WD Adds 2-Bay NAS Server To Personal Cloud Series
WD's Personal Cloud Storage devices aimed at home network-attached storage (NAS) users has been steadily growing since the My Cloud was first announced in October 2013. WD followed that up with a 4-Bay model called the My Cloud EX4 in November 2013 for those that were looking for data redundancy and more storage capacity. The one obvious product that was missing was a 2-bay product, but that all changed with the announcement of the My Cloud EX2 today. The My Cloud EX2 is WD's answer to those looking for a fully featured 2-bay NAS device. The My Cloud EX2 uses the same firmware and user interface as the other My Cloud products, but utilizes a different hardware platform and obviously is a different form factor.
The WD My Cloud EX2 is available in four different storage capacities to help fit the storage criteria of various business and home user capacity needs. You start out with a drive-less 0TB model for $199.99 and then jump up to an 4TB version for $369.99, 6TB for $469.99 and a 8TB model for $569.99. All of the My Cloud EX 2 Personal Cloud Storage servers that come with pre-installed drives feature WD Red hard drives that are optimized for high-performance NAS devices. The diskless solution is aimed at the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crowd and supports a wide variety of drive brands and models. We'll be taking a look at the WD My Cloud EX2 4TB version that is sold under part number WDBVKW0040JCH and has an MSRP of $369.99.
WD My Cloud EX2 General Specifications:
- Processor: Marvell ARMADA 370 SoC at 1..2GHz - MV6710 (Single Core ARMv7)
- Memory: 512MB DDR3 RAM (not upgradable)
- RAID Options: RAID 0, JBOD, Spanning
- Robust: Twonky 7.2 DLNA-certified, 1.5 media server and iTunes support
- LAN Interface: 10/100/1000 MB Gigabit Ethernet
- USB 3.0 Ports: Two (rear)
- OS: Linux Kernel v3.2.40
- Height: 6.75 in (171.45 mm)
- Length: 6.10 in (145.94 mm)
- Width: 3.90 in (99.06 mm)
- Weight: 3.40 lbs (1.60 kg) without hard drives
- Warranty: 2-years
Inside the WD My Cloud EX2 retail box you'll find that the NAS comes securely packaged in thick foam and there is also a card letting you know there is toll-free phone setup help if you need any assistance.
Inside the retail box you'll find the two-bay My Cloud EX2, Ethernet cable, the power supply brick (AC Adapter) and the quick install guide. All of the cables that are included are color matched, which is nice for those that don't like to have a million different colors. The My Cloud EX2 AC adapter is rated at 36 Watts (12V @ 3.6A) and that is a sign that this should be a pretty energy efficient NAS.
The WD My Cloud EX2 has a two tone color combination (black and gun metal) that are are a perfect match for one another and will keep the NAS from looking 'old' in the years to come. The body of the enclosure is made from plastic and while it has some give, it doesn't feel too cheap or like it will fall apart on you.
Since we are looking at the 4TB model it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that it is populated with two WD Red 2TB hard drives. WD ships all the models with a standard RAID 1 array (an exact copy of a set of data on two disks.) This means that it has 2TB of usable storage space as one drive is just a mirror of the other.
One of the really nice features of the WD My Cloud EX2 is that all of the hot swappable hard drive bays are trayless! This means that when a drive fails that you just unscrew the top drive plate with your fingers and slide the drive out. To replace the drive you do need a screwdriver though as there are a couple stand-offs and a pull tab that need to be swapped over to the new drive. If you are concerned with drive failures you might want to purchase a spare drive to quickly rebuild the RAID 1 array should a drive failure occur in the years to come.
On the back of the WD My Cloud EX2 you have a recessed reset button, dual USB 3.0 expansion ports (the EX2 is not bootable off USB 3.0), Gigabit Ethernet port and the DC power port. There are four rubber feet on the bottom of the WD My Cloud EX2, so it shouldn't slide around or scratch the surface you place it on.
The front of the WD My Cloud EX2 has three blue LED lights on it that show power and the status for each drive. Note that neither side has any ventilation holes located along the top edge and the bottom of the enclosure has thick rubber feet to keep from scratching whatever it will be placed on. Overall the WD My Cloud EX2 looks good and has some cool features, so let's take a peek inside and see what it looks like.
Inside The WD My Cloud EX2
We cracked up the case to take a look at the build quality and to see what components were being sourced for the WD My Cloud EX2.
With the plastic rounded cover removed we were able to take a look inside the WD My Cloud EX2. The layout is rather interesting as there is a metal tray inside that is attached to the outer plastic housing. Pretty much every single metal part that touches the plastic is isolated with rubber grommets. The My Cloud EX2 is active cooled with a small fan sitting behind the front cover at the very bottom of the unit as shown in the image above.
Here is a shot at the front 40mm case fan and the circuit board that has the three blue LED notification lights. Notice that both have rubber sleeves around them. We suspect that the rubber around the fan is to keep noise down and that the rubber around the LEDs is to ensure that just right part is lit on the front panel. It should be noted that there are just two wires inside the EX2; one for the front LEDs and the other for the front cooling fan.
Here is a quick look with both plastic case halves removed from the WD My Cloud EX2.
We tried to strip down the inner metal drive cage, but WD used a couple clips on the SATA ports that weren't exactly easy to get off, so we stopped short of removing the motherboard. We snapped the above image though to show that the Marvell A370 1.2GHz single-core SoC was passively cooled. We could also see that . The bottom of the board has a pair of Nanya DDR3 memory chips and SKHynix NAND Flash chip.
Now that we know what the WD My Cloud EX2 is and what is inside of it, we can move along and setup the NAS server!
Setting Up The WD My Cloud EX2
WD is trying to make personal storage easy and this product is aimed at first time NAS users. In fact, WD never calls this a networked attached storage server. They keep it simple and call it personal cloud storage. The first thing that you need to do is to power up the My Cloud EX2 and connect it to your network. To do this you simply give it power and plug it into your wired network, which most likely means plugging it into your wireless router. Once that is done you should be able to find the My Cloud EX2 on your local network.
Our Windows 8 system had no issues finding the WD My Cloud EX2 on our network and we were able to run the pre-installed software on the NAS to set everything up. If you can't locate the EX2 on your computer or smartphone, you can download the WD My Cloud EX2 setup software. The WD My Cloud EX2 software is available for both Windows and Mac, but it should be noted WD Smartware backup program is only for Windows.
From there you are taken to the WD End User License Agreement (EULA) that you must accept before being able to continue.
The next step is setting up your personal cloud. If you want to be able to access your files from outside your home you must fill in this information as you need that account to login remotely. This is something you'll want to enable if you want to use the WD My Cloud mobile app on your iOS or Android smartphone and tablet.
After setting up your personal cloud information you are down. You can then choose to install the WD My Cloud application and create helpful shortcuts on your desktop. No drive letters are mapped at this point, so if you wanted to map drive letters you need to restart your PC and then you can right click the EX2 under storage devices and map a drive letter for it.
WD My Cloud EX2 Admin Panel
The My Cloud EX2 dashboard is super simple to use and has a user interface that is easy to learn and navigate. The home menu clearly shows the free capacity, drive status, firmware version, network activity, cloud devices, users and apps. Basically, all the essentials are covered here.
The EX2 comes with a single account for the admin, but you can easily come into the users menu and add individual users and then even cluster select users together to form groups.
The WD My Cloud EX2 comes with public shared folders for pictures, videos and music. You can setup more shared folders and control access to each shared item. So, if a family wanted to share the My Cloud EX2 the parents can have a shared folder between themselves, but have it to where the other family members can access it.
If you want to be able to access your data from anywhere in the world through an internet connection you can do so with WD Cloud Access, but you must have it activated first. It should be noted that the WD My Cloud, My Cloud EX2 and My Cloud EX4 all do not have the ability to sync folders via the cloud. This is a bit disappointing as if a group of people or a business is using the EX2 from computers, tablets and smartphones on a regular basis some updates might get missed.
From the backups menu you can backup USB to/from USB drives, remote Backup and Restore to another My Cloud, backup internal volumes and do cloud backups with Amazon S3 and Elephant Drive. You can of course back up things manually and it has integrated Apple Time Machine support.
If you get a drive populated version of the WD My Cloud EX2 it comes in RAID 1 mode, but you can change that to RAID 0 by visiting the storage tab and changing the raid mode. You can also check the disk status adjust the iSCSI settings and other drive related things in this menu. Small Office/Home Office users looking for iSCSI, volume encryption, virtual folders (DFS) and active directories will be happy to know that the My Cloud EX2 supports them all. It should be noted that the stripe size (called chunk size by WD for some odd reason) is set to 48Kbytes by default and there is no way to change that value when configuring a new RAID setup.
When it comes to applications we were happy to see that WD supports a good number of them. For starters there are built in downloader Apps for Torrent, FTP and HTTP needs as well as a web file viewer. The WD My Cloud EX2 also supports a number of third party Apps like:
- aMule - peer to peer download application
- Transmission - peer to peer download application
- IceCast - Internet music streamer
- Wordpress - blogging tool
- Joomla - Content Management System
- phBB - Internet Forum package
- phpMyAdmin - MySQL admin tool
- SqueezeCenter - Logitech media Server for Logitech hardware products
- NZBGet - binary newsgrabber for nzb files
The last tab is the settings menu, which appears to be the dump area for a number of things as there is a sub menu with general and network settings, ISO mounting details, media, utilities, notifications and firmware updates (auto and manual updates are available).
The WD My Cloud EX2 also has a really neat device activity monitor that shows CPU, Memory and Network activity. It also shows how many processes are running on the NAS.
If you click on each monitored activity you can get more details. When you clock on CPU activity it pops up with a chart that shows CPU utilization over the previous 15 minutes. We were transferring files
Let's take a look at performance!
WD My Cloud EX2 Performance Benchmarks
The WD My Cloud EX2 topped out at 95 MB/s read and 64 MB/s write. These aren't the fastest speeds that we have ever seed, but not bad for a NAS that is powered by the Marvell A370 SoC with 512MB of DDR3 memory.
ATTO showed that we were getting very respectable speeds of 98.4 MB/s read and 69.9MB/s write.
Rather than relying on synthetic benchmarks alone, we also used Teracopy and dragged and dropped a folder with 81 pictures and .MOV video clips from a recent retirement party and a few edited site images. The entire folder was 6.63GB in size and is the perfect real world test for the My Cloud EX2 as everyone backs up their pictures and movies. When copying the pictures from our desktop through our Gigabit LAN (powered by the ASUS RT-AC66U Gigabit Router) to the My Cloud EX2 we averaged 34 MB/s. It tool 197.627 seconds to copy the 6.63GB folder to the 2-bay NAS.
When copying the folder from the NAS back to a new location on our desktop PC we found that it took 106.13 seconds at 64MB/s.
Power Consumption and Final Thoughts
When it comes to power consumption the WD My Cloud EX2 4TB isn't too bad. We found that it uses around 5 Watts at when power saver mode is enabled. When the drives come out of their low power state they spike up to ~30 Watts during the few seconds it takes for them to spin back up to operational speeds.
During a single user file transfer we found the WD My Cloud EX2 to use right around 14 Watts of power, which is not alarming or out of the ordinary for a 2-bay NAS device.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions:
We've reviewed all of the WD My Cloud storage devices and have found them all to be very solid devices that are stable and very easy to use. The WD My Cloud EX4 was found to be hardware limited and thankfully that wasn't the case with the WD My Cloud EX2. The WD My Cloud EX2 had 64MB/s read and 34MB/s write speeds in our drag and drop file folder test and never once did we see the processor or memory stay pegged for more than a brief second. WD did a good job with the hardware and software on the My Cloud EX2. Many of the software refinements seen on this user interface were implemented by WD after hearing consumer feedback on the other My Cloud products that came out 4-5 months prior. So, even if you buy the WD My Cloud EX2 today, you are getting a polished and refined user experience.
The WD My Cloud EX2 is available as a drive-less 0TB model for $199.99 and move up to the populated models; 4TB for $369.99, 6TB for $469.99 and 8TB for $569.99. All of the My Cloud EX 2 Personal Cloud Storage servers that come with pre-installed drives feature WD Red hard drives that are optimized for high-performance NAS devices. Is it less expensive to build it yourself or buy one already populated? A quick look online discovered we could get WD Red 2TB drives for $98.95 shipped each. This means that you could 'build' your own 4TB WD My Cloud EX2 right now for $397.89, which is about $30 more than buying it configured and ready to go. Prices change all the time, but if you are handy and want save a few bucks be sure to price it up each way!
The WD My Cloud EX2 is a solid 2-bay NAS device and we most certainly recommend the My Cloud EX2 for anyone that is looking to try out a NAS. The WD My Cloud EX2 is simple to use and we all need a proper way to back up your storage. All WD My Cloud EX2 models are backed by a 2-year warranty with support from WD.
Legit Bottom Line: The WD My Cloud EX2 is an affordable 2-bay NAS that is easy to setup and will bring data redundancy to your home or small office!