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WD My Cloud EX2 review: Everything a connected home needs

The EX2's interface is well-organized and easy to use, and offers access to all of the server's customizations and settings.

Similar to its predecessors, the biggest selling point of the My Cloud EX2 is the Cloud Access feature. This feature allows you to sign up for a online account for each user account of the NAS server, and to create an access code for a remote device.

The online account with basically allows for 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 and log in with your WDMyCloud account, and 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 ends.) You can also quickly disconnect the mapped network drive when you want to disconnect the remote computer from the server.

As mentioned above, 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 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 can then download the My Cloud mobile app, run it, and enter the code. Now your friend can use My Cloud without ever having to be physically near the server.

Both the WDMyCloud account and the My Cloud mobile app support multiple WD My Cloud servers. If you have more than one server, you have the option to pick which one you want to connect to at a time, and it's very easy to switch between them.

Using the the Web interface you can also set the server to do things on its own, such as download files from different Web sites or torrents. There's also an App store where you can add more features and functions to the server. At the time of this review, there are some 10 additional apps you can install and run within the EX2. This is a great approach to NAS server and has been done very well by other vendors such as Asus and Synology, whose NAS servers are much more advanced and support hundreds of apps.

The App store has 10 apps you can download and install on the server to add more features and functions. Dong Ngo/CNET

Mobile app: Great for backing up, not so much for streaming
The My Cloud EX2 share the same My Cloud mobile app as the My Cloud and the My Cloud EX4 with exactly he same design, and features.

The app allows you to remotely access the public shared folders, as well as the private share folder of the current user. You can quickly download files from the NAS server to your mobile device, or back up files, such as photos and videos, from a mobile device onto the server. You can do more than one of these tasks at a time, making it an excellent backup server for those who love taking photos and video with their phones. In my trials, the back-up process worked well with smaller files, such as documents or photos. When I wanted to back up a large file, such as a 30-second video recorded on an iPad, the performance was slow. But this depends a lot on the connection between the mobile device and the server. For obvious reasons, it generally works better over Wi-Fi than over a cellular connection.

Unlike the backup function, the My Cloud app's playback function was mediocre at best. For one, the support for media streaming is also extremely limited. You can basically playback only the types of content natively supported by the mobile device. And only music can really be streamed; other content first needs to be buffered (temporarily downloaded) onto a mobile device before it can be played. For example, if you want to view a photo that resides on the My Cloud EX2 using an iPad, the mobile app would first buffer the entire photo 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.

The design of the app itself could also use some improvements. First, there's no search, meaning you have to manually browse for content. And since the content is not automatically organized by type, you generally have to dig though folders and sub folders to find what you want. This might be OK if you have just videos or not much content to go through, otherwise, this could be a frustrating experience, especially with music or photos. To make things worse, there's no back button to bring you back the previous folder level. Instead, you have to awkwardly go back to the beginning each time you simply want to reverse one step.

Impressive performance
What the EX2's mobile app lacks, the server more than makes up for in performance. I tested the My Cloud EX2 in RAID 1 -- mostly to emphasize the fact that it is how the server should be used for data safety reasons -- and it excelled. Via a Gigabit connection, it registered the sustain writing speed of more than 70MBps and the sustained reading speed of more than 105MBps. This means the EX2 is not only the fastest among all the servers in WD's My Cloud series, but also among the fastest dual-bay NAS servers on the market.

CNET Labs NAS Performance Scores (Via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, measured in megabyte per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Chances are you'll see higher numbers if you choose to use the server in RAID 0, however, note that RAID 0 is not recommended at all, because of the fact that if one of the internal drives fails you'll lose data stored on both.

The My Cloud EX2 overall worked well in my testing. It didn't produce any noise and never got hot.

The My Cloud EX2 is an excellent replacement for the already-excellent original My Cloud server. Thanks to having two internal drives, the new server offers data redundancy as a safeguard if one of the drives fails. That, plus the excellent performance, the affordability, and the ease of use make it an ideal choice for an entry-level, yet robust, network storage device.

If you're looking for a dual-bay server that offers similar performance with much more advanced features, however, also check out a dual-bay server from Synology, such as the DS712+.

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