If you’d like to back up your photos and collaborate on them locally, then creating a private cloud with a network attached storage (NAS) server is one way to go. One option on the market these days is Western Digital’s My Cloud Pro Series line. We reviewed the WD My Cloud Pro Series PR2100 to see what it’s like to set it up in your photo studio.
The PR2100 is a high-end storage device geared toward creative professionals, but the system is surprisingly simple. Inside the box is the device itself, an Ethernet cable, a power cord, and a simple card with setup instructions illustrated on it.
The PR2100 features a 2 bay configuration. Pulling up on the tabs opens each of the bay doors and allows you to pop out the drives within.
We reviewed a 16TB version of the PR2100. You can also order the server with 0TB (i.e. add your own drives), 4TB, 8TB, and 12TB. Other models in the My Cloud Pro Series (e.g. the PR4100 with 4 bays) go up to 32TB.
By default, the server operates with a RAID 1 configuration, meaning the same data is mirrored across two drives for redundancy — if one drive fails, you can simply swap it out with a new drive that the data to be mirrored onto again.
What this means is that if you purchase the 16TB option, you’ll actually have 8TB of storage capacity to work with. The other half is the mirrored backup. You can also go into the device’s configurations and change the RAID setting — changing to Raid 0 gives you 16TB of storage capacity with no redundancy.
Another feature that adds redundancy to keep your data safe is the fact that there are two power ports in the back of the server — you can buy another adapter and connect the server to a second power source to protect yourself from power supply failure.
Back to setting up the server. Here’s what the included quick start instructions card looks like:
Basically, plug the server into a power outlet, connect it to your router via Ethernet, press the power button on the front, and you’re good to go.
Once the server is online, you’re instructed to visit mycloud.com/setup. It’ll automatically detect your server as long as you’re connected to the same network as it.
The rest of the browser-based setup process involves setting a password for the admin account, creating users (for logging into the server and logging in remotely through mycloud.com), and registering the server with WD.
All in all, getting everything connected and set up literally takes only a few minutes.
Once everything is good to go, you can download some special software for managing data on the server through your computer, tablet, or phone. Regardless of what device or OS you’re on, there’s probably a MyCloud app available for download.
Even if you don’t download any special apps from Western Digital, the server should immediately start showing up as a network storage drive across your devices.
On a Mac, it’ll show up under Shared.
On a Windows machine, you’ll see it under Network.
At this point, you can start using the server to store your giant photo archives and collaborate on files with others in your network. In addition to dragging and dropping your files onto the server or transferring them with MyCloud software, you can also configure Time Machine on a Mac or File History on Windows to automatically back up all of your precious data using the server as your backup drive.
Setting up a network storage drive may sound like a daunting task, but these days it’s nearly as easy as plugging in a USB external hard drive into your computer. Once it’s set up, having all of your photos in one location makes it easy to collaborate with others in your studio, and the RAID configuration protects you from devastating data loss.
The fact that your private little cloud is accessible from outside your network means you can show photos to your clients through MyCloud.com and through the MyCloud apps wherever you can connect to the Web. MyCloud also plays nicely with Adobe’s Creative Cloud, allowing you to use your server as your main Creative Cloud photo repository, accessible from anywhere.
Specs-wise, the PR2100 features a quad-core Intel Pentium N3710 processor and 4GB of RAM, so you can smoothly and efficiently stream HD video from it or work with it from multiple devices at the same time.
The server is also exFAT compatible, allowing you to connect a camera or external drive and offload photos as soon as you return from a shoot. To do this, simply plug your camera or drive into the server via the USB port on the front and press the dedicated copy button.
If you’re interested in buying a My Cloud Pro Series PR2100 for your own studio, it’ll cost you $400 for just the server and no drives. If you want drives included with the server, you’ll need to shell out $600 for 4TB, $700 for 8TB, $800 for 12TB, and $900 for 16TB.
It’s definitely more expensive than buying a 16TB external hard drive with RAID, but what you get for the price difference is a powerful yet easy to set up network drive that can take your studio’s file management game to the next level.
Full disclosure: Western Digital provided a review unit for the purpose of this article.