WD My Cloud EX4100 4-Bay Expert Series 16TB NAS Review

Introduction


We ain’t all equally skilled when it comes to the configuration of network and storage devices nor is it everyone that has the same interest in that. Sometimes you just want to purchase something, enter your preferred name and password, and then be ready to rock.

WD’s My Cloud series is designed for just these scenarios and it comes equipped with drives and is pre-configured. All you need to do yourself is connect it, turn the power on, and set your password. Today I’m taking a closer look at the WD My Cloud EX4100 from the Expert series and will give it a good spin in the test area.

The MyCloud EX4100 it is a 4-bay NAS unit and in this case it comes pre-loaded with four 4TB WD RED drives. Other disk configurations are available if 16TB shouldn’t be the right match. You can get it from driveless all the way up to 24TB raw capacity.

You will need some power on the insides to handle what the EX4100 promises and it comes with a dual-core Marvell ARMADA 388 processor that clocks at 1.6GHz and 2GB DDR3 memory. This should be plenty, but if it shouldn’t be then the EX4100 also comes with three USB 3.0 ports allowing you to connect extra external storage.

Two gigabit Ethernet ports take care of the network traffic and they fully support both port trunking and link aggregation for failover redundancy and improved traffic capabilities.

A nice bonus for every device is the built-in display at the top of the unit. It allows you to quickly see what’s going on with your unit, its name, network details, and storage setup. It will also keep you updated on the progress when you changing major configurations such as the drive setup.

Just because the unit comes pre-equipped with four drives doesn’t mean that you can’t replace them with smaller, bigger, or just other ones if you want to – or in case you bought a driveless unit. The EX4100 supports hot-swapping and comes with easy-release front bays for quick access. Pop the slider and the drive will eject.

It comes as no surprise that WD used their own RED series of NAS drives in these units. They are built especially for NAS usage, so what better to pick. In this case, the unit is equipped with four of these 4TB drives. The WD RED series uses an IntelliPower RPM systems up to 5400 RPM and come with 64MB Cache.

The EX4100 doesn’t have any dedicated drive trays and is as such tool-less to upgrade. The drives are still firmly secured inside thanks to the large dividers. Not using drive caddies allows for a smaller and more narrow footprint, something anyone can appreciate.

The EX4100 supports RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 as well as JBOD and Spanning. While the RAID 0 to 60 modes are self-explanatory, how the terms JBOD and Spanning are used variates a bit, including Single disk. Essentially, JBOD and Spanning is the same thing but with a small difference. JBOD stands for Just a Bunch Of Disks, these can either be presented as single volumes or one large where they are used as extension for each other. Spanning, on the other hand, will create one large volume with all the drive space available and the drives don’t even need to be the same capacity.

JBOD stands for Just a Bunch Of Disks, these can either be presented as single volumes or one large where they are used as extension for each other. Spanning, on the other hand, will create one large volume with all the drive space available and the drives don’t even need to be the same capacity.

In the EX4100’s case, JBOD will result in four individual volumes and spanning will create one large volume without redundancy or performance improvements. As always, which mode i

As always, which mode you chose is down to your own needs. Whether you need a maximum amount of capacity, redundancy, performance improvements or a little of each.

Storage is just one side of the story, you also need to connect that storage somehow. The EX4100 comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports that support both failover and port trunking.

The addition of a dual power supply system with a backup for emergency situations is awesome and something more NAS should feature. Any product can break for one reason or another and it should have a backup solution in case that happens.

The single and relative large 120mm fan helps to keep everything cool without creating too much noise. It only needs to rotate at low speeds to keep everything cool and operate optimally.

So far I’ve talked a lot about the hardware, but that’s just one side to the story. The software has to match with the right features, otherwise what would be the point.

It doesn’t matter if you want to connect to the WD MyCloud EX4100 from Windows, Linux, or your Mac OS based system, everything should be covered with Samba, Bonjour, and NFS3 support. The EX4100 also support VLAN, UPnP, iSCSI, SSH, and WebDAV and comes with an FTP server.

It is well suited to stream all your stored content to anything from smart devices to TVs and media players. Twonky’s UPnP media server, DLNA, and iTunes server are all present and it supports connection to devices such as WD TV Live, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows 8, connected TVs, Blu-ray players and digital picture frames.

Security is important everywhere and WD has that part covered too with features such as Active Directory support and 256-bit AES full volume encryption.

You can set up backup plans to local and remote locations as well as the same system, use Apple’s Time Machine, or use the cloud-based services Amazon and ElephantDrive. You can also sync drives with the attached USB 3.0 ports.

Security also involves power management and the EX4100 doesn’t just come with redundant PSU support, it can also control both network and USB connected UPS power backup devices.

Within the package you’ll find the NAS device with the drives inserted, a network cable, a power supply and, in this case two connector cables: one UK and one EU. There’s also a startup guide that will get you set up, even if you don’t know the darndest thing about NAS systems.

Remote access can not only be achieved through the web interface, you can also get both a desktop application and several mobile apps for your Android and iOS devices.

Other features such as a download server for both HTTP and P2P services, being IPv6 ready, supporting jumbo frames up to 9000 bytes, and SNMP for easy administrator management in larger environments are also all present.

If you’re concerned about the environment and having a device running all the time, then WD has you covered too. It features disk spin down when not need, which also will increase the drives lifespan, wake-on-LAN, automatic power recovery, and scheduled power on-off times.

The PCB has a simple build where only one side is utilized. The memory is soldered onto the board, so you can’t upgrade that, but that would also be kind of missing the target audience for a pre-setup unit.

We see that the memory used comes from SKhynix and the LAN ports are controlled by two Marvell 88E1512 chips. The USB 3.0 ports are controlled by a Renesas µPD720210 4-port hub controller.

WD Adds Plex Media Server Support for My Cloud Line Up

WD has made their My Cloud lineup of personal storage servers even better with the addition of the Plex Media Server. Plex is a very popular entertainment app and My Cloud users can now enjoy it too. Plex organizes video, music and photos from personal media libraries and streams them to smart TVs, streaming boxes and mobile devices.

“WD is committed to a robust application ecosystem for our customers and Plex is a key example of our vision,” said Sven Rathjen, vice-president & general manager, WD networked content solutions. “With today’s addition of the Plex app, the My Cloud NAS series will now be a one-stop shop to not only store and protect your most precious content, but to organize and stream that content to all your devices as well.”

The NAS market is very competitive and WD is committed to furthering its apps capabilities on the My Cloud product line up. New features now include stream support of file formats directly from your personal My Cloud NAS to any Plex app.

Other features include DLNA stream, effortlessly sharing of your media with friends and family and everything is wrapped up in one simple interface.

Plex Media Server is now available for the My Cloud Mirror, My Cloud EX2/EX4, My Cloud EX2100/EX4100 and My Cloud DL2100/4100 models.

Western Digital’s Cloud Services Still Facing Major Disruption

Since March 26th customers who own any of Western Digital’s Cloud storage based products have been facing crippling connectivity issues after a vulnerability in the service was exposed, resulting in the downtime of connections to and from the WD2Go servers and consequently the loss of connectivity by users to their Cloud storage products that are installed in their homes and offices.

We are nearing two weeks since the service was interrupted and in most case lost completely, after an unknown vulnerability in the way that the service operates was exposed and since then engineers have been frantically working away to discover and repair the problem and restore service to thousands of users world-wide. Unlike Cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, Western Digital’s Cloud storage products such as the MyCloud, EX2, EX4 and MyBook World Live offer customers the ability to have all of their shared files stored within the confines of the home or office, whilst offering up greater storage capacities and the peace of mind that data is not being accessed or scanned by any third-party applications or sources.

A recent letter from WD President Jim Murphy stated “We understand how important your content is to you, your business and your family. Our customers are the reason we strive each day to make better products and services that enable you to enjoy this content. Your entire digital life must be safely stored and readily accessible, and is what makes the WD personal cloud, personal. While your data has remained safe and accessible in your home or office, the service disruption may have temporarily prevented some of you from remotely accessing that content. We’ve dedicated the past week to restoring your remote access as quickly as possible.”

Whilst this indicates to us that normal service is being restored to customers on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t mention what the vulnerability is and how it was discovered. Mr Murphy’s letter went on to say “All of us at WD are committed to minimizing downtime and ensuring the service information we provide is valuable and frequent. We already have implemented important changes to our infrastructure and network capability. While we have validated the vast majority of your remote connections, we continue our focus on providing uninterrupted access from your phone, tablet or computer. Your content deserves nothing less.”

Unfortunately this information nor any official word from WD through the support pages appears to be easy to find, leaving the support channels inundated with requests from users for help and updates on the loss of connectivity to their systems. Although this looks to be a flaw in the network security at the service data centre, data stored on users devices is not at risk and if you feel concerned you can simply turn off your storage until we have confirmation that the service has been fully restored.

Considering I’ve got one of the latest My Cloud systems – the EX2 – currently in for review, I will be keeping an eye on the service status and will keep you all updated accordingly with news that comes to light. What is certain though is that this loss of connectivity will reflect the sales of and reputation of WD’s Cloud systems so they are working against the clock to restore the service and protect themselves from a financial hit.

Source: Press Release

Western Digital Extend My Cloud Lineup With EX4 4-Bay Solution

Western Digital have been hot topic within the storage world since the release of their innovative personal cloud storage drives. In a follow-up to the single drive offerings that are aimed primarily for the consumer market, Western Digital have now upped their game with a 4-bay NAS that gives all the Cloud capabilities of the single bay unit, but with some added extras.

The EX4, for those who recognise it, is somewhat similar to the Sentinel DX4000 NAS that we looked at earlier in the year, however external appearances are where the similarities end. On the inside of the EX4, a Marvell 88F6282 2GHz single core CPU is in control with the system capable of holding up to 16TB of raw storage through RAID0, 1, 5, 10 and JBOD configurations as well as Western Digital’s own Flex-RAID allowing drives of different capacities to be installed and used together seamlessly.

Designed for the ‘Prosumer’, the EX4 is one of the worlds first 4-bay cloud NAS systems and whilst it offers up cloud capabilities, it still gives total flexibility to be used as a traditional local NAS device. On top of the standard My cloud features that are on offer on the single bay systems, the EX4 also includes 10 user licences for WD’s Smartware Pro software for automated computer backups as well as the ability to have a full system backup made to another remotely setup EX4, giving the total piece of mind that your data is secure. For SOHO and SMB users, Active Directory support is also included and an SDK for app developers is available from Western Digital’s website.

The EX4 is available now through a number of e-tailors and also the reseller channel with four options to choose from. The entry-level system will come with no drives giving the best user flexibility for £319, whilst 8TB, 12TB and 16TB models all kitted out with WD’s own Red drives are available for £670, £799 and £999 respectively.

Whilst this is the only multi-bay cloud solution that Western Digital are offering for now, they have noted that a 2-bay version – namely the EX2 will be available in the early part of next year.

Source: Press Event