WD My Cloud EX2 review: Everything a connected home needs

My Cloud EX2 is the latest in WD’s My Cloud NAS server series and shares the same feature set as the original My Cloud and the My Cloud EX4. But it does at least one thing: In my tests, the new server recorded by far the best performance out of the three. Also, you can replace / install internal hard drives very easily.

My Cloud EX2 continues the friendly pricing set by the previous two with the suggested retail price of just $ 570 for 8TB (or $ 470 and $ 370 for 6TB and 4TB, respectively). You can also get it for just $ 200 with no hard drive included.

Overall, with the combination of performance, ease of use, affordability and functionality, the WD My Cloud EX2 fits perfectly in a small home or office with around five users. For more options of excellent network storage devices, check out this list.

The WD My Cloud EX2 features two USB 3.0 ports on the back to accommodate more storage space via external hard drives.
The WD My Cloud EX2 features two USB 3.0 ports on the back to accommodate more storage space via external hard drives.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Design: Dual-bay with easy maintenance without tools
Taking the shape of a large book in an upright position, the My Cloud EX2 shares the same design and physical form as WD My book study desktop external hard drive. It has upward facing drive bays that can be accessed by pressing on the front of the top and then replacing or installing internal drives in less than a minute. The server works with all standard 3.5-inch internal hard drives from any vendor. WD says it will honor the three-year warranty even when using non-WD hard drives.

On the front, the server comes with a few small LED lights that show the power status and two internal drives. On the back the server is equipped with a Gigabit network port and two USB 3.0 ports. The network port is for connecting the server to a home network, and the USB ports must host external hard drives to be the server’s backup destination or to expand the server’s storage. In my test, these ports have enough power to power bus-powered portable units, such as the WD My passport.

If you get an EX2 already populated with hard drives, it will be two WD Red drives configured in RAID 1. This is because for a dual-bay server, RAID 1 is the only option that offers data redundancy, which means your data remains intact in case one of the internal drives fails, and it is therefore recommended the EX2. That said, for now, the EX2’s maximum protected capacity is 4TB. You can use the server in RAID 0 to get the maximum of 8TB of storage space, but it is not recommended due to the high risk of data loss. (Read more about RAID here.)

Although 4TB is a huge amount, it can fill up pretty fast with more users. That said, the EX2 is ideal for a family of five or fewer users, even though the server supports up to 10 concurrent users.

The NAS server comes with WD Red hard drives, but hard drives from other vendors can also be used with it.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Plug and play configuration, useful software
Similar to the case of the original My Cloud or the EX4, the My Cloud EX2 is very easy to set up. In fact these servers are so similar that this part of the review is almost the same as in the previous two reviews.

As soon as the server is connected, with no need to do anything else, you can start using it as a backup destination and shared storage space. By default, the server comes with three public shared folders named Public, SmartWare, and Time Machine Backup. As the names suggest, the Public folder is for storing public data and the other two are for backups of Windows and Mac machines, respectively.

From a Windows computer, you can instantly search for these shared folders, using Windows Explorer, and copy data (such as digital content). Macs will immediately see the My Cloud as an available destination for Time Machine backup and the My Cloud EX2 will also appear in Finder. All DLNA-enabled network media players, such as the WD TV, it will also instantly find content stored on the server for streaming purposes.

That said, if you’re using the My Cloud EX2 with a bunch of computers with no need for data privacy between them, there’s really nothing to set up the My Cloud, other than to connect it.

If you want to do more, however, there are some additional steps. First from a connected computer, go to wd.com/setup/mycloudex2. Here you can download the WD Setup software (which is approximately 65MB and takes a few minutes to download on a residential broadband connection). The installation software will install shortcuts to the server’s shared folders (so you won’t have to search for them), the server’s web interface dashboard, and install the WD My Cloud application, which offers another way to browse server content on a computer.

The next part uses the WD My Cloud mobile apps (available for iOS and Android). This is also very easy. From within the same home network, via Wi-Fi, download the app to your mobile device from Google Play or the App Store. Now, when you run the app, it will immediately connect to the My Cloud EX2 and create a trusting relationship. After this first step, now even when you are out and about, connecting to a different Wi-Fi network or using a cellular connection, the mobile app on your device will keep access to the My Cloud EX2 server over the Internet. In other words, no additional configuration or access is required to make the app work with the server remotely. Now, if you want to add a remote device to the server, such as that of a friend who lives in a different city or country, you can create a passcode and email it to that device. More on this below.

In addition to the WD My Cloud app and mobile app, the EX2 also includes some other computer apps. These are useful software for both Mac and PC, with the exception of the WD SmartWare backup program, which is only available for Windows since Macs already have Time Machine backup built in. However, it is not necessary to install any of these programs for the server to work.

The EX2 shares the same web interface as the others in the My Cloud series, which is very organized and self-explanatory.
The EX2 shares the same web interface as the others in the My Cloud series, which is very organized and self-explanatory.

Dong Ngo / CNET

Well organized web interface, with integrated app store

To make changes to the server settings, including enabling and disabling its features, adding other users, restricting access, and so on, you will need to use the server’s web interface. To get there, point to a computer connected to the server’s IP address or click the Dashboard icon created by the WD Setup software.

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