Introduction and Features
The WD My Cloud EX4 packs big storage and features into a small package
Today Western Digital launched an important addition to their Personal Cloud Storage NAS family – the My Cloud EX4:
The My Cloud EX4 is Western Digital's answer to the increased demand for larger personal storage devices. When folks look for places to consolidate all of their bulk files, media, system backups, etc, they tend to extend past what is possible with a single hard drive. Here is Western Digital's projection on where personal storage is headed:
Where the My Cloud was a single drive solution, the My Cloud EX4 extends that capability to span up to four 3.5" drives. When it comes to devices that span across several drives, the number 4 is a bit of a sweet spot, as it enables several RAID configurations:
Everything but online capacity expansion (where the user can swap drives one at a time to a larger capacitiy) is suppoted. While WD has stated that feature will be available in a future update, I find it a bit risky to intentionally and repeatedly fail an array by pulling drives and forcing rebuilds. It just makes more sense to back up the data and re-create a fresh array with the new larger drives installed.
Ok, so we've got the groundwork down with a 4-bay NAS device. What remains to be seen is how Western Digital has implemented the feature set. There is a lot to get through here, so let's get to it.
I'll kick off by showing Western Digital's feature slide from their EX4 press presentation:
All of the expected staples are present, such as USB 3.0 connectivity and all common RAID configurations supported out of the box. Many of these bullet points are common among most NAS devices, but there are a few notable standouts. Remember this is a consumer focused NAS, but it has carried over some features from WD's higher-end line. A big one is network redundancy, and more importantly power redundancy – a first seen on a consumer-level device of this type. WD is also proud of their Easy Slide Drive design. Drives install with no caddy and no screws. They really aren't kidding about the 5-second swap. It absolutely can be done that quickly.
Also on this slide we see pricing options, which look really good. Sub-$400 for a bare 4-bay NAS is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and the prices on storage-equipped models are on-par with the cost of adding WD Red drives separately, making the purchase selection almost a no brainer.
This pic shows the very simply drive swap system. No caddy, screws, keys, or tools needed. Just slide the drive in and close the door. You can also see the EX4 is certainly on the small side for a 4-bay NAS. It ranks amond the smallest 4-bay models we've seen to date.
Internally, the EX4 is driven by a single core 2 GHz ARM CPU connected to 512MB of RAM. The back-end is Linux based, similar to other NAS devices out there, such as the Synology DiskStation.
Before moving on, let's take a look at the connectivity options:
Here we see everything coming in pairs. A pair of redundant power connections enable a second power supply (available for purcahse separately from WDC) to power the EX4. Next is a pair of USB 3.0 ports for connecting external USB storage devices. Finally is a pair of gigabit rated ethernet ports. These ports can be configured redundantly, as failover, or bonded together (provided the connected switch or router supports it).
We will dive further into these features, software, and apps over the next few pages.