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Western Digital My Cloud EX4100 review

Build your own personal storage cloud on the cheap

Cloud with various IT components inside
Price
£550 ex VAT
  • Simple storage cloud creation; Swift mobile access provisioning; Inexpensive
  • Small number of apps; Slow backup speeds, Only certified for WD hard disks

WD quietly put its Arkeia backup appliances out to grass earlier this year as it wanted to focus more on developing its consumer and business NAS appliances. The family of My Cloud products has since been slowly expanding with WD’s Expert series now including the two-bay EX2100 and four-bay EX4100 with the latter reviewed here.

The EX4100 is aimed at SMBs and prosumers that want a heap of network storage for local and remote file sharing, media streaming and backup. The 8TB model we looked at has four 2TB WD Red SATA disks and costs £550 ex VAT. A number of other configurations are available, including a diskless version. For what it’s worth though, WD only certifies its own Red series of disks for use with the EX4100.

Externally, it’s identical to WD’s My Cloud DL4100 (web ID:25027) with the differences lying inside. The EX4100 has a dual-core 1.6GHz Marvell Armada 388 processor whereas the DL4100 has a slightly faster dual-core 1.7GHz Intel Atom C2338. However, while the DL4100’s 2GB of DDR3 memory can be upgraded to 6GB, the EX4100 has no such upgrade option.

Own your cloud

Users that don’t trust third-party online storage providers or want to avoid monthly fees will like the EX4100. It’s designed to let them create their own private storage cloud and share it only with those users they choose.

After running through the 10-minute quick start wizard routine, we created new user accounts and emailed them a link to download the My Cloud software as well as their log-in credentials. It’s easy to use the admin web console to decide which folders users have access to and whether it’s read only or read/write access.

We tested the My Cloud software on Windows 10 desktops and found it worked fine. Users could view remote folders, copy files to the appliance using drag and drop and email download links to other users.

From the console’s Cloud Access tab, we could view which users were active and which apps they connected to the appliance with. The console isn’t currently Windows 10 aware and showed our users as running Windows 8.

SmartWare and performance

The My Cloud invitation email also provides links for access to WD’s SmartWare desktop backup software. SmartWare analyses all your data, separates it into categories such as documents and pictures and links up directly with the EX4100. Just choose continuous protection or scheduled backups and it’ll do the rest.

SmartWare worked fine on Windows 10 but performance was painfully slow. An initial full backup of a 22.4GB folder containing 10,500 small files took nearly an hour over Gigabit Ethernet working out at an average of only 7MB/sec.

General NAS performance was better, but still a mixed bag. Drag and drop copying the same 22.4GB backup test folder to a mapped share returned a disappointing 48MB/sec. Copying a large 50GB test file saw sustained read and write speeds of 107MB/sec and 106MB/sec.

Mobile access and camera backup

We tested mobile access using the iOS My Cloud app on an iPad 4. Setting up remote access for users is simple as the admin console displays a unique 12-digit code for each account and entering it in the iOS app provided instant access to the EX4100.

We could monitor mobile users from the console and see what devices they were accessing the appliance from. Over on our iPad, we used the My Cloud app to browse shares on the appliance, download files and remotely play music and videos.

We like the camera backup feature which automatically backed up the photos on our camera as soon as we connected it to the appliance’s USB port. It worked flawlessly with our Panasonic DMC-FZ28 and should work with any PictBridge-compatible camera.

App shortage

WD provides apps for backing up to ElephantDrive, Amazon S3 and Dropbox. Other apps are provided for downloading files over HTTP, FTP and P2P and saving them straight to shared storage all without the aid of a computer, multimedia streaming and both on-demand and scheduled anti-virus scans. Other than this though, the selection of add-on apps is sparse.

The EX4100 can save backups to remote appliances, but only to other Western Digital My Cloud devices as Rysnc isn’t supported. The appliance can also backup its contents to a USB drive as soon as it’s plugged in to one of the USB ports. This automatic USB backup also works the other way, so you can have the contents of USB drives automatically copied onto the EX4100 upon insertion.

WD is currently working on version 3 of its My Cloud OS which, along with a revamped interface, will add support for the Plex media server. It’s also teaming up with MileStone and will integrate its Arcus IP camera surveillance software.

Conclusion

The differences between the My Cloud EX4100 and DL4100 appliances are so small we can’t see the need for WD to have two separate products ranges. Apart from the processor and upgradeable memory, the hardware is identical and they have the same software features too as they share the same OS.

The DL4100 performed marginally better in our performance tests, but in the real world it’s unlikely you’ll notice such small differences. Either way, you won’t find an easier way of creating your own private cloud storage.

Verdict

The My Cloud EX4100 is inexpensive and very easy to use but real world performance isn’t great and it’s short on features and apps.

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