WD (Western Digital) today unveiled a hard drive that acts as a personal cloud, offering password-protected access to data over the Internet via any mobile or desktop device.
The My Cloud drive starts at $149 for 2TB of capacity. Models with 3TB and 4TB of capacity sell for $179.99 and $249.99, respectively.
"Just two terabytes on Google Drive or Dropbox is going to cost you $200 per year," said Scott Vouri, WD's vice president of consumer product marketing.
WD's My Cloud drive runs on Linux and comes with management software that is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows or OS X. The My Cloud software also allows users to organize digital content from all of their devices and set up automated cloud backups.
"We believe that there's no place like home for the cloud," said Jim Welsh, general manager of WD's branded products and consumer electronics groups. "Everyone is inundated with thousands of digital files scattered across multiple computers and mobile devices, and controlling that chaos is a challenge. WD's personal cloud is the easiest, most secure and most affordable way for customers to control that chaos, with access to all of their files anywhere, anytime."
My Cloud offers access to and sharing of photos, videos and text files -- all secured through the 128-bit AES encryption algorithm. The My Cloud drive can also be used to stream video to mobile devices, which can free up space on a device that might normally store the content.
"You can also share links with others to your file structure," Vouri said.
Additionally, a My Cloud drive can serve as a home's digital entertainment hub, storing terabytes of movies and music that can then be streamed to any DLNA-certified multimedia device such as a WD TV Live media player, as well as smart TVs and gaming consoles.
The My Cloud mobile app also integrates major public cloud services so that a user can transfer files between Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive public cloud accounts.
With direct file uploads from mobile devices, files and videos can be moved to My Cloud, freeing up space on users' tablets and smartphones.
Users can also back up their computers and digital files to My Cloud. For PC users, WD SmartWare Pro software offers options for how and when to back up files. Backups can be automated to run at specific times, and backups can be directed at third-party cloud services, such as Dropbox. Mac users can utilize all the features of Apple Time Machine backup software to protect their data, just as with any other external hard drive.
My Cloud cannot be physically linked to another My Cloud drive. Users can back-up the contents of one My Cloud to another My Cloud in the local network as our software will recognize multiple My Clouds. Using the USB 3.0 port in the rear of the drive, users can physically connect other external hard drives to expand their My Cloud storage capacity or make the contents of a standard direct attached hard drive available in the My Cloud mobile and desktop applications, the company said.
WD already offered a private cloud storage product in its MyBook Live network-attached storage (NAS) drive. The ability to use Apple's Time Machine backup application, just as with My Cloud, came native on the MyBook Live drive. The company also introduced its WD 2go and the WD 2go Pro mobile apps, which allow mobile users to remotely access the MyBook Live drive.
However, WD said its new My Cloud offering is completely redesigned from the MyBook Live drive, and it is far simpler to configure and use than a NAS device, which will allow a larger audience of consumers to enjoy the benefits of a personal cloud.
According to Vouri, users can get their personal cloud up and running in minutes with WD's web-based user interface.
"We have significantly enhanced the configuration dashboard," Vouri said. "This provides real-time information on what the My Cloud drive is doing and provides quick links to common tasks, for example, adding users, shares and cloud devices."
The free My Cloud desktop app is new, providing a universal navigation experience across all computers, Mac or PC. Users can drag-and-drop their files to transfer and add content to their My Cloud, Vouri said.
"Also, with the new desktop app, users can open and edit documents directly from My Cloud and those edits will be synced for any other device or user accessing that particular file," he added.
The new My Cloud OS and system architecture allows more dynamic response to queries from mobile apps, including delivering thumbnails for photos and music artwork, WD said. The mobile apps are also "smarter" about delivering content. For example, on the new WD Photos app, if you download 30,000 files onto the My Cloud, it will now tell a user that it is processing the files. "Our My Cloud app will also display this content (including thumbnails)," WD stated.
Along with new software, the My Cloud drive comes with a significant performance boost over previous drives, including an ARM Dual Core Cortex A9 processor.
The My Cloud app currently is available for download from the App Store and Google Play. A two-drive and four-drive My Cloud configuration with greater storage capacities will be available in the future, according to WD.
My Cloud personal cloud storage is compatible with Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, OS X Mountain Lion, Lion, Snow Leopard, as well as DLNA/UPnP enabled devices.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.