“The cloud” is so pervasive in the tech/gadget/IT world today that if you haven’t yet heard of it, you’ve probably just woken from a 30-year coma. If that’s you, welcome to 2016!
However, the “cloud”, which is really just someone else’s computer you’re using over an internet connection, comes with concerns over privacy and questions of who really controls the data stored on those servers.
While the vendors of cloud solutions are bending over backwards to assure customers of their commitment to privacy and data integrity, those are really just words at the end of the day.
WD offers a solution to the problem of trust which doesn’t require you to set up your own data centre: a personal cloud that the end-user has total control over. The My Cloud EX2 Ultra is that product, an internet-connected hard drive enclosure that gives access to data stored on it to any and all parties that have been authorised by you. It does more than just that, of course, but access from anywhere is its main draw.
NAS for short
Geeks call this sort of device “Network Attached Storage” – NAS for short – because, you guessed it, it’s storage that’s attached to a network. The unit we had for review came populated with two 2TB WD Red hard drives, which we hooked up to a home router and set up as if we were going to use it long-term.
Setting up is pleasingly simple; all you have to do is connect everything up – a task anyone who’s enjoyed a game of “put the right shapes in the right holes” is capable of – and go to the web address WD points you to with a handy flash card included in the box. The only catch is that you need to do it from a computer connected to the same network you’ve just connected the EX2 to.
You’ll be walked through a quick process of detecting the NAS and setting up your WD account, after which the drive and its contents become accessible through a web interface via the internet. That web interface is where you’ll set up accounts for people you’d like to give access to your files, get an overview as to how much space is available, set specific folders’ share properties and more. It’s basically a management portal for your drive, and it’s very easy to understand and use.
Accessing those files from a phone or tablet requires that you download the WD My Cloud app for your platform. From there you can retrieve files, add files and stream any videos you may have stored on your drive and have access to. There’s also a dedicated PC app if you prefer to access the drive from a desktop.
Because it’s DLNA-certified (meaning it’s designed to be easily accessible by media players), all of my media-playing devices picked the drive’s presence up automatically and allowed me to stream its shared media files without a problem.
In my time with the EX2, downloading files over the internet was only limited by the internet connection I was using, and copying files to and from the drive on my local network was as fast as my home PC and Gigabit Ethernet ports allowed. I commonly saw local transfer speeds of over 100MB/s. Having access to my files from wherever was quite useful as well.
Still some work to be done
While hitch-free operation is what everyone wants from their tech these days, there are elements of the EX2 that could use a little work. For starters, its external casing is awfully weak: the plastic bends way too easily. The plastic covering the drive bay is particularly flimsy. Sure, the EX2 is not meant to be carried around, but still, that feeling of flimsiness does not impress, especially as you’re paying almost R5k for an EX2 populated with two 2TB drives.
And the plastic tabs WD has included that lift the drives out of the enclosure when you need to change them, are horribly flimsy. That’s not great news if you think you might like to upgrade the hard drives to a higher capacity in the future. No, for the EX2 I recommend that you buy one that’s already populated with hard drives you’ll be happy with for the enclosure’s life span and leave it at that.
But should you get this rather than pay a monthly or annual fee for a professional Cloud storage service? If simplicity and ease of access is your goal, no – DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive and Box are affordable, flexible Cloud storage options that will serve you just as well as, if not better than your own Cloud will plus they all offer tiered access to suit your capacity and budgetary needs.
If you want total control over your files and want to access them from anywhere and you don’t mind a fairly steep up-front cost, on the other hand, then yes, the My Cloud EX2 Ultra is the way to go.
The WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra 4TB is available from Takealot for R4 999.