WD My Cloud Makes It Easy to Set Up Your Own Private Cloud


I have heard from a lot of folks who like the idea of backing up to the cloud and having all their data available from any device anywhere, but remain skeptical about using public cloud-based services for such backups. I like the public cloud services—Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and the rest—but I understand that some people just don't trust public services, while others find that storing huge amounts of information could get very expensive.

For them, the answer is a network-attached storage (NAS) device—effectively an Internet-accessible hard drive that attaches to your home network and can act as a "personal cloud." There are lots of entries in this field, but lately I've been using a Western Digital My Cloud device, and find that it does the job quite well.

My Cloud is aimed at consumers, and as such does not call itself a NAS device, though it fits that description. The basic device is a white box with only a single LED on the front, a Gigabit Ethernet port on the back to connect it to your router, and a USB port for attaching other drives. If you are on your local network, My Cloud appears as a network drive, so you can easily copy data to it. You can set the data up so that it is accessible to anyone, or as specific shares with permissions, so that only individual users with passwords have access. The system then sends an email with the information to the users. It's not quite perfect in setting things up—the first time I set up my shared folder I didn't do it right and had to redo it—but you can figure it out in a few minutes.

From another PC, you can access the My Cloud from a browser, with the option of opening the files in Windows Explorer. From an iOS or Android device, WD offers a My Cloud app to view, upload, or download files. It's not quite as simple or smooth as the major public cloud services, but it does offer useful features such as an easy way to back up photos. Indeed, it can be used as a backup device for Windows and Mac PCs (on the Mac, it works with Time Machine); it can also stream content to DLNA devices.

At under $150 for a 2TB model, such products are much less expensive than storing the equivalent amount of storage in a public cloud service. For instance, Dropbox charges about $200 a year for 200GB of storage and about $500 for 500GB. Of course, the cloud services have advantages in reliability and redundancy, as well as often more polished mobile apps. But you arguably have more control with a private network-attached storage box. Personally, I like the cloud services for relatively small amounts of storage I want access to frequently, but find devices like My Cloud best for bigger collections, such as my pictures.

The personal network storage market has been around for years, and there are lots of other products in the category. Over the years, I've tried several, and found most to be way too complicated. This latest generation of products—including My Cloud and alternatives such as Seagate Central—seem much simpler and easier to use. They aren't perfect, but I have to say I'm pretty impressed.

For more, check out PCMag's full review.

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