WD's latest four-bay NAS server, the My Cloud EX4, is a lot more than four single-volume My Cloud units put together.
In addition to having all the goodies of its predecessor, the new EX4 server has many new features, such as support for a variety of RAID configurations to protect data against hard-drive failure. It also sports conveniently designed drive bays and is the first I've seen that can be used with two power adapters at the same time for redundancy.
In my testing, the My Cloud EX4 worked well as an advanced home storage and personal cloud server. Though not the fastest I've seen, the server was very fast, especially its reading speed.
On the down side, compared with similarly configured servers, such as the Synology DiskStation DS412+ or the Asustor AS-604T, the EX4 was still quite inferior in both performance and features. And its My Cloud mobile app still needs some major work to be a viable mobile-streaming option.
To make up for that, the new server is easy to use and a lot more affordable than its competitors, with a suggested price of just $380 (no storage included). You can also buy it with hard drives preinstalled at $800, $950, or $1,150 for 8TB, 12TB, or 16TB, respectively.
If you're looking for a cloud-connected, RAID-enabled server for your home that's easy to use and that you can also easily access on the go, the My Cloud EX4 is an excellent choice. For other options, check out our list of excellent NAS servers.
Design: convenient drive bays with lots of redundancy
Of all multiple-bay servers I've reviewed, the My Cloud EX4 has the most convenient drive bay design with each of its four front-facing bays working like a tape deck. You pull the latch and the hard drive comes out, you push the drive back in and press on the latch to lock the drive in its place. There's no screw or drive tray to work with. With this design, you can literally install or replace a hard drive in just a few seconds. In fact I found this a little too easy since there's no mechanism to keep the latches from being pulled out by accident.
The EX4 supports all standard 3.5 internal hard drives. WD says the company will honor the two-year warranty even when you use certain hard drives from other vendors. The company recommends using its WD Red hard drives that are designed specially for NAS servers, however. These drives are made to be reliable while consuming less energy.
You only need to worry about hard drives when you buy the diskless version of the server. For other options, the hard drives are included and already set up in RAID 5 configuration. RAID 5 balances the performance, data safety, and capacity. Basically you get the total storage space of three hard drives with the capacity of the fourth being used for redundancy in case one of the drives fails. In addition to RAID 5, the server supports RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10. (Read more about RAID here.)
In my testing, the EX4 took a very short time to change from one RAID to another, just a matter of a few minutes. You can easily check on the RAID building process via the little screen on the front, which also shows other information about the server, such as its IP address, its name, and so on.
On the back the EX4 shows a true dual configuration: there are two USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and, the first I've seen, two power ports. You can use two power adapters (only one is included) with the server to guard against the case of one of them failing or being pulled out by accident. The server works with just one network port, but by having two, it offers more options for load-balancing and redundancy. You can use the USB ports to host more storage via external hard drives.
Plug and play setup
If you buy a diskless version of the EX4, you will first need to install the hard drives by yourself and set up a RAID configuration. You should only do this if you're an advanced user, and if you are you won't have any problem getting the job done. After that, or if you get a model with a hard drive preloaded, the setup process is very similar and basically the same as that of the My Cloud. You won't even need to know about RAID.
By default, the server comes with three public share folders called Public, SmartWare, and Time Machine Backup. As the names suggest, the Public folder is for storing public data, and the other two are for backups of Windows and Mac machines, respectively.
As soon as the device is plugged in, without you doing anything, all of these public folders are available to all connected devices in the home network. From a Windows computer, you can browse for these share folders and copy data (such as digital content) over. Macs will immediately see the My Cloud as an available destination for Time Machine backup and the My Cloud will also appear on Finder. All DLNA-enabled network media player devices, such as the WD TV, will also immediately find the content stored on the server for streaming purposes.
Now, from within the same home network, if you download the My Cloud mobile app (available for iOS and Android), the app will see and connect to the My Cloud EX4. After this first step, now even when you're out and about, connecting to a different Wi-Fi network or using a cellular connection, the mobile app on your device will maintain access to the My Cloud EX4 server via the Internet. In other words, there's no extra setup or log-in needed to make the app work with the server remotely. Now if you want to add a remote device, such as one belonging to a friend who lives in a different city or country, to the server, you can create an access code and sent it to that device using e-mail. (More on this below.)
In all, if you use the My Cloud EX4 by yourself or share it with a group of people with no need for data privacy among themselves, there's really nothing to setting up the My Cloud, other than plugging it in and downloading the mobile app. Now, if you want to further customize the NAS server, that's also quite easy to do. In this case you will need to first download the WD My Cloud Setup software from WD2Go.com and install it on a connected computer, whether Windows or Mac.
Helpful software and Web interface
The WD My Cloud EX4 comes with the same software as the WD My Cloud. These applications are basically self-explanatory and are available for both Windows and Mac, except for the WD SmartWare backup program, which is only available for Windows. This is because the server supports Time Machine backup natively.
To make changes to the settings of the server, including turning its features on and off, adding more users, and so on, you will need to use the server's Web interface. To get there just point a connected computer to the server's IP address or click on the Dashboard icon created by the WD setup software.