There are lots of cloud storage services you can use: iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and more. While these are generally easy to work with, and great for sharing files with others, you may not want to store your files on someone else’s servers. Western Digital’s My Cloud EX2 (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) lets you create your own personal cloud, as well as have a home repository for files and backups.
You may be familiar with network attached storage devices (NAS); these are (to simplify) networked hard drives, which can be complicated to set up and manage. My Cloud EX2 is a type of NAS, but with a much more user-friendly interface. It doesn’t have all the features of a true NAS, but, if you want a device that’s easy to set up and use, the My Cloud EX 2 (and the other versions that Western Digital makes) is a solid device with a rich feature set.
Setup is just a few clicks, and, during this process, you also set up a “personal cloud” account. This allows you to connect to the My Cloud EX2 remotely, from a different computer, or even from an iOS device, using Western Digital’s apps. (There is no fee for this service.) You can add users to this account, and set their permissions – which files and folders they can access – from a web interface. The device’s software manages the network address translation, so all you need to do to access it remotely is connect it to a router.
After the initial setup, you fine-tune your device through your web browser. This allows you to set up RAID configurations (Raid 0, RAID 1, Spanning or JBOD; just a bunch of disks), You can add, remove, or edit users and groups; manage shares; configure cloud access; add apps, and more. While the Mac Cloud EX2 is very user-friendly, it’s still a complex device, and there are lots of settings available in the browser configuration pages.
You interact with the device in several ways. There’s a WD My Cloud desktop app, which you can use to view, upload, and download files. You can add files to the device by dragging them onto this app’s window; or you can mount the shared volume in the Finder, and add and manage files in Finder windows.
You can also access files using the My Cloud iOS app, whether you are on your network or remotely. You can view and download files, email them, and send email links so others can access them without being able to see your other files (similar to the way you share a public link to a file in a Dropbox folder). You can also link other cloud accounts, from Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, to this app, and transfer files from those cloud services to your personal cloud. And you can stream music or videos stored on the device.
One of the most practical features is the ability to use this device for Time Machine backups. My iMac is set to back up to a local disk and to the My Cloud EX 2, while my MacBook Pro backs up only to the remote disk. (You may not know it, but you can have Time Machine alternate its backups among multiple disks.) You can also connect an external USB drive to back up the files on the device.
The device has lots of other features, such as the ability to download files directly, via HTTP, FTP, or P2P. It lets you add apps, such as Plex Media Server and others. You can access media files via iTunes Home Sharing, though I found this to be unreliable. And you can access photos using a dedicated iOS app.
I was impressed by how easy this device was to set up and use. I’ve barely scratched the surface in the features I use – for me, it’s just for backups, and remote file access so far, but there’s plenty more that it can do. The My Cloud EX2 is an affordable way to add storage on a local network, have a backup disk for multiple Macs, and to have a free, personal cloud, without the limits of cloud services.