WD MyCloud EX4100 review

An effective speedy office NAS that’s ready to roll up its sleeves and work

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£266
  • Powerful business features; iSCI, virtualisation and AD linking support; Good transfer speeds
  • Limited home server features; No iOS Files integration;

Take note of that business-like demeanour. Where other NAS units push themselves as the swiss army knife of storage or the ultimate media machine, the MyCloud EX4100 maintains a tight focus on SME-friendly backup and storage along with cloud-like remote access features.

Once you've signed up to the MyCloud service you can access your shared folders from anywhere through a browser, or use WD's WDSync applet to sync files and folders between your computer and the NAS. The EX4100 will happily work with a small team of users and provide Dropbox-like features to them all. Meanwhile, its WD SmartWare Pro software can handle backup across the team's PCs.

Be aware of what you're missing out on: this isn't really a NAS for enthusiasts or home users. It works as a simple and flexible media server, but that's about it. Connectivity is limited to a single USB 3 port at the front for one-touch instant backups, along with two more USB 3 connections at the rear. However, there is some smart functionality onboard here. Plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive and the NAS can mount it automatically as a share.

We like the EX4100's unassuming physical design. Drives slide effortlessly into four trayless bays, and while this has the disadvantage that there's nothing to grab onto if you need to hot-swap, you can fill all four up in minutes without breaking a sweat. What's more, while the EX4100 is incredibly noisy when it starts up, drowning out the fan noise from our hardly unobtrusive test PC, it's near-silent in general operation. With its gently glowing LCD status display and discrete LED indicators, it's one of the least distracting appliances in our lab.

Click the link to open the admin control panel and you'll find a tab for additional apps, including a tool to sync folders with Dropbox, Joomla and WordPress installations and the Transmission Bittorrent client. However, the fact that these are hidden away tells you that this isn't really what this NAS is built for. Because it's not trying to be a home-server-meets-media-centre-meets-Linux-PC, the EX4100 benefits from a clean and simple dashboard interface that looks and feels like a modern cloud-based app. When you're trying to manage and monitor the RAID or folder activity, it's easy to find the tools you need. It even packs a couple of surprises: at this price you might not expect enterprise-friendly features such Active Directory linking or iSCSI and virtualisation support, but the EX4100 crams these in as well.

WD also scores by supporting the NAS with matching web services and desktop and mobile apps, all with one coherent look and feel. Users can drag and drop files from any browser directly into the NAS folder or use the app to sync files and folders, doing a convincing impression of Dropbox while it does so. The mobile app includes automatic photo and video backup features, which you can set to use Wi-Fi only, plus basic tools to manage users and the NAS. However, iPad and iPhone users should note that there's no integration with the iOS files app.

Despite having an underwhelming specification - a Marvell ARM-based dual-core processor and just 2GB of RAM - the EX4100 flies when it comes to transfer speeds, performing particularly well when it comes to mass writes of smaller files, even while streaming 4K video. Power consumption is on the high side, peaking at 36.2W, but the NAS is very efficient at going into a 12W power save mode when not in active use.

You can buy the EX4100 pre-filled, in capacities ranging from 8TB up to 24TB. However, we'd recommend buying the enclosure and drives separately - you could save nearly 100 when fitting four 4TB drives. If you're a hobbyist looking for a versatile home server, this isn't the NAS for you, and the same goes if media streaming features are your thing. But if you want a NAS that can get some serious work done, the EX4100 does it simply, effectively and affordably, making it one of the best small business NAS drives around.

Verdict

If you want a NAS that can get some serious work done, the EX4100 does it simply, effectively and affordably, making it one of the best small business NAS drives around.

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