In short, a clever hybrid device we didn't see coming. The My Cloud range is a line of external 2TB, 3TB and 4TB hard drives determined to pick a fight with both traditional NAS and Cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. They support traditional NAS features via a browser-based dashboard and DLNA support, while apps let you access your drive remotely via PCs, smartphones and tablets just like popular cloud services.
This means you have a much bigger storage allowance than standard Cloud services, your data isn't shared with another company and you only have to upload what you need with no monthly subscriptions. WD also claims the My Cloud performs faster than most NAS drives for a fraction of the price. Is this a breakthrough product or too good to be true?
The roots of the My Cloud come from WD's existing My Book range of backup hard drives. This is no bad thing. Over the years WD has refined the My Book design and it translates well to My Cloud with subtle rounded corners and a clean, minimalist finish that suggests it could've come off an Apple product line. The fact WD has released My Cloud in white is not an insignificant factor.
For a multi-function device My Cloud is also very compact. At 170.6 x 49 x 139.3mm and 960g it is less than half the size and weight of most NAS and no bigger than the My Book while the well vented mock-metal top and rear keep it cool and quiet. If we do have an issue with the My Cloud design it is that its chassis isn't particularly rigid, but since this is a device unlikely to move, let alone be carried with you, it isn't a major issue.
So WD has nailed the looks, but just how good of an external HDD/NAS/Cloud storage wannabe is it?
Dealing with the first of these is fairly straightforward. With 2TB, 3TB and (soon) 4TB versions My Cloud is as capacious as any single drive backup solution currently available. It supports automatic backups on Windows using its own 'SmartWare' software and TimeMachine for Macs. There is also a USB 3.0 port for connecting additional storage or initiating direct downloads from cameras but, perhaps surprisingly, this doesn't support printers or network connectivity. The latter is left to Gigabit Ethernet.
When it comes to its NAS aspirations the My Cloud is also relatively simple. It ditches more advanced features to concentrate on core functionality like support for DLNA and iTunes servers, UPnP, and FTP (though the latter is disabled by default) plus multi-user support to set folder access and permissions.
Meanwhile it gains its Cloud storage (and more advanced NAS) credentials thanks to remote file access via Android (above), iOS, PC and Mac apps. These support file downloads, edits and media streaming. The restriction is the apps have no integrated media player so playback is limited to formats your device supports. This isn't a problem for Windows or Android, but is a significant drawback for iOS.
On the upside, the mobile apps bring support for Google Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive letting users transfer and sync content between your 'personal Cloud' and any existing Cloud storage services you already use. This is particularly useful for any essential content you might want access offline since all My Cloud data is accessed on demand.
Returning to hardware, WD claims an unspecified 'dual core' processor provides it with the grunt to turn the tables on premium NAS. But, as with any multifunctional device, there are limitations. The most obvious is being a single drive system means the My Cloud can back up your data, but not itself. This lack of redundancy means extra expense for those with critical data, but My Cloud does address this with an elegant 'Safepoints' system that can automatically back itself up to USB or network storage as required.