They say that manners make the man, but memory makes the machine, and WD shows that with a new generation of network storage with increased specs to make the idea of a network appliance more useful around the home.
Features and performance
The more data we accumulate, the more risky it gets when we don’t backup. These days, there’s a huge risk because we all have so many digital files that making sure it is protected and backed up is a must have.
Chances are good that you have a hard drive that deals with this, and if you don’t, you know what you need to do.
Even if you do have one, that is, what happens when that fails?
A dead hard drive is always going to be a distinct possibility, even though hard drive technologies are getting better, faster, and stronger, and so doubling up and making sure you’re covered is something worth considering, especially when you have loads of photographic memories, videos you want to keep, songs you’ve bought and encoded, and a plethora of documents that are worth something to you.
So what can you do? Mirror it.
Not a terribly new concept, hard drive mirroring takes a hard drive and does exactly what the name suggests, writing a duplicate of the drive to a secondary drive.
In the world of hard drives and servers, administrators and hardware folk have been playing with numerous hard drives for some time with a concept called “RAID” or “Redundant Array of Independent Disks”. RAID has numerous uses, but the one that generally gets called mirroring is called RAID 1, and it essentially asks one drive to backup things exactly as they are on that drive to a second, thereby making a clone.
This tends to happen in real time, and means that if you write your documents, images, movies, and music files to one drive, the other drive gets the exact same copy, giving you a backup of a backup at the same time.
Not every drive works this way, and most backup drives you’ll come across are single drive solutions, having you back up your data to one drive. Mirrored drives, on the other hand, take care of duplicate backups for you with one move.
When you have as much data as most of us have these days, this sort of backing up can be super important, giving you a form of redundancy in case the worst does happen.
Western Digital has been producing drives for backup for some time, and has spent some time in the trenches building mirroring devices for hardcore techies for some time, but in the My Cloud Mirror, we’re seeing a consumer and small-business friendly edition of the technology.
For this option — the generation two variant for 2015 — WD has provided an external drive shell and installed two network drives inside, with the option of buying either two 2TB drives (total 4TB), two 3TB drives (total 6TB), or two 4TB drives (total 8TB).
Regardless of the option you go for, you can choose to run it either as a total amount of storage with no mirroring — “striped”, with the data running across both drives giving you a larger amount of space to work with — or mirrored with the space of one of those drives to work with.
If you bought the two 2TB option (4TB), that means you only get 2 terabytes to work with since the second drive in that configuration is always going to be backing up the first 2TB drive.
Replacing the drives can also be done, and this is thanks to a design that makes the WD My Cloud Mirror very easy to repair, even for people new to hard drives.
If ever in that situation, you’ll find the lid pops open with ease, with the hard drives held in place with a screw and holding plate, and then a simple pull of a plastic tag removing the drives from their slot.
To its credit, WD has at least provided drives made for network use, with WD Red drives used in the My Cloud Mirror. RAID drives tend to need two of the same, so if one drive does die and you want to recover what is on that backup drive or keep backing up continually, the use of a common WD Red at least makes it easy to get a replacement in a hurry.
For our review, we had that 4TB option split up between two 2TB drives, and setup was a cinch, with one AC adaptor needed to power the drive, while a network cable linked the drive to the network.
With that done, you’ll need a computer and a web browser, and you’ll need to go hunting for the My Cloud Mirror drive, which can be found very, very easily.
Simply follow the instructions provided and look for the wdmycloudmirror location, which is typed into Mac Safari like that, or found on Chrome (Windows or Mac) using wdmycloudmirror.local, and you’ll make your way into a setup process for the hard drive.
Believe it or not, this is an operating system for the WD network hard drive, and you’re about to start configuring your spaces to use, also known as “shares”.
When you’ve decided if you want a password or not (since it’s not required), you’ll find the WD My Cloud operating system quite accommodating in terms of getting you familiar with how the system works, with diagnostics and information easily found for your drives, while the “shares” can be created however you want to manage your new drive.
This might be with users on your network — you, your partner, the kids, and so on — or with categories — movies, music, etc — and this is totally up to you.
When you do create one, however, you’ll find it gets added to your share listing, and regardless of the operating system you’re using, when you click into that My Cloud Mirror network device to browse its file listing, the shares will be seen here, waiting for you to drag and drop files and back them up.
And when you back them up, the mirrored drive will make a backup of that drive, also, saving you the hassle.
Testing performance for a network drive often comes down to speed, but there are so many factors here to drive this in a negative way. For instance, if your network is being used aggressively or you’re using wireless versus wired networks, the speeds can change.
However, with a drive such as WD’s My Cloud Mirror, we’re almost at a “smart” level for hard drives, certainly pushing these to the status of network appliances.
With that in mind, WD’s My Cloud operating system — My Cloud OS — is now in its third iteration, and while it can be used to run diagnostics, create file shares for different users, and tell you how much storage you have left, some of our testing can come from the apps you’re allowed to install.
“Apps?” you ask curiously. “On a hard drive? Surely you jest!”
And yet no, because WD’s web-based operating system allows you to take the reigns of the the hard drive and run localised applications, with these ranging from a web-connected server, a synchronisation connection for Dropbox, a test server for various web platforms, and even a music playback system for the old Logitech SqueezeBox devices with SqueezeCenter.
One of our favourite server apps can be found on the hard drive, with Plex there to index any media you want streamed across your network.
For those unaware, Plex is a platform that has apps for a variety of mobile devices, computers, and gaming consoles — Apple TV even supports the system — and is able to turn your hard drive into a streaming solution for all of your media.
Normally, Plex has to run on a computer of some sort, indexing a hard drive that is either internal, external, or network-connected, and grabbing information from an online database, building its own database that you can browse through and play from at any time, but with a Plex app on the WD My Cloud Mirror hard drive, we potentially have a server already, and it’s going to be a lot easier to work with.
Inside the WD My Cloud Mirror operating system, you can install the app from the web, and then set up your Plex system by adding directories.
Unfortunately, WD hasn’t made the Plex setup all that much easier, looking through various Linux-based folder names to find the actual folder you’ve put your movies (it tends to be in something like “/mnt/HD/HD_a2/“), but once that has been done, Plex is there and running on your network.
And that leads us to the performance test, because after running Plex on the previous My Cloud and My Cloud Mirror — drives that relied on the same processor but came with the option of one or two drives depending on the variety that the customer purchased — we found very quickly that the chip WD used wasn’t quite fast enough for shuffling during streaming.
Being too slow to process a video queue gives you an early heads up that the processor will also be unable to handle transcoding, which is one of the ways Plex sends its video to TVs, upscaling when it is needed, which is where a computer is preferred.
So you can imagine how surprised we were when we discovered that the second generation My Cloud Mirror not only posed no problems with media shuffling, but also handled 1080p video transmission to both web browser and smartphone.
That tells us WD’s latest processor isn’t such a bad option, and can handle its own for people keen to start their own internal media network.
You don’t need to, mind you, and WD’s My Cloud Mirror can function perfectly well as a simple hard drive on a network for anyone keen to backup their computers. There’s a little bit of setup needed, but it’s not much, and once the drive is wired in — because there’s no wireless here — you simply need to find the WD My Cloud Mirror drive on your network and send files to it.
If you decide to use the app, WD has also bundled in some neato backup software for your Android or Apple iOS devices, with both WiFi and 3G/4G data able to be used to back up those photos you’ve told yourself you’d back up ten times over.
The app made for this is very easy to operate and simply requires a directory to be made for a device, with the backing up generally happening in the background, which is probably the way it should be.
For the most part, this ease of use and this simplicity is what we love about the WD My Cloud Mirror, and it’s what we liked about the last generation.
In fact, if you compared the two, you probably wouldn’t find much that was different, something which is even more obvious when you look at them side-by-side. They don’t look all that different, and most of what has changed is on the inside, with that faster processor making the dent.
One thing that should have changed and yet hasn’t, however, is the lack of any front USB ports, something that will make backing up a camera or another USB connected device a little annoying.
Sure, you’ll find two USB ports on the back, but these are generally here for external storage, which isn’t quite the same thing.
We’d prefer if one USB port made it to the front next time, because it’d be great if we could back up our camera simply by plugging it in when we walked in, letting the drive do all of that heavy lifting quickly and easily.
Our final quibble is one network drives have had for ages, and WD’s doesn’t do anything to change: no wireless.
In this day and age, it is a little surprising to find a network appliance that doesn’t offer wireless connectivity, especially when so many households rely on wireless networking.
We need to stress that wireless networking isn’t usually as good as its wired brethren, and we’ll always opt to make a network drive something you plug into a router at any given time, but it won’t be true for all users.
Your router might be full as it is, and so a wireless option might be all you have, and if that’s the boat you find yourself in, the WD My Cloud Mirror will merely ask you to unplug something because it is wired dependent.
There’s also only one port, so if you have no ports left but think maybe you’ll be able to daisy chain, plugging another network device into the hard drive, again you can’t do that.
That’s one of those issues WD’s My Cloud Mirror has with modern networks: it’s still made for the old school ones, and while that’s fine, it does mean working out if you’ll have to make a compromise or two.
As far as newbie options go for starting a network drive, it’s hard to look past WD’s My Cloud Mirror, especially now that it has a slightly faster processor, but just as much ease of use thanks to the excellent My Cloud OS 3 WD packs into the drive.
We’re always going to recommend mirrored backup solutions over singular drive options, and that’s because you get a level of redundancy, something we feel is needed in this day and age when data is important and everywhere.
In fact, data is vital, and integral to what we do. Making sure you have the important stuff backed up is alway going to be a big deal, and if you’re the least bit paranoid of files going missing, a mirrored solution makes a lot of sense.
Fortunately, WD’s My Cloud Mirror is a good beginner’s option to mirroring simply because it doesn’t require much effort of any and yet offers a bit of versatility.
Seriously, you don’t need to know much, and thanks to a great little browser based operating system, WD has come up with a good little storage option for homes and businesses looking for a little more security. Recommended.