Review: WD MyCloud EX2 Network Storage Device

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.

Mycloud settings

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.

Mycloud

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.

16 thoughts on “Review: WD MyCloud EX2 Network Storage Device

  1. Thanks for the review.

    Does this have a full disk encryption feature? Is it fast enough to be useful? Can you completely turn off the cloud stuff and stop it phoning home?

    I’ve been playing with a similar seagate NAS (2 bay STCT100), and was disappointed but not surprised that the encryption on the low end hardware was too slow to be useful, except for backups. The higher end hardware that probably would handle encryption well costs quite a bit more. ($350 vs $170 for 2 bay diskless). On the other hand, unencrypted, it’s noticeably faster than my mac server (2010 mini) with a FW 800 drive attached.

    I was more miffed to find out how aggressively it insists on phoning home. You can’t set it up at all without letting it download the most recent OS from Seagate, and it’s going to take some network fiddling to stop any potential leaks once I put real data on it.

    (My ‘cloud’ solution is my crashplan backup…it has way better network speed than my slow dsl.)

    • It does have full disk encryption, but I haven’t tested it. When I first set it up, encryption was on by default, and, as it was taking a long time to encrypt, I didn’t want to use it right away. That doesn’t mean that it would be slow; I can’t imagine that it would be a problem; I use FileVault on my Macs, and it doesn’t slow things down at all.

      You can turn the cloud access off in the Settings.

  2. Thanks for the review.

    Does this have a full disk encryption feature? Is it fast enough to be useful? Can you completely turn off the cloud stuff and stop it phoning home?

    I’ve been playing with a similar seagate NAS (2 bay STCT100), and was disappointed but not surprised that the encryption on the low end hardware was too slow to be useful, except for backups. The higher end hardware that probably would handle encryption well costs quite a bit more. ($350 vs $170 for 2 bay diskless). On the other hand, unencrypted, it’s noticeably faster than my mac server (2010 mini) with a FW 800 drive attached.

    I was more miffed to find out how aggressively it insists on phoning home. You can’t set it up at all without letting it download the most recent OS from Seagate, and it’s going to take some network fiddling to stop any potential leaks once I put real data on it.

    (My ‘cloud’ solution is my crashplan backup…it has way better network speed than my slow dsl.)

    • It does have full disk encryption, but I haven’t tested it. When I first set it up, encryption was on by default, and, as it was taking a long time to encrypt, I didn’t want to use it right away. That doesn’t mean that it would be slow; I can’t imagine that it would be a problem; I use FileVault on my Macs, and it doesn’t slow things down at all.

      You can turn the cloud access off in the Settings.

  3. Ah, but Filevault gets handled by a real CPU, and also has support on the chip to speed up encryption if the mac is recent enough. The Seagate is 1.2GH ARM with all of 512 MB ram, and as far as I can tell, no on-chip encryption support. The Pro version (STDD100) uses a 1,7 GH core duo (I don’t know about on-chip encryption) and has 2GB ram.

    A quick search hasn’t turned up any specs for the WD processor; they seem not to want to talk about that, even for their business NAS. Makers that do talk about the insides are expensive for decent processors like seagate is, foiling my hopes of a free lunch.

    On the cheap Seagate, transfer rate with encryption on is 1/2 or less than with encryption off, in both directions. Too slow for raw photos with aperture and whatever replaces it. I’ll likely have to bite the bullet and try the expensive pro version. I’ll keep the slow seagate for backups and/or media.

    The WD looks like good no-fuss bang for the buck though, since the price includes drives. For most uses, slow encryption wouldn’t be an issue.

  4. Ah, but Filevault gets handled by a real CPU, and also has support on the chip to speed up encryption if the mac is recent enough. The Seagate is 1.2GH ARM with all of 512 MB ram, and as far as I can tell, no on-chip encryption support. The Pro version (STDD100) uses a 1,7 GH core duo (I don’t know about on-chip encryption) and has 2GB ram.

    A quick search hasn’t turned up any specs for the WD processor; they seem not to want to talk about that, even for their business NAS. Makers that do talk about the insides are expensive for decent processors like seagate is, foiling my hopes of a free lunch.

    On the cheap Seagate, transfer rate with encryption on is 1/2 or less than with encryption off, in both directions. Too slow for raw photos with aperture and whatever replaces it. I’ll likely have to bite the bullet and try the expensive pro version. I’ll keep the slow seagate for backups and/or media.

    The WD looks like good no-fuss bang for the buck though, since the price includes drives. For most uses, slow encryption wouldn’t be an issue.

  5. Now that you have lived with the NAS for a few months, how is it holding up? Any regrets? Any newer products you would consider instead of the MyCloud? As you can tell, I am shopping for a NAS for my home setup. Would like a drive for media (music, videos, photos) and a drive for backups. Wondering if this is the way to go or if I should look into Drobo, Synology, etc.

    • I don’t do a lot with it, but it seems pretty reliable for my uses. I can’t speak about other brands, never having used them (at least not in more than a decade).

      • Thanks for the quick reply. If you don’t mind, I have a few follow questions:
        1) Is it possible to partition the drives on the NAS? I don’t think I would need 3TB worth of Time Machine backups. I could maybe use 2TB for backups and the other 1TB for a redundant backup of my main Documents folder.
        2) I see from your other article that you backup your computer using Time Machine to 2 different drives. But I was wondering if I can backup several computers to the same drive on this NAS. Is it necessary to partition the drive for this or can it handle maintaining different Time Machine backups on the same drive?
        3) Have you experienced any issues with maintaining and accessing a large Photos library on the NAS? I have heard complaints and wondered if you had a solution.
        Thanks again!

        • 1) I’m not sure. The control panel has something that says this: Volume virtualization simplifies scalability by enabling you to map to other iSCSI targets and present them as volumes on your My Cloud system.

          2) When you use Time Machine to back up volumes on a network device, TM creates disk images, so you can store backups of multiple devices as long as you have space.

          3) I don’t have a large Photos library, so I don’t know.

  6. Now that you have lived with the NAS for a few months, how is it holding up? Any regrets? Any newer products you would consider instead of the MyCloud? As you can tell, I am shopping for a NAS for my home setup. Would like a drive for media (music, videos, photos) and a drive for backups. Wondering if this is the way to go or if I should look into Drobo, Synology, etc.

    • I don’t do a lot with it, but it seems pretty reliable for my uses. I can’t speak about other brands, never having used them (at least not in more than a decade).

      • Thanks for the quick reply. If you don’t mind, I have a few follow questions:
        1) Is it possible to partition the drives on the NAS? I don’t think I would need 3TB worth of Time Machine backups. I could maybe use 2TB for backups and the other 1TB for a redundant backup of my main Documents folder.
        2) I see from your other article that you backup your computer using Time Machine to 2 different drives. But I was wondering if I can backup several computers to the same drive on this NAS. Is it necessary to partition the drive for this or can it handle maintaining different Time Machine backups on the same drive?
        3) Have you experienced any issues with maintaining and accessing a large Photos library on the NAS? I have heard complaints and wondered if you had a solution.
        Thanks again!

        • 1) I’m not sure. The control panel has something that says this: Volume virtualization simplifies scalability by enabling you to map to other iSCSI targets and present them as volumes on your My Cloud system.

          2) When you use Time Machine to back up volumes on a network device, TM creates disk images, so you can store backups of multiple devices as long as you have space.

          3) I don’t have a large Photos library, so I don’t know.

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