As photographers, we all share some basic challenges – from managing our “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” to overcoming creative slumps.
But one of the biggest and most common challenges is how to best manage our image and data storage.
If you’re anything like me, you have a pile of external hard drives filled to the brim with images from holidays and client work. Let me guess: they’re all different brands, sizes and use different connectors – dongles everywhere!
Being able to confidently store, transfer, secure and access image files is critical to any photographer’s workflow.
And then there’s the sheer dread we all feel knowing that one day, any day, our hard drive is going to just stop working.
To best manage these challenges, you’re going to need a data storage system that’s safe, reliable and easy to use. Plus, you want it to have some nifty mechanisms to access and protect your data.
Imagine being able to store your images and essential data to a single device that will protect them, back them up and also make them accessible from anywhere in the world, or on a private network via an app like Mylio Photos.
Cloud storage is not a new concept but Western Digital has put their decades of data storage knowledge into the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100.
I’ve been using this brilliant device for a while now and thought it important for all serious photographers to learn more about it.
The WD My Cloud Series 4100 has resolved a lot of my data management woes not just for my photography, but for all my household data storage needs.
Let’s take a closer look at how the WD can dramatically improve your workflow and improve your peace of mind.
The My Cloud Pro 4100 is a secure and powerful centralised storage solution for all your data, photos, videos and backups. With 4 x HDD slots for storage up to 40TB, backup power supply, user-friendly software and app integration, it’s a great way to access and edit files from anywhere in the world.
Table of Contents
WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 Specs
- Single solution
- HDD is an older tech that will eventually wear down
- Capacity: 0TB – 56TB
- Interface: Gigabit Ethernet & 2xUSB 3.0
- Dimensions: 23.2cmL X 17cmW X 19.2cmH (9.13″L x 6.69″W x 7.56″H)
- Operating Temperature 0°C to 35°C
- Compatibility: MAC & PC
- Processor: Intel® Pentium® N3710 quad-core 1.6GHz
- RAM: 4GB
The WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 is a neat looking device that’s well designed with a minimal look.
The body has a matt black finish that won’t draw too much attention to itself, and it would fit in nicely whether sitting on a TV console, work desk or tucked away in a discreet space.
It actually reminds me of a gaming console, especially when positioned next to the television for streaming.
The front of the device features an illuminated digital screen for essential drive information. Alongside this is an up and down button for scrolling through the displayed information.
It also features an illuminated power button and LED for each of the separate drive bays – everything that lights up is blue and it looks cool at night.
The bays are neatly aligned with perforated front covers to allow airflow for cooling. The bay doors have a simple latch system that allows each individual door to drop so you can add and remove your NAS drives.
(Side note: See below for a handy guide on what all these acronyms mean!)
While it’s a mechanical process is doesn’t feel too clunky nor does it feel flimsy.
The only other feature on the front of the My Cloud is the USB port where you can plug in external devices such as cameras and portable drives.
Directly above this is an illuminated Copy button that, with a single press, moves your files from your external device to the My Cloud storage.
The sides of the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 are completely featureless.
The rear of the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 is the hardware zone of the device. It features two USB-3 ports, two ethernet ports and two power input ports. The two power ports allow you to plug in an additional power supply for redundancy.
Overall, the device feels sturdy, well constructed and will sit solidly in place amongst your workspace. Once you have it set up with the chosen NAS drives you can pretty much leave it alone.
Some data storage drives are bare-bones and do little else other than holding your data.
The My Cloud Pro Series 4100 is feature-packed making it a highly customisable storage solution.
You can set it up and utilise all or none of these features to best suit you. Here’s a summary of all the great features of the device:
The My Cloud Pro uses the latest My Cloud OS online interface to quickly connect and set up your drive and its processes.
From there, you can use the desktop or mobile app to organise how your 4100 will manage your existing and new data. You can organise your storage and even determine who you want to share specific data with – if anyone at all.
The online interface is user-friendly and quite intuitive – something that can be mastered regardless of your level of tech-know-how.
Mac and PC Backup
As I’ve experienced, the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 seamlessly operates as a backup device for Mac through Apple Time Machine.
If you’re a PC user, then the WD SmartWare Pro software solution performs a similar function.
The backup features operate seamlessly and combine the smarts of your OS with the speed and capacity of the 4100. You can literally set and forget.
Accessibility and Streaming
Thanks to it being a NAS drive, you can edit, share and access your images and any other data from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
Plus, if you have the Plex Media Server installed, you can stream content to your device including HD quality video.
The process will adjust the format and quality of the stream to match the internet quality. If you’re on the go, the My Cloud mobile app performs great and provides the same level of access.
This is excellent if you want to show your work to a client while away from your computer.
As we’ve all discovered, the core purpose of a storage drive is to safely and securely store your images.
Thanks to the expandable capacity of the Pro 4100, you can increase the number and capacity of the HDD drives in the unit. If you want to hang on to every one of your RAW images and hours 4K video, the MyCloud Pro can take it.
Plus, you can plug in a camera or a portable storage device and it will effortlessly transfer your images with minimal input from you.
This is a must-have for any data storage as there would be nothing worse than having to tell a couple that you lost their wedding photos as a result of data corruption.
The WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 has both encrypted password protection and RAID to ensure that there are backup copies of all your data across multiple drives.
Further to this, for essential data protection, you can set the My Cloud Pro to backup all data again to another My Cloud Pro located off-site.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of a second power inlet port so you can have redundancy in case one power supply fails. While this may seem like a little overkill, what can it hurt?
Photographers will love the fact that you can access your images and media from the My Cloud Pro Series 4100 via a mobile device. What’s more, you can then seamlessly import your work into Adobe Creative Cloud.
This way, you can edit and update your images from anywhere in the world making it perfect for the traveler that can’t wait to get home to edit and share their images.
A feature of the My Cloud 4100 is that it supports a number of great third-party apps, including Plex, Dropbox and WordPress.
Plus, there’s software available from WD for both desktop and mobile devices.
These are just some of the impressive features that the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 packs to ensure that you have all your data management needs effectively met.
The WD My Cloud 4100 is incredibly user friendly and fortunately does not require any high-end system specs to work with it.
For Mac users, the only real requirement is that your operating system or OS is El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks or even goes as far back as Mountain Lion.
For PC there’s a similar level of accessibility with the need for Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 7 operating systems.
In terms of the browsers supported by the WD Cloud OS, you will need either Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Safari 6 or higher, Firefox 30 or higher, or Google Chrome 31.0 or higher.
As I mentioned, I’ve been using the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 for a little while now.
In my house, I use it for wireless TimeMachine backups to my Mac as well as storing my entire Lightroom library. Keep in mind that I’m a wedding photographer who has to store thousands of client photos.
My wife also used the 4100 as a Time Machine backup for her MacBook. This suits her as her Mac has limited internal storage.
I found that the WD My Cloud Pro was dead easy to set up and would be even for those that aren’t tech-savvy.
The best part about this drive is that it’s the perfect hands-off storage solution that just works away silently in the background – it’s incredibly quiet for an HDD device.
As with any technology, there are a lot of terms thrown around and used especially in review sites. And, unless you’re up with the lingo, a lot of those terms are meaningless as no one takes the time to explain what they mean.
Here are a few key terms we’ve mentioned in this review:
What is HDD?
HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive. This is a proven technology that relies on a mechanical system that spins a metal disc or platter. The data on this platter is written and read by a moving head. The great thing about HDD is that it’s far more affordable than other drive types.
The WD My CLoud Pro Series 4100 can hold up to 4 HDDs each with their own bay and locking cradle. Should you fill up one of your HDD devices, or it’s tragically damaged, it can be replaced or upgraded to a larger size with ease.
The biggest concern with HDD is that the tech is quite old now – close to 50 years old. Plus, HDD has moving parts to spin the platter and move the read/write head – and moving parts wear down over time.
The newer, smaller and faster SSD technology has zero moving parts but is far more expensive than HDD.
What is NAS?
NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and basically means that you can connect your storage drive to the internet. This way, you can share and access your data from multiple computers and smart devices.
This is great if you want to access your data while away from home or if you want multiple people to have access to the same data. A drive with NAS will usually plug directly into your router with an ethernet cable.
NAS drives are much more than just simple storage devices. They usually house multiple drives for redundancy as well as have their own operating system and RAM for processing your data management.
The WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 is a NAS device with all the above features and benefits.
This makes it perfect for the travelling photographer or professional wanting to manage image files one the go.
Alternatively, if you solely use laptops with limited storage, you can trust all your data storage to a NAS device and access it quickly and wirelessly.
What is RAID?
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. This means that the data storage device has two or more hard drives.
These drives can vary in size and can act as one large storage volume or as multiple volumes that provide instant back up of your data.
The WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 employs RAID5. RAID5 provides greater data protection and speed and is the recommended performance for a device with three or more drives in it. RAID5 uses a system to mitigate read and write faults occurring at all times.
What is PLEX?
Plex, or Plex Media Server, is a downloadable app that works in parallel with the WD built-in hardware transcoding.
Together, HD media can be streamed from the WD 41o0 to any suitable device that has an internet connection. The built-in hardware transcoding is the system that prepares the media and controls the format and quality to suit the connection bandwidth and device.
If you’re a videographer, using the My Cloud Pro Series 4100 and Plex will allow you to access your entire library of content and view it in full HD – anywhere in the world.
Value for Money
Investing wisely in suitable, high-quality data storage is a no-brainer. With so much of our lives and history stored digitally, it’s in our best interest to securely store and protect this.
As photographers, especially those working in the industry, the need for expandable and accessible file management is a must-have. An all in one solution like the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 makes perfect sense for all the reasons we’ve covered above.
What’s more, the WD 4100 gives you absolute flexibility in the level of storage you want to work with.
You can buy the device with absolutely no NAS drives on board for a few hundred bucks. For those working with a tight budget, you could start off this way and gradually add drives over time.
Alternatively, you can max out the storage in each of the four bays and push the capacity above 40TB.
Looking at an entry-level of storage, you can grab a WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 with 8TB across four NAS drives for around US$950.
This isn’t the sort of investment made by a casual photographer. But if you’re a pro or a serious shooter with a need for great data storage, then the price is well worth it.
WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 Review | Conclusion
If you think of all the money spent on small-capacity drives with no back-up or NAS functionality that are now sitting in a box somewhere in your home-office… you will probably cringe. I know I do!
But as we progress in our craft and the need for better, bigger and more secure image storage becomes necessary, it’s reassuring to know that there are suitable options out there.
The WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 is one such option as it ticks all of the boxes for pro-level data management.
What’s more, the customisation of the drive capacity means that you can scale up or down depending on your workflow.
If you’re an enthusiast photographer who’s just started out in 4K video production, then your storage needs are about to escalate. If you’re a sports photographer shooting long continuous-high bursts, then you’re capturing thousands of images at a single event.
Best of all, if you’re an event or commercial photographer, you can show your existing and prospective clients real-time work in progress.
Regardless of if you’re using the WD My Cloud Pro Series 4100 in your home, office or studio, or sharing the device with a team – it will more than meet all of your needs.