WD My Cloud review: Best budget home NAS server to date

The most interesting tab is Cloud Access, which allows you to sign up for a WDMyCloud.com online account for each user account of the NAS server, and to create an access code for the mobile device app. These are both powerful features.

With an account with WDMyCloud.com, you can quickly create a mapped network drive to share folders from the My Cloud on a computer as though the two belonged to the same local network.
With an account with WDMyCloud.com, you can quickly create a mapped network drive to share folders from the My Cloud on a computer as though the two belonged to the same local network. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

The online account with WDMyCloud.com basically allows a VPN-like connection over the Internet for computer users. For example, when you're traveling away from home, even in a different country, then from a computer connected to the Internet you can point the browser to WDMyCloud.com and log in with the WDMyCloud account, and with a click you can quickly create a network drive linked to a share folder on the My Cloud NAS server at home. This means you can just drag and drop files between the computer and the server as though the two were on the same local network. This is similar to VPN access though there's no VPN connection. (Note that the speed of data moving between the remote computer and the NAS server depends on the speed of the Internet at both the computer' and the server end.) You can also quickly disconnect the mapped network drive when you want to disconnect the remote computer from the server.

The access code for mobile devices would be useful if, for example, you want your friend who lives in a different city to be able to share data with you via the My Cloud. Just create a user account for that person on the NAS server, create an access code, and give the information to him or her. Your friend then can download the My Cloud mobile app, run it, and enter the code. Now he or she can use the My Cloud without ever having to be anywhere near the server, physically.

In all, this is by far the easiest system I've seen for remote access among all the NAS servers I've reviewed. It was actually much easier to do than explain.

The My Cloud mobile app requires a lot of the mobile device's storage for streaming buffering, making it the slowest mobile app for this purpose. It doesn't support a lot of digital formats for streaming, either.
The My Cloud mobile app require a lot of the mobile device's storage for streaming buffering, making it the slowest mobile app for this purpose. It doesn't support a lot of digital formats for streaming, either. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Excellent app for mobile backup, but limited for streaming
WD's My Cloud mobile app is very similar to Seagate's Media mobile app for the Seagate Central. With this app, you can access the public share folders as well as the private share folder of the current user. You can quickly download files from the NAS server to the mobile device or back up files, such as photos and videos, from the mobile device onto the NAS server. You can do more than one of these tasks at the same time, making it an excellent backup server for those who love taking photos and video with their phones.

Unfortunately, unlike the Seagate Media app, which can organize digital content into categories (Documents, Videos, Photos, Music), the My Cloud App only supports browsing by folders and subfolders. This is fine for videos but for music and photos, it's such a pain, especially when there's no built-in search functionality. On top of that, while you can easily dig deeper into subfolders, there's no "back button" way to go back to the previous level of folder browsing, making it quite awkward for viewing content.

The support for media streaming is also extremely limited: you can basically play back only the types of content natively supported by the mobile device. And only music can really be streamed; other content needs to be first buffered (temporarily downloaded) onto the mobile device before it can be played back. For example, if you want to view a photo that resides on the My Cloud NAS server using an iPad, the mobile app would first buffer the entire photo onto the mobile device before displaying it. This makes viewing even a small photo take quite a bit of time and makes it virtually impossible to stream video over a cellular connection.

That said, though the app is very responsive and easy to use, for now it works best as a way to back up content from a mobile device to the My Cloud NAS server, rather than the other way around. Note that I tested the My Cloud and its apps prior to their launch, and things can be better in the final version of a product.

The power to create restore points helps the My Cloud overcome the data safety shortcomings of a single-volume NAS server.
The power to create restore points helps the My Cloud overcome the data safety shortcomings of a single-volume NAS server. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

No data redundancy but excellent backup feature
As a single-volume NAS server, the My Cloud has no real-time mechanism guarding it against the failure of the internal hard drive. To make up for this, you can easily back up its contents using the Safepoints feature. This creates a restore point for the server by copying its entire contents onto an external hard drive connected to its USB 3.0 port or to another My Cloud unit. When something happens, you can restore the server. This worked well but make sure you use an external hard drive (or a second unit) that has at least the same capacity as the server. WD says that in the near future, it will also release a new version of the My Cloud that comes with more than one internal hard drive on the inside to support RAID configurations.

Top-of-class performance
The most impressive thing about the WD My Cloud is its performance. For the first time a single-volume NAS server offers a data rate rivaling that of more advanced, multiple-volume servers. In my testing, over a Gigabit Ethernet connection, the server offered a sustained speed of 67MBps for writing and 87MBps for reading, both being significantly faster than any of its peers.

CNET Labs NAS performance (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write
WD My Cloud
86.81
67
Asus RT-AC68U
53.86
41.2
Seagate Central
74.4
39.5
Netgear R7000
60.41
38.6

At this speed, the server can easily handle multiple data-intensive tasks at a time, such as backing up multiple computers while streaming HD video to multiple network players. The server also worked very well in my testing and remained quiet and cool even during heavy loads.

Conclusion
In the My Cloud, WD has combined data sharing, media streaming, backups, and a powerful personal cloud feature in a single compact box that everybody can use. On top of that, for the first time, home users can really expect from an affordable device the data speeds of a much more expensive NAS server.

The device's only shortcoming is its mobile app, which could use some improvement, and I have no doubt that will happen via updates. And even at its current stage, with a price tag of just $250 for the top capacity of 4TB, the My Cloud is a steal.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 2, 2013
  • Total Storage Capacity 2 TB
  • Type standard
  • Data Link Protocol Gigabit Ethernet
  • Compatibility Mac
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