WD's My Cloud range is catering to home and small business users who might normally be intimidated by complex NAS drives. The dual-bay My Cloud EX2 is another attractive addition to the range.
The EX2 is a dual-bay RAID drive that provides remote access over the internet via WD's My Cloud service and apps. Like the My Cloud Mirror, WD's two drives are similar in many ways, sharing the same basic design and 1.2 GHz processor, along with 512 MB RAM, a single gigabit Ethernet port for network connectivity and a pair of USB 3.0 ports for adding extra storage.
However, the black livery of the EX2 marks it as a member of WD's 'Expert' range and it does offer business users a few extra features that the white, consumer-oriented My Cloud Mirror lacks.
Both drives are available with 4, 6 or 8 TB of storage but, unlike the MyCloud Mirror, the EX2 can also be bought unpopulated, allowing you to provide whatever size or brand of disk you prefer to use.
WD My Cloud EX2 review: additional features
Other additional features include support for IPv6, Active Directory for managing groups of users, and data encryption for extra security.
Prices start at £199 for an unpopulated drive, and then £299 with 4 TB storage, £359 for 6 TB and £479 for 8 TB.
Those prices are quite competitive, but if you don't need the extra features of the EX2 you can save another £30 by opting for the My Cloud Mirror instead. One sign of compromise here is that the thin plastic casing of the drive feels rather flimsy, as do the little plastic tabs that you use to pull the drives out when you need to replace them.
Like all the other drives in the My Cloud range, the EX2 does a good job of simplifying the initial set-up process for less experienced users. You need to download the My Cloud software from WD's web site, and that can then detect the drive on your network and perform some quick diagnostics before walking you through the installation process.
WD My Cloud EX2 review: interface
Once that's done you can use the drive's browser-based Dashboard interface, which provides simple, well-organised options for adjusting settings such as the RAID format, setting up shared folders and the MyCloud remote access option.
More advanced users can also download a number of third-party apps designed specifically for the EX2, including the Squeeze streaming audio server, aMule for P2P file-sharing, and even Wordpress for hosting your own blogs.
WD My Cloud EX2 review: getting started
The only glitch we encountered while setting up the EX2 was in the skimpy Quick Start guide, which didn't tell us the default user name and password required to open the Dashboard. That's a careless mistake, which meant that we wasted a fair bit of time trying to guess those details before contacting WD for help.
We tested the 8 TB version of the EX2, which was pre-formatted using RAID 1 mirroring by default, but it took just a couple of minutes to reformat the drive as RAID 0 to check maximum performance.
Using the CrystalDiskMark benchtest for Windows, the EX2 produced very solid sequential read and write speeds of 103 MB/s and 80 MB/s respectively.
Performance was much poorer with smaller file sizes – just 0.7 MB/s and 6.7 MB/s for 4 kB files – but that's a common weakness with network drives.
Power consumption during testing averaged 15.5 W, with the occasional peak of up to 18 W, but that dropped to just 6 W when the EX2 was idle, so leaving it running all day shouldn't do swell your energy bills much.
The WD My Cloud EX2 has a few minor faults, but it's easy to use and provides good performance and reliability at an attractive price. There are more sophisticated NAS drives available for larger businesses, but the EX2 provides all the features that home users and small businesses are likely to need, and presents them in a straightforward manner that will appeal to people who might not have used a NAS drive before.