wdsfMyCloud_EX2Ultra.jpgMany years ago, I was an IT systems administrator for a local software company. I’ve forgotten most of what I knew back then, but I vividly remember how massive the network storage devices seemed to me. Hundreds of gigs of storage on impressively large disk arrays in towering computer cabinets. The old me would have his jaw drop when he saw the amount of high speed storage offered for home use these days, in a form factor that’s smaller than a toaster. The WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra is a beast of an example network storage device, giving you 8 Terabytes (TB) of data storage connected to your local network and accessible remotely.

How big is 8TB? Well, if the average HD movie is roughly 6GB in size, then this hard drive could hold over a thousand of them without breaking a sweat. And if you’re an eager early adopter of 4K video, you’ll need all the storage space you can get (4K movies are estimated to be an average of 100GB each.)

The Technical Jargon

  • Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device: the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra autonomously stores files and administers access to the devices connected to it, without the need for an additional management computer.
  • Cloud storage: access to the stored data without needing to be on the same network as the storage device. The WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra creates its own cloud storage that can be accessed remotely, so your files are always available when you are online.
  • RAID: A redundant array of independent disks. This technology allows multiple physical hard drives to function as a single logical unit. WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra can set its RAID to enhance transfer speed (RAID 0) or to mirror the data onto each drive to protect against data loss from a disk failure.
Western Digital My Cloud EX2 UltraDimensions: 165 x 99 x 159mm

CPU: Marvell® ARMADA® 385 1.3 GHz dual-core

Drive Bays: 2 x 3.5 inch hard drive bays, hot swap capable, tray-less design

Internal Hard Drives: 2 x WD Red NAS hard drives

Expansion Ports: 2 USB 3.0 ports

OS Support: Windows® 7/8/10, Mac OS X El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, or

First Impression

Western Digital is taking streamlined hardware seriously.

There are exactly 3 pieces of equipment in the box—the EX2 Ultra drive, the power supply, and a short Ethernet cable. Oh, and a single sheet of paper showing you how to plug the box in. The NAS is solid and compact, with ridiculously easy access to the hard drives. One press on the top latch releases it, revealing the two hard drives within the NAS, so replacing a drive in the future is fast and easy. The two USB 3.0 ports on the back are available for expanding the storage space even further. It may have made it slightly more convenient if the USB ports were on the front face instead, but their current position is manageable.

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There are literally 2 steps to physically connecting the EX2 Ultra to your network: plug in power, then connect via Ethernet to your router. After that, all of the configuration and set up is done through a browser-based admin site called My Cloud OS. I was glad to see that the default setting was RAID 1, ensuring that you’ll have a complete backup of your data available if one of the internal hard drives fails. Keep in mind that using RAID 1 effectively halves your storage space, so you’ll have 2 complete copies of up to 4TB of data. One of the first stops in the set up process for me was turning on DLNA and iTunes sharing. This allows any device using either technology to connect to the NAS and stream content from it.  After that, I dug around a little more and found an impressive amount of configuration depth: if you’re an advanced user, you’ll be thrilled with the amount of setting tweaking and modifying you can do.

Backups Are Essential

A lot of the real value you will get from a NAS is being able to back up all of your critical files to one centralized location. In addition to allowing you to use the NAS as the storage location for your PC or Mac’s backup, you can use the My Cloud mobile app on each of your devices to back them up to the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra. and the administration software also allows you to set up a backup plan for the NAS itself. Your backup options for the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra include backing up to a USB drive, remote backup to another My Cloud NAS, or backing up to a cloud service like Elephantdrive or Amazon S3. Keep in mind both of these services require a paid subscription. I set up a simple backup to a USB drive, and it ran smoothly without error every time.

The Additional Software

MyCloud_Plex_2.pngThere are a number of additional applications that you can install to the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra via the admin page. Helpful plug-ins that connect to sites like Dropbox (for yet more online storage), the BitTorrent client Transmission, and others. To make sharing and accessing all of your media files a little less onerous, the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra also has the option of using the Plex media server. Plex organizes and presents your files in an easy to browse fashion, so you can quickly find the movie you want when you want it. Plex also has an added set of features that require a “plex pass” subscription, like being able to download content to your mobile device for offline use. This could be handy if, like me, your cell service isn’t as ubiquitous as you would like when you travel.

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Another very interesting piece of additional software is the Milestone ARCUS Surveillance software. This allows WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra to be the storage centre for your home security set-up. You get 3 free security camera licenses with the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra, and you can always buy more (of course). Managing the scheduling of your security cameras and checking their status remotely won’t help you much if you already have a security solution in place, but adding surveillance in the future is easier if you already have the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra running on your network. The ARCUS software also allows you to push video from your mobile device to your NAS, so you can “document incidents as they happen”.

The Verdict

This is an NAS that brings full, enterprise level functionality to the home user’s network. With the age of big data fully upon us, the need for a large amount of data storage that is easy to access and administer makes the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra a great fit for your home. It gives you the convenience of remote file access without having all of your data living on some other company’s servers. The size of the drives and the ability to expand the storage space through USB makes this a very future-friendly NAS that will meet your household’s storage needs.

 images from wdc.com

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