Build Your Own Cloud! Hard Drives Get a Second Life

Mar 3, 2015 1:17 p.m. ET

My life has turn a array of low-storage warnings.

My laptop scolds me that it’s out of giveaway space; my smartphone refuses to let me take another photo. It’s 2015, where are all a damn terabytes we was promised?

Right during a time when we’re aggregation some-more photos, videos and other files than ever before, we’ve left from carrying computers with brawny inner tough drives to ultrathin laptops and phones with trifling amounts of peep storage. Our satisfaction prize? Terabytes of subscription storage found on tech companies’ invisible servers in a cloud.

But can we censure me for not entrusting my whole digital life—from marriage photos to taxation documents—to


Apple or


’s servers? Trust aside, their monthly fees supplement up, and uploading large files on my poky home Internet tie can take hours.

So instead, we have been gripping my changed files on an aged outmost USB tough expostulate that we convey between my table drawer and bag. But that’s a digital homogeneous of stashing income in a mattress. If something were to occur to it, I’d remove everything. And unless a expostulate is plugged into my computer, we can’t entrance my files, that is always a problem since, as my mom says, I’d forget my conduct if it wasn’t attached.

Seagate’s Personal Cloud systems and Western Digital’s My Cloud systems.

I’ve finally motionless to take some shortcoming for my unhappy storage situation: we built my possess cloud. Nope, we haven’t given a hot-air balloon with a garland of servers or anything. Rather, we set adult

Western Digital

’s My Cloud website and


’s code new Personal Cloud—a span of hulk tough drives that live in your home yet are permitted from anywhere. You open and save files by apps, only as we would by a cloud storage service, like Google Drive or Dropbox.

They mix a preference of cloud storage with a speed, space and affordability of an outmost tough drive. Both start during only $170 for a whopping 3 terabytes of space. That’s scarcely 24 times a volume of storage in my laptop! By comparison, it costs about $120 a year to get only one terabyte on Google Drive. (If we only wish to behind adult your files, there are much cheaper cloud options.)

Network-attached storage drives—which genuine nerds call NAS—certainly aren’t new. But a large advantage of these dual user-friendly solutions is that we no longer have to be a genuine nerd to reap their benefits.

Easy Setup and Access

Both boxes are intensely easy to set up. Power them on, block them into one of your Wi-Fi router’s Ethernet ports, strike their setup beam websites, follow a few instructions and then, only like that, your expostulate is wirelessly permitted from your laptop, phone or tablet. Using a companies’ particular apps, there’s no reason we couldn’t entrance it while on a other side of a world, we only need a good Internet connection.

Seagate’s Android app is some-more fast than a iOS app.

Western Digital’s iOS app is easier cleaner and easier to navigate than Seagate’s.

From a coffee shop, we could crop photos, videos and files stored in my unit 5 miles away. we was also means to save a request remotely. With mixed user accounts, anyone in a family can have a same access. And if we don’t wish a youngins to have entrance to your private folders, we can conclude what’s common and what isn’t.

Whether Mac or PC, Seagate lets we entrance a expostulate on your home network right by a handling system’s record managers. WD, on a other hand, requires a special program. When we aren’t on your home network, we have to be logged into a company’s apps with a username and password.

On both a Seagate and WD, all activity is encrypted, yet carrying that many stored on your wireless network means it’s some-more critical than ever to make certain your wireless router is cue protected, with WPA2 encryption enabled.

Overall WD’s My Cloud apps were faster, cleaner and some-more stable. But a Seagate Media apps have some-more features, like now subsidy adult my phone’s photos as shortly as I’m on my home Wi-Fi. (I found a Seagate Media app for Android to be forward of a cluttered and crashy iPhone app. Seagate says they are looking into a issues we gifted and devise to continue to urge a app.)

Safe and Speedy

It’s bananas how inexpensive storage is now. But we indeed suggest we spend a small some-more on your personal cloud drive. Both Seagate and WD have “two-bay” models, that residence a second tough expostulate that out-of-the-box keeps a ideal duplicate of a initial drive. If one expostulate crashes, we don’t remove a thing. Both Seagate and WD are regulating tough drives meant to spin all day prolonged yet incident, yet we should always expect expostulate failures.

Seagate’s Personal Cloud 2-Bay starts during $270 for a 4TB chronicle (meaning 2TB of serviceable space); WD’s My Cloud Mirror starts during $300.

Seagate’s Personal Cloud 2-Bay has dual tough drives, a second one keeps a ideal duplicate of a first.

When you’re in your home network, both drives work with mechanism backup program such as Apple’s Time Machine. However, conjunction of these drives is cool to glow or theft. And that’s because we might wish to cruise subsidy adult your expostulate (or only specific critical files) to a cloud service, too. WD’s My Cloud app integrates Dropbox, Google Drive and others. We indeed suggest these more affordable cloud backup services.

Speed is another advantage of a home storage drive—they’re distant quicker than a cloud. It took me only 25 seconds to send a 1GB record from my laptop to a Seagate Personal Cloud over my home wireless network. (Part of that was sped adult by a fact that we have a new, faster router.) That same record took me an hour and 12 mins to upload to Google Drive.

Of course, when we aren’t during home, joining to your expostulate will be many slower. On Starbucks’s slow, swarming Wi-Fi it took 3 mins only to bucket a commencement of a 2-minute video.

Multimedia Extras

Seagate’s Roku app allows we to tide videos, photos and song stored on your drive.

Both of these drives also play a singular purpose in a home, environment themselves detached from unchanging tough drives and cloud storage services by apropos your home’s multimedia jukebox.

The iPhone and iPad apps for Seagate and WD work with Apple TV. Using AirPlay, we was means to send videos stored on my expostulate to a TV in my bedroom, a few bedrooms away. Streaming was well-spoken for a many part, with occasional buffering.

But Seagate has a corner over WD with streaming capabilities. If we have a Roku media streamer or a intelligent TV from LG or


we can get a Seagate app that lists your drive’s videos and photos right on a TV screen. Using Roku’s remote, we comparison my marriage video and watched it tide exquisitely in 1080p on my vital room’s HDTV.

Seagate says we can block your


or other camera into a Personal Cloud’s USB 3.0 pier to dump all of your photos and videos. When we attempted it, we had no fitness with a GoPro Hero4 and a


EOS Rebel T2i. The association says a camera contingency be means of “mass storage” mode to work.


WD doesn’t guarantee that arrange of easy-access camera functionality, yet with both boxes we was means to block in another outmost tough expostulate or USB expostulate and entrance that remotely as well.

I’ve eventually motionless I’d like Seagate’s Personal Cloud 2-Bay in my home. we cite it for a print backup and multimedia benefits. we would recommend, though, that people who aren’t meddlesome in those perks should select WD’s some-more fast My Cloud Mirror.

With a little server in my vital room, I’ve finally close adult those low-storage warnings—at slightest until we fill it adult with 4K llama videos.

—Write to Joanna Stern during and on Twitter during @joannastern.

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