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August 23, 2015

WD My Cloud Expert Series EX2100 8TB NAS Review


When everything around us started getting digitized, the most significant changes is that your once favorite video tape, bulky photo album, etc the you used to keep on shelf now takes spaces on your hard drives instead of your living places in the form of digital media files. The quality of audio and video improved along the way and the growing size of these media files that stretches from the once seemed to be large sized MB to the even larger size of GB or TB and not even with 2TB of storage now is able to satisfy majority of the data hoarders, especially for those who enjoys collecting their favorite series of dramas, blockbuster videos, collection of photos, etc.

Instead of adding more and more hard drive to the system, many have opted for Network Attached Storage (NAS) to store their data as it is a more feasible solution for the long run. NAS storage offers the ease of content sharing from multiple devices in the same network or even anywhere that has internet connection but this is usually done by those who are knowledgeable in networking skills. In light of this, we're now looking at a NAS storage that comes with the feature of a cloud storage for today's review, thank you Western Digital (WD) for providing us with the review unit. Enters the Western Digital My Cloud Expert Series EX2100, a 2-bay NAS storage that is offering the benefits of both NAS and cloud in one single device. The 8TB EX2100 retails at RM 2399.00 SRP and comes with a 3-year warranty, lets see how we all could benefit from it.

Specifications


Unboxing

The My Cloud EX2100 comes in WD colours of deep blue with the NAS unit pictured at the front with the product name shares the same space. The My Cloud EX2100 comes included with 2 pieces of WD's own 4TB RED NAS storage drives in a total of 8TB of storage. It also comes available in 0TB, 4TB and 12TB versions if you're looking for much higher capacity. 


Some highlighted features of the My Cloud EX2100 is inscribed on the side of the box.


Behind the box you'll find some highlights on how the My Cloud EX2100 works, what's powering the NAS, what you can do with it etc.


A labelled diagram of the My Cloud EX2100 can be found on the other side of the box, which makes it easy for the end users to refer to before purchasing it from their favorite IT store.


Included in the box: 


  • My Cloud EX2100
  • a Quick installation guide 
  • Technical support
  • Warranty guide 
  • Ethernet cable
  • Power adapter

Unlike any of WD's previous lineup, the My Cloud EX2100 has a more distinctive look of an actual NAS that we normally see from renown brands like Synology, QNAP, Thecus, etc. The front interface consists of an USB 3.0 port and a one-touch USB 3.0 copy button that allows you to copy the drive content onto a plugged in USB 3.0 storage device with ease.



In case if you ran out of space on your existing drives, flick on the lever reveals the hard drives used on the EX2100, no complicated locking mechanism is an added plus, making hard drives installation/removal a breeze.


The 
My Cloud EX2100 8TB is made up of 2 pieces of 4TB WD's Red Drive which is specifically made for NAS storage.


Other than the meshed design that act as an air intake vent, there's nothing in particular at the side that is worth mentioning.


At the back of the My Cloud EX2100:
  • There's a Kensington lock slot made for security measures
  • Pinhole reset button in case if you wish to revert to the factory settings
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port for sharing content from another USB 3.0 drives or copying its content
  • 2 x Ethernet port if you wish to share the NAS with more than 1 network
  • The DC port for the adapter
  • An exhaust fan to get rid of the heat in the NAS

WEB UI 

By typing in the short name of the device in your browser address bar ( can be found in the user's guide ), you'll be directed to the Web UI of the My Cloud EX2100 for first time configuration.


It's up to you to choose where to have a password for extra security, or you can leave if blank if you don't need any (not recommended).


If you wish to setup your personal cloud storage, you'll need to register for a WDMyCloud.com login and get your device configured. 


Once you're done with the initial configuration, you're good to go with the My Cloud EX2100.

Home Menu

The UI is made simple but detailed and we have no trouble in navigating through it. There will be a warning exclamation icon to indicate that further action is required - in our case, firmware update is required.


Updating firmware is just as easy as a click on one button, everything will be done automatically and you can sit back and relax while it's getting prepared.


The first drop down button will show the USB storage devices connected to the My Cloud EX2100.


The notification shows updated info, warning messages and critical issue so you can perform necessary action if any is required.


You can perform shut down, reboot and logout from the options available in this drop down menu.

User Menu

You can authorize other users to access to the My Cloud EX2100 by adding new user profile and manage its authority.


You can group the users into a group profile with pre-configured access authority if you have some data that is meant to be seen only by certain user group.

Share Menu

You can mange data sharing in the share menu, enabling public sharing, recycle bin, media serving, opclocks etc.

Cloud Access Menu

In the Cloud Access menu, you can configure the access to the My Cloud EX2100 for the selected user. Clicking on the 'Get Code' button generates a series of 9 digit passcode which can be used for accessing the My Cloud EX2100 with WD My Cloud mobile app and WD My Cloud Desktop app.

Backup Menu

In the backup menu, you can create backup job to store a copy of the My Cloud EX2100 content to a selected USB 3.0 drive or vice versa.


Select the direction of the copy job.


There's 2 backup mode that can be selected: 

  • copy allows you to copy the content of the NAS / USB drive to USB drive / NAS 
  • synchronize on the other hand, will make sure the content of both drive is identical

For remote backup, you can create the backup job to backup files to another NAS server if you're well equipped with a rich background knowledge in network configuration, else you can ignore this option. 


The internal backup doesn't requires any complicated setup as it's basically copies the files from one location to another which is located on the same drive.


As for cloud backup, you can backup your data to selected WD NAS partner like ElephantDrive and Amazon S3.


Camera backups allows you to backup photos directly from your camera that is connected to the My Cloud EX2100. 

Storage Menu

If the default RAID 1 configuration doesn't suits your needs, you can always configure the RAID mode for the My Cloud EX2100 in the storage menu.


You can choose the RAID mode from the list, ranging from JBOD to RAID 1 - which ever that suits your needs.


Disk status option will display the "health" of your HDDs.


iSCSI option allows you the setup to a total of 64 iSCSI target on other devices which can then be mapped in the Volume virtualization option.


Volume virtualization allows you to create up to a total of 8 virtual disk drives via iSCSI Initiator.

App Menu

In the Apps tab, users get to manage their downloads from the Internet to the drives in the My Cloud EX2100 without having to turn the PC on. Particularly useful to download large files over the Internet. HTTP downloads lets you download via direct sources.


FTP downloads are for files only accessible by having an access to the hosting website.


P2P are files grabbed from multiple sharing sources, usually on another computer somewhere in the world - aka the torrenting method that is commonly seen nowadays.


The web file viewer lets you view files on the My Cloud EX2100 via the web.


Here's the fun part - you can install a wide variety of apps such as eMule, Dropbox to ease up the downloading of your favorite files. 

Settings

Finally we come to the Settings tab. First option lets you set things like device name and time and such.


Network options adjusts the IP address and network services.


Media option lets you set the media database to access the data source you want and yes, it's the iTunes you're seeing there, users of Apple product will benefit from this feature.


All the things you will be needing for the system configurations and troubleshooting can be found in the the Utilities option.


Notifications options allows you to configure the My Cloud EX2100 to send you an alert via email or SMS according to the types of notification to be sent.


And firmware update lets you configure the My Cloud EX2100 to update automatically or you could disable it should you wish to update only when you want it to. Once everything has been setup properly, your personal cloud storage is ready for action.


Access from MyCloud App
 
As we did mentioned earlier, accessing your files in the My Cloud EX2100 via mobile phone is now made possible with the apps from WD which can be found in the Apple AppStore and Google Play. 

After entering the activation code generated from the cloud access menu, you can access the shared files on the My Cloud EX2100 from pretty much anywhere, as long as there's internet connection available.



Streaming videos on the My Cloud EX2100 in full HD!



Playing music files on the My Cloud EX2100.



Viewing images stored on the My Cloud EX2100.


WD My Cloud Desktop App

There's also PC version of the WD My Cloud that allows you to do almost the same as what the mobile app did, except that it's a much more advanced version with more features. It'll automatically detect WD My Cloud that is connected to your network and list it out as the devices found in your network.  


Once connected, you can access all your beloved files and share it with your friends and loved ones, the WD My Cloud way.


Copying Files From / To the My Cloud EX2100


We've done a quick test on copying movie files from our PC to the My Cloud EX2100 and vice versa, both yields a result of a constant transfer speed of 11 MB/s.


Final thoughts
Unlike the My Cloud EX2, the My Cloud Ex2100 falls in the expert series that is much better in terms of build quality and features. 2 x Ethernet port and 2 x USB 3.0 port grants user with extra flexibility when it comes to sharing - not only that you can connect up to 2 x USB 3.0 storage devices to it, you can share its content with more than 1 network.

While the My Cloud EX2100 isn't the cheapest 2-bay NAS around, but it does offers some pretty sweet features that isn't commonly found on most NAS - Simple and user-friendly web UI, your personal cloud storage, My Cloud app with all the function required centralized as one entity.

Pros
  • Sturdy metal enclosure that is built to last long 
  • Ready to use right out of the box and very easy to setup
  • Simple and user-friendly Web UI that is very easy to use
  • Gives you the personal cloud features that can be accessed with free to use mobile apps and software
  • Affordable pricing for a NAS in similar class
  • Cost efficient, much better than setting up a dedicated system just for the same purpose.
Cons
  • Expandability is limited to only 2 drives
  • No options for accessing the drives via USB interface

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