don't want to feel restricted with where you can access those pictures,, movies and music. And that's where a product like the Western Digital WD My Cloud can come into the picture.
Many of us already know Western Digital as a trusted brand for hard drives and storage solutions, but the WD My Cloud goes further by effectively letting you own and control your own personal cloud. It may look like one of their other external hard drives, but the WD My Cloud is so much more than that. It can supplement or even replace public cloud services like Google Drive, Skydrive and Dropbox.
What's in the Box?
We already shot and published a short unboxing video that also gives you a quick overview of some of the key features. The particular model that we tested is the 2TB model, but it will be fundamentally identical to the ones with higher capacities.
Along with the WD My Cloud itself, included in the box are the power adapter, network cable, and quick start guide. You'll notice that there is no USB cable, because unlike conventional external hard drives, the WD My Cloud does not connect directly with your computer. Instead, you use the network cable to connect it to your router.
Setting Up the Personal Cloud
The initial setup can be performed vai the web browser on your computer, but you can also do it quite easily through a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. You simply plug in the power, connect the My Cloud to your router using the provided network cable, and wait for it to boot up. The WD My Cloud be automatically detected on your network and then you can proceed through with the rest of the setup process.
You'll need to set up an account with the My Cloud service, but once you do, you can connect as many My Cloud devices (and other cloud storage solutions) to that same account for more of a seamless experience. The step-by-step wizard is easy to understand and only takes a couple of minutes. Adding additional My Cloud devices is even faster.
This isn't quite as fast as your computer installing some generic drivers for a conventional USB storage device, but the My Cloud is designed not only for local access over your local network, but also for remote access via the web.
The Mobile App Experience
The dual-pane layout of the tablet app is more conducive to file browsing than the single-pane smartphone app, but both are equally functional. When you also connect your existing cloud services, like Google Drive and Dropbox, you can easily move files between the My Cloud and these services from directly within the app.
Each time that you start up the app, it may take a few moments for the app to "find" your My Cloud, but once it does, the actual experience is quite seamless. You can upload multiple files into whatever folder structure you'd like to have on your My Cloud, including having separate, private folders for different users. Naturally, you can also download this content from the My Cloud onto your tablet or smartphone too. In the case of media files, they can be previewed from within the app too.
This is just as robust as what you'd find with a public cloud service, except you're not paying hundreds of dollars every year to get multi-terabyte storage. One feature that is missing that I would like to see, though, is the automatic upload of every photo I take from my phone to a folder on the My Cloud, just like I currently do with Dropbox and Skydrive.
A Network Drive with a Web Interface
While the mobile app is a great way to access the files you have saved on your WD My Cloud, it cannot actually be used for any of administrative functions of the My Cloud. To do that, you must be on a computer that is on the same network as the My Cloud, dialing into its IP address in your preferred web browser (you can create a shortcut for this).
Once you do, you'll be presented with the slick interface that you see above. It is here that you manage users, manage folder shares, update firmware and handle what Western Digital calls Safepoints. This is the solution where you can backup the contents of your WD My Cloud to an external device via the USB port or to another available drive on your network. This is also how you'd restore the content should something go awry.
I would have liked to see the ability to create redundancy with a remotely-located drive, in case the physical location where the My Cloud is becomes compromised in some way. For users who need a more robust, more NAS-like feature set, Western Digital has the beefier WD My Cloud EX4 instead.
MEGATechie Owning the Cloud or MEGATechie Head in the Clouds?
The Western Digital WD My Cloud has a lot in common with the Seagate Central that we reviewed earlier this year, but I'd argue that it is a better product overall. The product design here may be less inspired, but it may be more functional, fitting into the same space where you'd already put your modem and router.
I found that the mobile app, both for setup and access, was generally cleaner, faster and more robust, making it really easy to move files around between the My Cloud and public cloud storage, as well as with local storage on your tablet or smartphone. Having integrated Wi-Fi would have been a major plus for me, but I imagine the overall speeds (and experience) would suffer over a wireless connection.
Considering how much more you'd pay for a equivalent amount of public cloud storage, the WD My Cloud for as low as $149.99 for the 2TB version and $179.99 for the 3TB model sounds like a great deal. I look forward to further advances in this direction for the industry as a whole, particularly as our needs for remote storage continue to grow.