For a good number of years I was comfortable with storing everything on my laptop. Then as less space became available, I moved a large chunk of my files to a portable external HDD. Then when that filled up, I invested in a network drive, which solved most of my storage problems. But the problem with putting my files on a network drive was that I could only access them when I was home, and connected to my wireless network. It was then that I started breaking up my content to upload it to the cloud, specifically Dropbox, so that I could access it on the go. But with limited storage available on Dropbox for free, there was only so much I could upload before having to pay for storage. This is where WD’s My Cloud comes in.
Build Quality & Design
What more and more people have become concerned about with cloud-based storage is the fact that you’re uploading your files to a third party server, and once you’ve uploaded it there, you really have little control over what happens to it, even if you choose to delete it. My Cloud changes this my letting you store your files securely and access them in private wherever you are, thus eliminating the need to upload it to an external party. We’ve seen this kind of remote file accessibility before, specifically in the My Book Live series, but the remote access was limited and often sketchy. My Cloud may look similar in design to the My Book Live, but underneath there are a number of improvements.
For one thing, the My Cloud comes equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet port, making for much faster file transfers across your network. Secondly, it has a USB 3.0 port at the back which allows for rapid file copying to an external hard drive, or to expand the total storage space of the My Cloud. Lastly, you’ve got a lot more storage to play around with compared to services such as Dropbox. My review model was equipped with a 2TB drive – by comparison, the same amount of Dropbox space will set you back $1,996 a year if it was available (Dropbox has a max limit of 500GB). So the cost-per-gigabyte is of course a huge advantage – you invest in the My Cloud once and never have to worry about monthly subscription costs. The only caveat about the My Cloud (and most of WD’s lineup) is that it only comes equipped with one hard drive that isn’t user-serviceable (at least without a bit of difficulty). Hopefully WD will release a newer model that has two drives that can be set up with RAID for effortless backup.
Setup & Features
Setting up the My Cloud was actually very simple – I just plugged it into my router, turned it on, and accessed the drive through the web browser for the initial setup and to configure users. Within minutes I was up and running and dragging files directly onto the drive without any hassle. In addition to being a network storage device, the My Cloud has DLNA built in, so you can set it up to stream your media files or iTunes library to any compatible device. This is turned on by default, and you can quickly create specific shares and folders to organize everything.
The main interface of the My Cloud is fairly straightforward, showing you how much free space you have and how many shares or users you’ve set up. If you’ve got a file on your drive that you’d like to share with someone, you can simply email them a link that lets them download the file directly from your drive. Setting up shares is extremely easy, and you can assign different users to each share so they can only access the areas of your drive that you want them to.
When you’re on the move and need to access your files, you need to download the relevant app to your tablet or smartphone. The app will then generate a unique ID, which you then enter into your My Cloud configuration, so that it recognizes the device. It’s a little bit long-winded, but thankfully you only need to do it once. Once you’re remotely connected to your My Cloud, you can browse your list of files and directories and view or download what you need.
As mentioned before, the My Cloud only has one drive in it, so if you’re concerned about keeping a backup of your files, you can attach an external hard drive to the USB port and configure My Cloud to create snapshots of your data on the external drive. In the event that the My Cloud does fail, you can simply restore all your data from a previous snapshot. The My Cloud can also be configured with Apple’s Time Machine if you’d like to backup your Mac desktop or laptop.
Of course, the My Cloud is more than just a network drive and media server – it’s designed to be your own private cloud storage, so how does it do in this regard? To be honest, while the core system of having your own private cloud does work just fine, it’s accessing your files that can prove to be a bit of a challenge, since it’s entirely dependent on the quality of the connection you have. For example, I downloaded a 5.2MB mp3 file from the drive within twenty seconds or so when connected via Wifi at a coffee shop. But when I tried downloading the same file over 4G on my smartphone, the entire thing took around two full minutes to finish. Likewise when I tried downloading the file over a friend’s place on their Wifi, the file took around one and a half minutes to finish downloading. And since there’s no true local copy of your files, you always have to be online to get to your documents – with Dropbox you get a copy of all your files, which are then automatically synced when you go online. If you’re stuck without an internet connection and need to get to a file on your My Cloud, you’re going to be out of luck. Transferring files to the My Cloud from my laptop resulted in speeds of about 12 MB per second, which is much better than the speeds I used to get when using the My Book Live.
But is the My Cloud a viable alternative to a solution such as Dropbox? The answer is a mixed bag. As long as you’ve got a stable Internet connection, you can access any of your files, but they won’t sync as gracefully as they do on Dropbox. You’ll have to download the file you need, update it, and then re-upload it to your drive, while Dropbox does all of this in the background seamlessly. The other advantage with Dropbox is that you still have a local copy of your files, so even without an Internet connection you’re able to access your data. Where the My Cloud could more appropriately be compared to would be services such as Google Drive or Microsoft’s Sky Drive, which store all of your documents online.
At the end of the day, the My Cloud is actually a pretty decent device to have on your network. Not only does it offer a large chunk of storage space for a fraction of the cost, it also cleverly provides you access to your files on the go through its various apps. At first it might not seem as seamless as other cloud services you’ve used, but that’s perfectly fine. The reassuring point here is that with My Cloud your files and data are within your grasp and under your control, and not on a third-party server. If you value the privacy of your data and don’t want to pay exorbitant monthly subscription fees, then the My Cloud is the perfect solution for you.