WD My Cloud Home – the game changer has come of age (review)
WD’s latest My Cloud Home, designed for home networks and private cloud storage, has wisely continued the game-changing tradition set when its first model was launched in late 2013.
Back then I wrote, “Cloud – in its most basic form – is about using the internet to store and retrieve data. Cloud can be anywhere, using any storage device, and has many providers e.g. OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and Amazon et al.”
Private Cloud storage, however, did not take off then due to the extraordinarily high cost of broadband data and its very slow upload speeds – from a few kilobits to about 256Kbps. But that is changing rapidly with NBN resellers offering 2000GB or more monthly plans at up 100/40Mbps upload/download that enables and completes the My Cloud Home equation.
My Cloud Home is the latest iteration of the niche home NAS (network attached storage) market. You attach it to your router at home or small business and viola – you have local central storage for music, movies, documents, pictures, anything, and as a bonus it offers private cloud storage that you own and control – no rental space cost – allowing remote access from anywhere there is internet access.
Don’t underestimate the value of central network storage. In my home with just my wife and I over the past three years, we have managed to fill a 3TB My Cloud with valuable memories, documents, scans (paperless office), photos, music, and a movie collection. The nice thing is that we can access all the public content, and each have private folders for our own files.
Unboxing – simplicity at its best
It comes in single drive or a dual drive unit with capacities up to 8 or 16TB respectively. Styling wise it follows the WD My Passport with a stylish white top half and a silver diamond pattern bottom half.
It has a 240V AC to 12V/1.5A DC power supply, an ethernet cable for connection to the router and a handy USB-A (3.0) port to copy files directly to USB. One point – you must use it in the vertical orientation to maximise heat dissipation.
Without setting it up via an app you can access it via its IP address using Windows or Mac file explorer (network discovery needs to be enabled) or you can use the mobile WD My Cloud Home setup software (Android and iOS) that includes:
New and improved set up process, including the ability to set up from a smartphone – no need for a computer.
An all-new, re-designed mobile app experience with a clean and simple interface to easily discover files, share content with just a few clicks, get notifications for upload and backup status, and more…and quickly invite users to share your device.
The new desktop application makes it easy to interact with your My Cloud Home using a mounted directory.
User definable backup for every device on your network including smartphones (photos) over Wi-Fi. It also has MacOS Time Machine and Windows backup as well as being able to sync to Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
Automatic firmware updates to keep the drive up to date.
It also has Plex media server
Plex https://www.plex.tv/ is a media server for dummies. It stores, catalogues, gets album or movie covers and serves multi-media. Plex enables almost any network or internet connected device to stream from My Cloud Home. For most users, the free version will suffice, and it has apps to stream to for Android, iOS, Widows, smart TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Alexa, Roku, Sonos and many more devices.
If you don’t need Plex you can still access files and folders using the device’s IP address and playback via the default Windows or MacOS, DRM compliant media players or third-party unlocked players like KLite Media Player Classic https://www.codecguide.com/download_kl.htm that supports a wider range of codecs, subtitles, file types etc.
Remote access is easy
When you install My Cloud Home software it enables easy access to the device via the internet – it takes care of the need to open ports on the router, no static external IP address is required, security, logins etc. It works on any device that has a WD app.
I tested it attached to an NBN 100/40Mbps connection on the NSW Central Coast and achieved around 30Mbps download speed in Sydney. Download speed is limited to the upload speed of the internet it is connected to so don’t try it with ADSL or HFC cable that only offers up to 256kbps.
A great feature is the ability to allow third parties to access the device by settling up an account and folder for them. Any file placed in that folder or the public folder can be accessed.
Remember that internet access incurs data charges and mobile data is still very expensive. It has saved my bacon many times when I had forgotten a file I was working on at home.
IP access is fastest on the network
I tended to not use the app on a home network simply addressing it via its IP address 192.168.X.X and using Windows Explorer to find and manipulate files gaining 60-100MBps data transfer rates between the My Cloud and other computers (limited by Wi-Fi speeds and their own disk speeds). ATTO tests show a maximum of 117MB/s write and 107MBs read.
USB Port – for import only
The new My Cloud Home USB port is for import only. It works with older My Cloud, USB flash (tested 128GHB) and a Samsung T3 SSD (1TB).
While I would have liked the ability to copy to a USB it is no issue to use Explorer to back up to a flash drive connected to a computer on the network.
Download sync with external cloud storage like Dropbox
This was not thoroughly tested but it supports Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, etc. It synced well with OneDrive and Dropbox. WD says its advantage is that unlike a computer, it is always on and always up to date. But I found that it lumped all files and folders together in one folder.
Auto backup of smartphone pictures and videos
You can set it to automatically back up smartphone pictures and videos (from their default location) when connected to the same home network. You can also use mobile broadband but data charges apply.
You can also auto-backup computers connected to the network.
Really easy to use – plug and play
Superbly made with long-lasting components – my original My Cloud has been continuously on since November 2013! WD Red drives are used for longer life.
Adds central storage to any network, especially useful for sharing movies and music
Addressable via IP address for Torrent style programs – download on any computer and store on the My Cloud Home
Easy to see in Windows and MacOS file Explorer
Plex is good as a media server but be aware of Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues that may prevent playback.
IFTTT (If This Then That) support adds lots more future functionality
No ongoing cloud storage costs
NBN upload speeds have enabled it to achieve its potential
Available in single drive from 2-8TB and two drive Duo version for 4-16TB
Works best in Windows and Android environments – apparently it can be problematic in MacOS, iOS and iTunes (that impose some DRM limitations on central storage). WD responded, “In a MacOS/iOS world music, videos, as well as Movies/TV Shows are all content managed through iTunes on either a subscription basis or purchased and consumed through the respective applications.”
No DLNA server – Plex is the only option
USB for import only
I have been impressed with My Cloud since its launch in late 2013. The new My Cloud Home builds on all those strengths while drastically simplifying the mobile app interface. Other reviews have been generally positive but point out some issues in MacOS and iOS environments – I tested on Windows and it is great.
If you are reading reviews please be sure to ensure it is for the My Cloud Home version, not the older My Cloud.
It is by far the simplest network-attached local storage device and private cloud alternative.