back to article WD My Cloud EX4 four-bay NAS

WD is on a mission to make using NAS as easy as possible for consumers to use, from setting a unit up to accessing it remotely via a personal cloud. It’s not exactly a new mission, yet it has gained momentum since the company introduced its popular single bay My Cloud range. Now to get over the limitations of using just a single …

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Anonymous Coward

8TB unit I’m looking at here at £679

Thats a bargain.. LOL!

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I keep looking at these NAS devices

... and then I I think... £300-odd for what exactly?

Even as a home user, I run a database for mythtv along with my disk server, so the benefit of low-power ARM disk-serving is scotched.

As a small business, surely you'd just direct-attach disks and use your server to handle those and your apps?

Has no-one repurposed an on-chip GPU to handle parity checks for RAID?

Has anyone benchmarked a core2 dedicated to file-serving vs one of these NAS boxes?

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

I'm a small business user and keep looking at these thinking exactly the same!

For this price, I could get a small server with Windows Server 2012 R2 and all it's clever disk management stuff - automatically caches using flash drives the lot.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Well a lot of small businesses don't actually have an 'IT Guy' to look after a server or want to pay for someone to manage one. Plus they don't like the idea of having a PC switched on all the while.

So for small businesses that just want storage to share and backups, NAS works great.

I haven't however, come across one that's spent more than £300 on one though. Very few businesses have more than 8GB of data let alone 8TB.

The one feature that businesses like (especially financials) is encryption but that always gets forgotten in the reviews. I've pushed out a lot of 1TBx2 Seagate BlackArmors over the past 4 years or so to great success. Not the fastest devices with encryption on certainly but very reliable touch wood.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Very few businesses have more than 8GB of data let alone 8TB.

What?? Which century are you living in? Did you really mean that or is it a typo?

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Yes I do mean that. A lot of small businesses just have payroll, accounts and a few other bits and pieces. Not all of them are design studios or video/media production. I should know I have a lot of them as customers that I've setup their IT gear for them.

How much data should a IFA or a small plumbing firm have then? Do tell.

People in the real world are often actually out there working and not sitting creating powerpoint after powerpoint or useless reports. I know that's a surprise to some maybe entombed in the corporate world.

Once again the great reality divide between IT and the end user is highlighted.

A NAS is great because once I set it up for them it might just need a reboot once a year if that.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Oddly, I also work with a lot of small businesses, and I'm struggling to think of any of them that have less than 100gb of data, outside of those who are barely bigger than sole trader status! Some of our customers are running six bay NAS's fully populated with 3tb disks (so 10+tb capacity) and even they are hitting the capacity of them.

Survey of one = statistically insignificant ;-)

Incidentally, I have a Syno DS214+ which wipes the floor with this device on every front, and doesn't cost that much more if you look at the four bay equivalent (£80-ish). If you are looking for a four bay SOHO/SMB NAS, the Syno gear just tears this thing to shreds - and the QNAP stuff is much the same at these price points, they just make this device look pointless. I mean, what's the point of having the option to use link aggregation if you're barely using half of a 1gb link at full whack?

For the money, there are far, far better options. WD are just hopeless outclassed in this arena - unless they drop £100 from the price.

Steven R

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

How much data should a IFA or a small plumbing firm have then? Do tell.

Well, the ones I support usually backup their accounts, their correspondence (ie PDFs, Word docs, Excel sheets), their email...

I would say the average small business - and by that I mean < 10 employees, generates 40 - 50GB of data which requires daily backup.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

But what business are those using all that data?

There is a huge range of business out there with differing needs. What I'm pointing out is the usual IT guy 'let's all make an assumption that everyone works like me!" mode that so many slip into when they see gear.

Hence why I see some one man bands struggling with £4000 worth of server that some over enthusiastic IT guy said he needed for his 6 month old business building high end sheds.

A £10 USB stick would have sufficed.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Are you saying they are creating 40-50GB a day or is that just the overall tally after say 5 years?

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Are you saying they are creating 40-50GB a day or is that just the overall tally after say 5 years?

Christ no not an extra 40GB / day :)

No, that's what each daily backup tops out at with a few of the businesses which have been going a few years. Some more, some less. I'm talking building supplies, plumbing contractors, network contractors, a couple of restaurants, that sort of business.

I would say though that any business which uses Microsoft products (Word, Excel etc), which a lot of them have to because that's what the firms and customers they deal with use, will generate a lot more data simply 'cos of file sizes...

I would be very surprised if those businesses could do less than 8GB.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Agreed. This is something for a small business that has no in-house expertise and just wants to throw a small sum of money at a plug-and-play solution. And I'm fine with that.

But for me? I got an old case I wasn't using, threw in a cheap motherboard with pre-installed Llano CPU and fanless cooling (quiet as it gets) and then fed it hard drives until it couldn't eat any more (the motherboard has a fair few SATA ports and a PCI slot I'm not using for anything else so I can fit even more).

Ubuntu Server rounded it out. The whole thing probably came to around £450 for 6TB of RAID-1 storage. Slightly more if you count the value of the case I already had.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Yeah, these things need to be way cheaper to be considered.

If you buy, say, the cheapest Dell server (yes, really! PowerEdge T20 starts at 219 ex VAT with no drives), then stack it with your own drives, you'll end up cheaper than this box...

.. But now you have a fully functional piece of kit, which you can run almost anything on.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

"If you buy, say, the cheapest Dell server (yes, really! PowerEdge T20 starts at 219 ex VAT with no drives), then stack it with your own drives, you'll end up cheaper than this box...

.. But now you have a fully functional piece of kit, which you can run almost anything on."

Blimey, are you running a magical OS that comes preconfigured to your exact specification at no cost?

Or did you forget the cost of a Windows Server license and setup time, or the time for a competent engineer to set up a decent Linux OS on it, seeing as we're talking about devices for home users and SMBs who likely don't have inhouse IT at a level that can do this stuff?

If you want to have all the features a typical SMB-level NAS has, that'll be a six hours chargeable time to have it in a turnkey state for the user - maybe two or three if you are only throwing SMB, NFS, SMTP, an intelligent UPS on it, including installation.

So in effect, it's the same cost as a SMB grade NAS.

These devices definitely have a niche - and to say 'ho ho, just buy a basic server, it's far better and gives more options' just isn't true any more.

Steven R

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Disk server?

I can see a lot of small offices with 3-10 staff working on email, excel and word-processing. They have no servers per se - laptops or desktops. Their website is probably hosted by a local web design company, and none of them are IT bods, but they want a central repository for shared files that can also be easily backed up onto a single fat USB disk and taken home to protect against fire/theft (as opposed to going around everyone's machines and slurping off the bits they need backing up).

Plug and play NAS solutions are far easier than setting up a Windows Server box and configuring RAID settings. They're not trying to stream 1080p to 3 laptops and the TV, just a file server.

Yes you could do it cheaper stuffing a spare box with a stack of disks but that requires:

a. Time

b. Technical ability (or even more Time if you've decided you're going to learn how to do it on the cheap).

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

I've looked at the HP Microserver/FREENAS route for customers on a few occasion, even for myself but once I've run the numbers and support scenarios...it's easier to just get another NAS.

Open the box, plug it in, 10 minutes setting up some shares/network settings, add the network drives to the PCs and setup the backups to the NAS. Oh and slap a password on it so no one can go fiddling. There is always one in a company that likes to 'have a go'.

Maybe 45 minutes on site including chatting and coffee time?

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

"Blimey, are you running a magical OS that comes preconfigured to your exact specification at no cost?"

More or less. I call it Ubuntu Server. Even if you don't have the experience with GNU/Linux that many of us have, the install process is remarkably easy when it comes to picking what components you want and disk configuration. Maybe not quite as easy as Windows (hard to say as I'm very familiar with Linux), but pretty darn good for free and it makes an excellent file server.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

"I can see a lot of small offices with 3-10 staff working on email, excel and word-processing. They have no servers per se - laptops or desktops. Their website is probably hosted by a local web design company, and none of them are IT bods, but they want a central repository for shared files"

Nowadays I think they'd just use DropBox and get a fast fibre broadband connection.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Oh, I won't deny that Ubuntu is good - I use it as a primary OS at home. I'm running the alpha or 14.04, and the performance and stability is better than 13.10 so far...!

But for the average SMB with limited IT skills, setting up an Ubuntu server to serve files properly, with redundacy and backup, loadbalanced NICs, replication, etc should they need it will take a couple of hours if they get someone in.

A Synology or QNAP device will have that done by the average rrasonably IT aware user, reading the instructions, in under an hour, with expandable RAID and the option of one-tick replication to another device, with no real hardcore IT knowledge needed beyond the basics. If you know what an IP address is, you can set up one of these. And it can also manage a few CCTV cameras, too, with very straightforward config that you set once, then never touch again.

I agree with you - I really do - but in the real world, in many cases, a QNAP/Syno device is far, far easier to set up than a basic Linux box. That's why I bought a DS214+ for home; it does everything I need, and more, and I could have set it up in my sleep. My brother could have set it up, and he's about as IT savvy as a kumquat.

And that's what I mean - these devices are now viable, nay aggressive competition, to an ATX workgroup server that isn't running Active Directory or other vendor specific services.

For well under a grand, and comparable in cost to a good server platform with RAID etc (such as the T20 above) from a whitebox/branded ATX supplier, you can handle up to 50 users (or more, depending on workload) and have some very advanced options for future use should you need them, which can be enabled by someone who hasn't lived and breathed this stuff for years.

If you want good, (comparatively) cheap, expandable and flexible storage, it's never been so good!

Steven R

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Holmes

Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

I've been running my own business doing IT consulting for the last 6 years. All my financials / receipts / invoices fit on an 8gb LaCie encrypted USB stick that has 7gb free! It is backed up to another LaCie encrypted USB stick. I work on the basis that as long as both are kept in separate locations 99% of the time, I should be fine.

Customer and non-financial data takes up more space, about 100gb (pst files, iso images, electronic books etc.) but all this is recoverable from CD/DVD if a laptop disk fails.

So from a SOHO perspective, I can't see the point of a NAS.

However, I'm looking into the Synology DS412+ for streaming DVDs and music.

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@AMBxx Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

That's exactly what you are getting.

A small computer with hot swap drives.

The difference is that its meant to sit on your LAN with no monitor or keyboard and all it does is manage a raid configuration of disks for you.

This is just a plug and play piece of hardware where you don't have to do anything to set it up.

You are paying for the convenience.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

I have to say that in my experience, the users I know can have more than 8GB in .pst or even in an inbox. Then add up the photos. I'm not talking the ones who mix business and home on the same system, I'm talking just the business system, or the business related piece of the system. One user I support is a single proprietor contractor. He has photos of past projects to show clients, he has photos of materials available (tile, etc.,) and on and on. This particular client is a bit above average for my clients (not my larger corporate clients, just the sole proprietors) but his I don't know of any that less the 40-50GB. This client is at about 300GB.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

If you want to have all the features a typical SMB-level NAS has, that'll be a six hours chargeable time to have it in a turnkey state for the user - maybe two or three if you are only throwing SMB, NFS, SMTP, an intelligent UPS on it, including installation.

Most linux distros have this preconfigured, you only have to turn on some systemd/chkconfig flags and enable some filesystem. On opensuse it takes a few minutes to format disks and configure samba and nfs. What I hate though is their apache configuration with 20+ different files.

What I really like is webyast with makes you configure the entire server via web,

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Pint

Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

Even though you're essentially disagreeing with me, I cannot argue against someone who uses kumquats as a benchmark for technical ability. I think I have found my new favourite unit.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

If you're backing up 50GB a day for 10 users you are doing it wrong. Ever heard of incremental backups?

A "normal" company of 10 people is not producing 50GB of new content in a day.

I have 1200 users and they aren't producing that. My total backup pool is just over 12TB and that includes system states of all my servers and not just user data, etc.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

FreeNAS.

There are plenty of simple to install storage OS's that aren't windows server.

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Re: I keep looking at these NAS devices

I've had two NAS devices (a Thecus & currently a NetGear ReadyNAS). Most of the recent ones can run a variety of software and the better ones use x86 processors rather than ARM.

Why would you use these instead of a server? A bunch of reasons:

1. Virtually zero maintenance

2. Very low power usage

3. Simple RAID setup

4. Easy to use GUI + apps

5. Specialized hardware w/small footprint

6. Quiet

7. Did I mention ease of use?

As a reference, I used to have a small 1u server in my house. Switching to a NAS lowered the electricity bill by 20%. If you are a small business, the ease of setup, maintenance & relatively low cost make these very, very attractive to a small workgroup that main not have a server & only wants to share/backup files. Even a low-end server with hot-swap drives will run you $1000 unpopulated and you will still need to know how to install Linux/FreeNAS & set it up.

I would note, however, that NASes from Synology, QNAP & Netgear have pretty large addon ecosystems (particularly Synology) making them a much better choice if you can afford them. All of these are also able to act as security camera storage, which is a useful dual-purpose for SMBs.

I've been running Linux boxes for almost 20 years and used to work for the Linux Foundation, but even I would rather have one of these NAS boxes that deal with a full blown server....

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Proprietary NAS? I don't think so.

A friend had an expensive Cisco unit. The PSU failed. 'Oh, sorry we don't make that model any more'. The unit was scrap. And just to add insult to injury she had to pay an 'expert' to recover the data.

Contrast that with using a generic PC and one of the many NAS OS systems, Nas4Free etc. Broken PSU? Get one on the high street. Data recovery? No problem the discs are in standard OS formats.

I suggested that to my friend when her Cisco system crapped out. Her reply? 'Oh no, that's too difficult. And besides we want a system that comes with support'. I didn't laugh out loud, but I wanted to. (Just to clarify, the Cisco system was NOT under a support contract. I guess if it was a nice man from Cisco would have come and fixed the issue.)

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Re: Proprietary NAS? I don't think so.

Yeah, it's also the reason I would never run hardware RAID at home.

If I use software RAID, it doesn't matter what system dies, essentially.

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Re: Proprietary NAS? I don't think so.

My NAS at home is a re purposed Desktop with FreeNAS installed on a USB drive. Which leaves the currently 2 x 3TB drives for data (mirrored). In the process of adding some more drives, to this.

Nice thing about running a NAS on a 'real' PC, rather than a low power device, is you can run other services on the NAS drive without impacting its performance, and therefore remove the need to have a dedicated server running separately. e.g. Torrent client, DLNA media server. Subversion/GIT repository etc. etc. Yes it uses more power than a low power NAS, but it meant I could decommission a server that was running 24/7.

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Coffee/keyboard

"That said, you need to ensure that the door is re-latched properly or you could be in for a very, very long wait while the array re-builds. Go on, ask me how I know this."

*Chortle* thanks for the morning coffee spill :-)

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But shouldn't the drive's led flash or turn red if this happens?

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Headmaster

See me after class.

"Out of the box the EX4 is set up in a standard RAID 5 array. In the case of the reviewed 8TB model, that meant 6TB of usable space was available, as the fourth drive is used for parity, should there be a single drive failure"

RAID-4 has a dedicated parity disk.

RAID-5 is distributed parity whereby parity bits are striped across all drives.

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I would imagine most people who get products like this would either be able to cope with installing FreeNas and using their own old PC + disks (saving a fair amount of money) or would buy a much cheaper external drive or single bay NAS. I personally would prefer a cheaper, FreeBSD using ZFS based solution with more RAM for the benefit of caching, but then I know what I am doing and don't need the FreeNAS babysitting.

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Meh

I doubt that, especially in an office environment.

From a FreeNAS perspective, I wouldn't get too excited about it. I used it for about 3 years and promptly stopped using it 2 months after a RAID 5 member failed and FreeNAS didn't think to generate any form of alert, either via email or even through the GUI until you dig into status screens a bit further. As far as I could tell, it doesn't support this feature, which I'd consider pretty critical to a NAS's duties.

Try it - pull a disk out of your array and see what sort of response you get. That's now my first test on any NAS device.

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Anonymous Coward

FreeBSD more RAM, than FreeNAS, really.....

Why hack around with FreeBSD when FreeNAS 9.2.0 runs completely off a flash stick, is p easy to setup, backup/restore config, and upgrade. A NAS should be treated as an network appliance, not as a PC. My current FreeNAS box has 16GB of RAM, and a proper Intel NIC card, and autotune controls how much RAM it is uses, currently about 11GB for a 6 drive ZRAID2, so plenty free for pbi plugins etc. I'll have to build another soon; just waiting for 4TB WD Red price to get reasonable.

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Anonymous Coward

Would much rather use OmniOS + Napp-it or FreeNAS for an adaptable backup system.

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Synology?

I have a synology device which I think works really well.

How does this compare?

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Re: Synology?

Really badly in terms of performance, but the datasheet on WDs website seems to suggest that it's not far off in features.

Syno stuff can easily saturate a Gigabit link on almost all models, this thing barely manages half that.

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FAIL

The actual novice "My Cloud" problem

Having helped out many users set up their (QNAP) NAS for personal cloud use, I can say this device doesn't solve the most important problem novice users face: getting the NAS reachable from the net.

Getting the NAS set up for local use is a problem that has been dealt with for quite some time now, but unless the user has a UPnP router that plays nice, getting them do have proper DDNS and port forwarding can be a pain if the user has zero IT knowledge.

When I saw the title I thought they had found a clever way to fix this, but nah.... just another NAS. And as others wrote above, might as well pay a bit more and get a proper one ;)

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Re: The actual novice "My Cloud" problem

Agreed.

What's actually needed is a NAS+ADSL Router unit.

And less ridiculous pricing. Honestly, the "Pro" versions that come with a version of Windows Server (and the associated cost) aren't much more expensive than this thing.

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Hmmm

Not exactly the same piece of kit but I have a 16TB box which I put together for about $650, taking that down to 8TB it would have cost about $350. Also it's not WD which means not having to deal with their not Smartware.

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Strange

When it gets to the end of this process, a blood-chilling grinding noise emanates from the EX4

Very odd. I've always recommended WD "Red" drives as the quietest server-grade drives I've encountered, and possibly the quietest outright. I just can't imagine them making such a noise, not even with four of them working on it together.

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Re: Strange

It's not the drives that make the noise, it is the actual WD device (internal speaker if you can call it that) the article is talking about, the EX4.

My Synology made a nasty loud beep when rebooting so disabled that in settings straight away. Seems I needn't have bothered as it never needs power cycling.

WD could do well in the home NAS market simply due to it's name but if anyone does any digging they will come across the Synology range which are much cheaper, easy to setup and has great software and features in comparison to the WD NAS.

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HP ProLiant N54L Synology DSM for £125

HP ProLiant N54L with cashback from Amazon.

4 bays, 1x 5.25 bay, 2 PCIE ports, 2GB of RAM upgradeable to 16GB, comes with a CDRom and a 250GB HD, something like 8x USB ports all for around £125.

Synology DSM on a USB drive from xpenology and you can have a shit hot NAS for next to nothing.

Got me an ICY dock 6x 2.5" for the 5.25" bay, just waiting for WD to release 2TB 2.5" Red drives and I'm throwing in an extra 12TB.

Because that's how I roll.

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Alert

Re: HP ProLiant N54L Synology DSM for £125

Be careful with that option at the moment. HP isn't accepting cashback on the Amazon sellers I've asked them about except from Amazon itself.

Just a heads up, HP are pretty picky about where you buy them from, and finding a list of accepted vendors seems to be impossible,

Saying that their email support is pretty good at saying yay or nay to any you ask them about.

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Re: HP ProLiant N54L Synology DSM for £125

Agree with other poster regarding cashback through Amazon resellers. Try ebuyer. Okay, they'll spam you forever but blocking that is a small price to pay when you actually get your discount.

Also you might not have noticed but the N54L actually also has a USB header on the inside which will happily take (and boot from!) as USB stick which leaves you operational outer ports and all drive bays free.

Enjoy.

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Re: HP ProLiant N54L Synology DSM for £125

Before you buy a HP Microserver expecting a cash-back payment - check the offer is actually available, the seller is an approved HP reseller, and the seller is selling in country stock. Perhaps asking the seller to confirm all that by email may be useful should it come to a small-claims court trip.

I've got 3 N54Ls now. 2x ESXi spec from Serversplus and 1x Nas4free from CCLcomputers. Bought at different times on different cash-back offers. Nas4Free rather than FreeNas due to the performance hit if you try to use the latest version - especially with ZFS disks. Booting from USB (they really are silly cheap now) so all disks are available as dedicated storage. Now looking at integrating owncloud but that doesn't look as easy as setting up the initial Nas4free. Compared to buying a NAS it's a little more complicated, but that's only the initial setup - once built they're basically maintenance free.

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WTF?

My what?

This thing seems to be an overpriced file server with limited features and flexibility. Several posts have described how you could achieve better results for a much smaller outlay.

But in what sense is it a cloud? Or is everything a cloud now, in the same way that everything once used to be turbo?

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Comparison with "real" servers

If you shell out for a real server, you're going to have considerably higher power costs. A NAS, particularly one powered by a Marvell CPU, will consume much less power than a full-blown server. A Dell PowerEdge server uses 250W, whereas this WD My Cloud EX4 uses around 30W. In a single year the Dell will cost you £320 in 'leccy, compared with just £40 for the WD device.

As for the commenter above who suggested Windows Server 2012 would be suitable, may I gently point out that it isn't cheap either. I can't make head or tail of Microsoft's pricing system, but it looks like the software alone would blow your budget out of the water. Sure, there are Linux versions available, but if you're billing clients by the hour and you value your free time, you might prefer something that works out of the box.

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