I'm normally a huge numbers geek. I want to know every specification of every device because I believe in the power of statistics. But when it comes to hard drives, well, I just want them to work. I want ample space for my data, I want to know it's backed up without a second thought, and I want to be able to access it quickly and easily, no matter what device I'm on. Enter the Western Digital My Cloud Mirror.
In between my music, academic, and photography work, the importance of backing up files is deeply ingrained in me, and it's saved me on more than one occasion. There are four copies of all my files in no less than two (three for the most important) physical locations at all times. It can be a bit cumbersome, though, as I have a home desktop computer, an office computer, a laptop, my phone, and an iPad. Nonetheless, I was reminded of the importance of keeping these machines in sync just the other day, when my office computer decided to play "hide the thesis," and my vigor was suddenly renewed. Services like Dropbox and iCloud do make the process a bit simpler, but sometimes, I need a place where I can dump hundred of gigabytes of files, knowing that at any point in time, I might need to access any of them from some remote location or maybe my couch. The My Cloud Mirror seemed to be the solution to my problem: a two-drive RAID 1 system that I plugged into my router, creating my own personal cloud.
Unboxing and Setup
My first impressions were that the unit is big and heavy, but that's really because there are two drives inside. It's a good-looking piece of equipment, and matches well with my Airport Extreme. The front is polished and simple, with power and status lights for the two drives, while the back furnishes an ethernet plug and two USB 3.0 expansion plugs for adding additional storage.
From the start, it was clear that the drive is designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind. Beyond the drive and its accessories, there wasn't much in the box, save for a single card that told me to plug it in, wait for the status lights to flash that they were ready, then go to the My Cloud setup site. I did so and was quickly greeted by a splash screen. I clicked the "setup" button, and after a few seconds, it had found my drive and prompted me to set up an account. A few minutes and an app installation later, I was up and running.
The web interface was about as simple as can be. I could access my files, manage users on the drive, and upload new data with ease. While this worked instantaneously on my home network, the downside is that using this elsewhere means you're dependent on your home internet connection's upload bandwidth, and unfortunately, here in the U.S., we're not known for our lightning-quick upload speeds. That being said, it's certainly not a fault of the drive, and I never experienced unreasonable lag in browsing my files remotely using my apartment's 50/5 Mbps connection. If I suddenly needed to pull out an old file for a project remotely, it might take me a few seconds to get it, but that sacrifice is more than reasonable for me; I'm not using this to remotely access many files often; that's what I use Dropbox as a solution for.
Local Interface and Mobile App
The WD Sync app and local interface offered more options. Here, I could not only add folders and users like in the web interface, I could recover deleted files, enable local SSL, and interact with the drive like any other folder on my computer, which is exactly how I prefer it to act. Hopping on my laptop, the drive's root folder appeared like any other. Weirdly, though, I couldn't see my drive's current capacity in the Sync desktop app. The local browser interface is quite powerful and informative, however.
The local browser interface contains all the stats and configurations you could really want. As you can see above, it presents a tidy overview of the system's performance and functions. Adding users is simple, but I also appreciated the ability to add groups, which makes managing multiple users much easier and could be a real boon to office environments. The "Shares" tab is essentially a method for controlling access to specific folders and files on the system. Cloud access controls exactly that, though I never had to touch this tab, as the drive, web interface, and mobile app interfaced seamlessly. "Backups" allows for a veritable plethora of backup options, from camera backups to remote options. What I really appreciated were the clear and concise descriptions and instructions that accompanied these more intricate options. It took me 30 seconds to set up a backup of my music work to another USB drive, because if four backups are good, five are better. (Listen, you may think I'm overzealous, but what happens when a robber is stealing your computer, while a sharknado is destroying your cloud backup center 600 miles away, and an unfortunate water skiing accident just took out your travel drive? You'll be glad you listened to me then.)
The "Storage" tab keeps you up to date on the RAID configuration, while the "Apps" tab lets you add anything from the Transmission torrent client to Joomla for online publishing. You can even integrate Dropbox with the NAS. Finally, the "Settings" tab lets you really dig into the system, customizing most anything, including energy saving preferences, network setup, media streaming, diagnostics, firmware updates, and more. What's great, however, is that you don't ever need to touch this tab if you don't want to. WD has made the drive sufficiently intuitive and capable that you can essentially plug it in and forget it, or you can dive in to your heart's content. That's really the beauty of it.
The mobile app is also well made. Within no time, I had my phone automatically backing up photos and videos to the drive. What made this useful is that I had instant access to all the photos and videos on my phone from my computer. Sure, I could go into the Photos app on my Mac and work from there, but having them sitting there as files in a folder made them extremely easy to work with. And while iCloud is great, backing up via Wi-Fi to local storage is obviously much faster. The downside, of course, is that if my apartment is ever hit by that aforementioned sharknado, having all my backups in one location won't help. I still recommend backing up at least your most important files offsite as well. I had no problem accessing and streaming music and videos on my phone. I have a rather large music collection, and being able to instantly listen to it on any device was rather freeing. The only drawback to the mobile app was that when it was transferring to the drive, my phone got very hot and bogged down. This only lasted for a few minutes, however, and only happened during the initial backup.
Sporting a 1.3 GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of DDR3 memory, the system never had any problems keeping up. The two WD Red NAS Hard Drives spin at 5,400 RPM. Performance was quite good. Writing an 8.51 GB file to the drive took 88 seconds, translating to a speed of 96.7 MBps. The speed was almost as good for smaller files; a 3.11 GB folder containing 1,278 files transferred at 87.9 MBps. Read speeds were consistently in the 100-120 MBps range. Getting that speed over Wi-Fi while sitting with your laptop on the couch is pretty cool. That sort of performance is right up there with the USB 3.0 drives attached to my desktop. In other words, it performs just like any other good hard drive, with the added convenience and capabilities of a well-designed NAS server.
What I Liked
- Dead simple setup process
- Easy local and remote file sharing
- Highly customizable and expandable interface
- Great performance
What I Didn't Like
- Mobile app bogged down my phone at times
Interested in purchasing the Western Digital My Cloud Mirror? It comes in many sizes, from 4 TB up to 16 TB. Pick up your device here.