An effective and speedy office NAS appliance that’s ready to roll up its sleeves and get to work
- Straightforward to use
- Near-silent in operation
- Intuitive software
- Limited connectivity
Take note of that business-like demeanour. While other NAS units promote themselves as the Swiss Army knife of storage or the ultimate media machine, the My Cloud EX4100 is focused on SME-friendly backup and storage, plus cloud-like remote access features.
Once you’ve signed up to the My Cloud service you can access your shared folders from anywhere through a browser, or use the WDSync applet to sync files and folders between your computer and the NAS. The EX4100 will work with a small team of users and provide a Dropbox-like service. Meanwhile, its WD SmartWare Pro software can handle backup across the team’s PCs.
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Be aware of what you’re missing out on: this isn’t the NAS for enthusiasts. It works as a simple and flexible media server, but that’s about it. Connectivity is limited to a single USB 3 port at the front for one-touch instant backups, along with two more USB 3 connections at the rear. But, there’s some smart functionality onboard here. Plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive and the NAS can mount it automatically as a share.
We like the EX4100’s unassuming design. Drives slide effortlessly into four trayless bays, and while this has the disadvantage that there’s nothing to grab onto if you need to hot-swap, you can fill all four up in minutes without breaking a sweat. What’s more, while the My Cloud EX4100 is incredibly noisy when it starts up, drowning out the fan noise from our hardly unobtrusive test PC, it’s near-silent in general operation. With its gently glowing LCD status display and discrete LED indicators, it’s one of the least distracting appliances in this Labs.
Click the link to open the admin control panel and you’ll find a tab for additional apps, including a tool to sync folders with Dropbox, Joomla and WordPress installations and the Transmission BitTorrent client. However, the fact that these are hidden away tells you that this isn’t really what this NAS is built for. Because it’s not trying to be a home-server-meets-media-centre-meets-Linux-PC, the EX4100 benefits from a clean and simple dashboard interface that looks and feels like a modern cloud-based app. When you’re trying to manage and monitor the RAID or folder activity, it’s easy to find the tools you need. It even packs a couple of surprises: at this price, you might not expect enterprise-friendly features such as Active Directory linking or iSCSI and virtualisation support, but the EX4100 manages to cram these in as well.
Despite having an underwhelming specification – a Marvell ARM-based dual-core processor and just 2GB of RAM – the EX4100 flies when it comes to transfer speeds, performing particularly well when it comes to mass writes of smaller files, even while streaming 4K video. Power consumption is on the high side, peaking at 36.2W, but the NAS is very efficient at going into a 12W power save mode when not in active use.
WD My Cloud EX4100 review: Verdict
You can buy the EX4100 pre-filled in capacities ranging from 8TB up to 24TB. However, we’d recommend buying the enclosure and drives separately – you could save nearly £100 when fitting four 4TB drives. If you’re a hobbyist looking for a versatile home server, this isn’t the NAS for you, and the same goes if media-streaming features are your thing. But if you want a NAS that can get some serious work done, the EX4100 does it simply, effectively and affordably, making it the best small business NAS.