Review: Western Digital My Cloud EX2

Western Digital My Cloud EX2
Western Digital My Cloud EX2

As a photographer, I capture a lot of photographs. Surprising, I know. Before digital cameras I had boxes and boxes of film and slides. In the digital age that means a lot of files that need to be stored. The upside of this is that I store thousands of photographs in a space that would only hold about 100 slides previously. The downside to all of this is that photography now requires IT skills and your photographs are susceptible to power blips, heat, lightning strikes through the power lines, and let’s not forget strong jostles or downright falls from 3 feet or so. In the slide days if you dropped your images you would just pick up your slides, curse a bit and put them back in order. In the digital age that little fall could mean life or death.

My Old Hard Drive Setup
My Old Hard Drive Setup

Don’t get me wrong, the digital age is great, I wouldn’t trade it for all the free slide film in the world. The real challenge I’ve found is finding a way to keep my data secure, backed up, and easy to access. Until now I’ve collected a myriad of USB drives which I replicate from one to the another. It’s been crude, but effective. I had recently been researching other storage options when Western Digital offered me the chance to try their My Cloud EX2 NAS. I jumped at the chance. Besides being on my short-list, I liked the feature set and felt that it could potentially improve my workflow in the future. If I can be more efficient in AND away from the office, that gives me more time to do what I love, capturing images! Below are five reasons why I recommend the My Cloud EX2 for a photography business.

Easy Setup

One thing I’ve learned to love is simplicity, both in photography and in life. As a business owner with a million things to do so I don’t have time for complicated setups. I want things that just work. The setup of the My Cloud EX2 was just that, simple. I plugged it in, went through the easy setup and bam, I was up and running. The interface was intuitive and easy, something I can always appreciate.

Additional USB Drive Support and Backups

The feature set, however, was anything but simple. First off, I love the ability to plug in additional USB drives directly into the My Cloud EX2. This allows you to either add more storage on the network or use the plugged in USB drive as a backup destination. My main concern with using the additional USB drive as additional storage was that it was going to be transferring data over the same link as the My Cloud EX2. Since I’m always transferring large amounts of data at once through viewing photographs or saving large Photoshop files, I wanted to maintain my network connection only for the Western Digital NAS. As such I configured the USB port for backups, that way the My Cloud EX2 was going directly to the USB and bypassing the network. Setting up the backup was super easy, I just went through the wizard, configured the destination, the time and hit finish. I cannot stress this point enough, back up your data!!! I’ve seen lots of people lose valuable information and never recover. The backup configuration is easy so use it! There are lots of other backup options available including cloud backup to Amazon so explore them all.

RAID Configuration

One item I do want to mention here is that the My Cloud EX2 comes with 2 drives. You have the ability to setup these drives in different versions of what is known as RAID. You can have one drive constantly mirror to another drive or have them become one big drive. The pro of making it one big drive is almost twice the storage space. The tradeoff is that if either drive fails you’ve lost everything. The pro of mirroring the drives is that if you lose a drive you should still be operational. The tradeoff is that you pay twice as much for the same space. After debating I decided to leave the drives in the “RAID 1” configuration, or redundant. Keep in mind, this is NOT considered a form of backup. I’ve seen plenty of configurations on other devices like this go completely south, like “Antarctic put your business in a deep freeze” south. See the point above for information regarding the easy to use backup!  Anyway, I’d prefer being able to keep working if one drive does fail as opposed to scrambling to go to a backup to retrieve everything if either drive goes.

“Cloud” Storage

Everyone has a different definition of “The Cloud” which can frankly become a bit well… cloudy. In fact whenever I hear, “The Cloud” I often think of an ominous unseen announcer saying “The Cloud” with a booming voice. What “The Cloud” means here is that the My Cloud EX2 creates storage on your home or business network which you can access from anywhere. The benefits here is that when you are locally on the same network as the NAS the speeds are fast and you aren’t paying a service a monthly fee to store the information. In order to use this you’ll have to setup your router or network to allow external access to the device. There are some setup options that make this configuration a little easier, but there might be a bit of technical knowhow needed. Once setup, you can generate access codes for phones, iPads, tablets, notebooks, desktops, servers, well you get the idea. Basically, any device that you might want to access the information can. Additionally, users and access rights can be created so if you want Aunt Cindy to see your family friendly Disney photos, but not images from your weekend bender, no problem. On tablets and phones you can download WD Photos which will allow you to view photos from your MyCloudEx2 and even post them to Facebook. Personally, I can always use something that makes me a more effective social networker.

Besides the photography, I had to try it with some music. I placed some music files on the storage, took off and was able to seamlessly access it. Now I could access both my tunes and my photos easily from numerous devices. Not bad.

App Support (and the ability for future development)

Lastly, one of the features on the list I wasn’t expecting is the ability to install apps. These apps enhance the functionality of the My Cloud EX2 and allow for future development. The options are fairly limited and nothing that really excites me. Most of them deal with torrents and downloading which might excite some of those peer-to-peer sharers out there. I’m not one of them, but I hope to see more of these cool add-ons in the future.

Overall, I was pleased with the experience, I loved the ease of setup and the performance has been good. The ability to access my files from outside is a plus and the backup features are very welcome and from what I’ve seen a much under discussed bonus of this little device. For the advertised price, it provides the storage with a feature set richer than I’ve seen in similar devices.

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