Western Digital My Cloud EX2100
Western Digital, www.wdc.com
USB disk copy, performance
cloud sharing a little fiddly to set up
A strange thing has happened with our storage. Despite the plummeting cost per gigabyte of most types of storage, the amount of disk space we have built-in to our devices has diminished. At first, this was driven by the rise of SSD (solid state drive) with its faster performance but price premium. But the availability of cloud-based storage means we are no longer reliant on keeping all our data locally.
The trouble is, we often need lots of secure, on-site storage that can be easily accessed by a number of people in the office. We also need an easily accessed backup location. That’s where a NAS (network attached storage) device comes into play. The Western Digital EX2100 is part of the company’s My Cloud Expert series range of networked storage devices.
This two-bay NAS can be purchased either diskless so you can install your own drives or with as much as 12TB of capacity. That is plenty of capacity for several family members or almost every small to medium business we’ve ever worked with.
Our test unit was delivered with a pair of 6TB drives. Out of the box, these were configured as a redundant pair. That means, in the event of a single drive failure, we would not lose any data. The configuration utility, which is accessed via a web browser, allows you to choose between configuring the array in this way or as a single volume where the two 6TB drives act as a single 12TB drive.
Our advice with a two-bay NAS is to make the drives a redundant pair rather than a single, massive volume, so your data is kept safe.
The configuration application is easy to use with everything laid out logically and technical jargon minimised. Our test unit required a firmware update and this was a one-click action. In the past, firmware updates for NAS units was a far more complex process.
Whereas NAS used to be all about lots of local storage, the My Cloud can be used as your own online storage system. Cloud access can be configured on the EX2100 although we did find the process a little disjointed. Enabling cloud access, configuring permissions and setting up users were in different parts of the admin system. Although the instructions were clear, it would help if the process were a little more streamlined.
However, once it was done, we were able to browser content we had access to on the EX2100 from our iPhone and iPad using the free My Cloud apps.
Western Digital has made the EX2100 very Mac friendly. We could enable functions to enable an iTunes server and make the EX2100 a Time Machine backup location easily. By creating user accounts for each family or workgroup member, and allocating a reasonable storage quota – a task that’s easily executed in the user settings – you can allocate storage and backup space for each person.
It’s important to note the iTunes server capability only covers music. In our experience, there isn’t a way to serve video this way. This isn’t a problem unique to the EX2100 – it’s a limitation in how iTunes server capability is allowed for non-Apple devices. It also means you can’t use the EX2100 – or any other NAS – with an Apple TV, as that relies on Home Sharing.
Network performance was excellent. We were able to stream music and movies to our iPhone and Macs from the EX12100 over our network with ease. The iOS app has its own music and video player that works with AirPlay, so we can play content from our phone and direct it to other devices such as an Apple TV.
We also copied large numbers of files to the EX2100 over our LAN without any hassles. And, if you’re planning to move files from an external USB hard drive to the EX2100, there’s a USB port so you can do that directly with the push of a button.