Oct. 2, 2013 at 4:04 PM ET
Western Digital announced a new Internet-connected hard drive Wednesday that improves on its predecessors in several significant ways, letting you store terabytes of files locally and access them online super-easily.
The My Cloud hooks up to your home Internet and, after an initial setup, can be logged into from anywhere in the world, at which point you can browse your files or download a movie you saved, for example.
Of course, for just some documents, a cloud-based storage service like DropBox is sufficient, but if you're planning on backing up gigs and gigs of home video or music, a few gigs isn't going to cut it.
This isn't WD's first attempt at this by a long shot — the company's My Book World Edition and My Book Live offered similar services, but both were quite slow, and the mobile and Web apps were nothing to write home about. The My Cloud improves on both the internals and the interface.
The device itself, which comes in 2 TB, 3 TB and 4 TB varieties ($150, $180, $250 respectively), has gotten a processor bump, meaning it won't bog down any more when transferring large files or lots of small ones. Testing by CNET showed it outstripped the competition easily.
There's also a brand-new Web dashboard that you can log into from any computer; once there, you can upload or download files however you like. The mobile app, for Android and iOS, has also been updated.
One particularly useful feature lets you install a shortcut to the drive on others' computers. This shortcut goes to a private folder where you or they can put and retrieve files — but they don't have access to the rest of your stuff. That's great for friends who like to share music, or for video editors collaborating on a project; a gig of files is too much to email, but dragging and dropping is a breeze.
The My Cloud has its own backup software and works with Apple's Time Machine, but there's only one drive inside, so it can't duplicate your data for extra safety. But you can hook up a USB drive to a port on the back and let it back up to that. Perhaps more involved than people want to get, but at least the capability is there. (Multi-drive versions are incoming.)
If you're worried about security — well, like any other cloud service, if your login and password get away from you, then nefarious individuals can access the data on the drive. The risks are the same as using DropBox or Cloud Drive. Always use good security practices, like creating strong passwords and not sharing them between accounts.
The 2 TB and 3 TB models are available now, but the 4 TB device won't ship until November, so if you're a space hog (or have a loved one that is), you'll have to wait a bit.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.