|Introduction & Specifications|
The old adage, "looks can be deceiving," applies very well to the Western Digital My Book World Edition network-attached storage (NAS) device. With its small and simplistic physical design, housed in white plastic, and featuring only a set of white LED status lights on its front, this NAS device belies the power, features, and depth of configuration options just hiding beneath its shiny veneer.
Which is not to say that the WD My Book World Edition NAS device isn't simple to use--it is actually one of the easier NAS devices we've worked with. Network storage neophytes should have little trouble getting up and running in no time. But contrary to the seemingly simple nature of the product, those looking for advanced administration options will be very impressed with what the WD My Book World Edition can do beyond being just being a networked receptacle for file sharing, media streaming, and automated backups. For example, the WD My Book World Edition's advanced settings including the ability to set user quotas; which is something that even the business-class Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition NAS Server isn't capable of. (More on this and other advanced features later).
WD currently offers two versions of the WD My Book World Edition: a 1TB version (MSRP: $229.99) and a 2TB version (MSRP: $449.99). Both units use the same housing and therefore have the same small form-factor. The only difference between them is the size of the single hard drive inside the unit. We looked at the 2TB version, which uses a single, 3.5-inch, SATA-based, WD 2TB hard drive.
The WD My Book World Edition's seven-page Quick Install Guide is about as simple as it gets in terms of getting a product set up and operational quickly. In fact, each OS (Windows XP/Windows, Mac OS X 10.4, and Mac OS X 10.5) gets exactly one short page to explain how to install and start using the WD My Book World Edition NAS device. Despite the brevity, the instructions are sufficient--especially considering that most of the heavy lifting is done by the bundled software (at least on Windows platforms). While this terse set of instructions will get you operational, it only provides information on how to access the drive's public folders. If you want to set up private folder shares or dive beneath the surface, you'll want to take a gander at the electronic user manual on the bundled CD. A word of warning for those who are technically-minded and don't like to read manuals: the default login credentials for the device's web-based Network Storage Manager interface can be found in the electronic user manual and not in the printed Quick Install Guide--although seasoned networking gurus should have little trouble guessing the default login credentials.
|Design & Build Quality|
The WD My Book World Edition earns the "Book" portion of its moniker because it is roughly the size and shape of a stubby hardcover book. The front of the drive is curved (perhaps simulating a book's binding), while the back has rounded corners. The device's chassis is made from white plastic, with the front and sides shiny. The the top, back, and bottom sections have a matte finish and have slits and holes in them for airflow--and which look somewhat like the pages of a book. A small, white and gold "WD" logo appears on either side of the drive. The chassis is made from just two plastic pieces, but it is not designed to be user serviceable--in other words, you're not supposed to be able to crack it open in order to swap out drives.
The front of the device features a vertically-mounted set of white LED status lights. There are six lights total, each representing approximately 17-percent of the drive's capacity. As the drive continues to fill up, more of the lights, from the bottom up, illuminate. When the drive is in use, the lights move up and down, somewhat reminiscent of the eye movements of old-school Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. When the device is in standby mode, the LEDs slowly flash on and off every four seconds. If you find the status lights annoying, you can always disable them.
The back of the unit has an RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port, one USB 2.0 port, the power button, a recessed reset button, and the AC adapter jack. You can hook up an external storage device (such as an external hard drive or flash drive) to the USB port, and it will appear as just another folder share to connected users. Unlike some other NAS devices, however, you cannot connect a printer to the WD My Book World Edition to use it as a networked print server. The bottom of unit includes rubber feet and a product label that includes the device's MAC address.
As soon the WD My Book World Edition is powered on and attached to your network, it automatically retrieves an IP address via DHCP from your network's router. If you have the means of gleaning the device's assigned IP address or device name, you could conceivably start using it right away without every cracking open a manual or launching the bundled software. Otherwise, on Windows systems, you'll want to insert the included CD and launch the WD Discovery Tool application.
The WD Discovery Tool will display all of the WD drives it finds on the network. When you click on the name of your drive, a Things To Do column on the right side of the window gives you the following options: Configure, Map Network Drive, Browse Network Shares, and Create Desktop Shortcut. Selecting Configure will launch your system's default Web browser and open up to the WD My Book World Edition's web-based Network Storage Manager interface. The Map Network Drive feature will automatically create drive letter mappings for all available network shares. If you use the mapping feature at this early stage, it will only create mappings for the two default public folders: Download and Public. You can also use the software to manually map drive letters to available shares. The Browse Network Shares feature shows you all of the available network folders--which won't be many when you first start out with the device. You might want to wait to map drives until after you've set up your users and folder shares.
The Create Desktop Shortcut option will put a shortcut to the WD My Book World Edition on your desktop. This shortcut is actually a shortcut to the IP address of the device, so as you add folders to the drive over time, the new folders will appear in the window whenever you click on the shortcut. If the WD My Book World Edition get its IP address via DHCP and the device reboots for any reason, there is chance that the device's IP address could change. If this happens, the IP-based desktop shortcut will no longer work. This actually happened to us during testing. We highly recommend assigning a static IP address to the WD My Book World Edition.
There is no WD Discovery Tool for Mac set up, but the instructions explain how to access the drive via Finder and suggest creating an alias on the Mac desktop so that you'll have an easy desktop shortcut to the drive. Oddly, we had trouble connecting to the device via a Finder window on two different Mac systems--we kept getting connection failed errors, and ultimately instead had to connect to the device using the Finder's Connect to Server option. The CD also includes Windows and Mac versions of the automated backup software, WD AnyWhere Backup.
When you first launch the WD My Book World Edition's web-based interface, you are greeted with a login screen that gives you the choice of logging into the Network Storage Manager, Downloader, or Copy Manager. The Network Storage Manager is the primary interface module through which you can modify the device's settings. Once you log into the interface, you land on the Basic Mode overview page, which gives you basic options for settings such as the Device Name, Users, and Folder Shares (see the screenshot below). If you click on the Advanced Mode option, however, you are given far-more in-depth control over the device. We focused our attention on the Advanced Mode settings.
The Advanced Mode breaks out the device's settings into different tabbed pages:
The System page provides access to settings where you can do things such as change the device name, enable system alerts, set the Admin password, check for and install firmware updates, save and restore the device's configuration settings, enable SSH access, enable standby mode, turn the LED status lights on or off, and shutdown or reboot the device. With the exception of setting up SSH access and the system alerts, most of the settings are self-explanatory. For SSH access, you cannot change the password from its default setting, but the interface does have the ability to automatically generate a new SSL certificate and key pair. After a little experimentation we were able to get the e-mail notification alerts working, but we never could get the pop-up notifications to work on our test systems. The e-mail alerts are simple text-based messages that inform you when certain events happen such as an abnormal shutdown or a device reboot.
The Network page lets you set the device's DHCP or static IP settings; set the workgroup or domain name settings; enable UPnP; set the drive's HTTP and HTTPS ports; and enable FTP, NFS, and AFP protocol access. The Network page is also where you can enable remote access to the WD My Book World Edition using WD's MioNet service.
The Storage page is a bit of a hodge-podge of different settings. Perhaps the most important setting of this page is the ability to create and manage private folder shares, including setting independent share-level access for CIFS, FTP, NFS, and AFP protocol access. If you attach a USB drive to the WD My Book World Edition's USB port, you can also format the USB drive (as FAT32) and "safely remove" it from here as well. The Storage page also provides access to the Downloads settings--the WD My Book World edition has a dedicated Download folder, set with public access by default--this section is where you can reassign the download folder and set a new password for it.
Acting more like a business-level NAS device than the consumer-level device it purports to be, the WD My Book World Edition lets you also set individual quota limits for users. For each existing user account, you can designate the maximum amount of space (in GB) that a user can store in his folder share (by default, individual user quotas are disabled).
Note that the Disk Manager and Volume Status buttons in the Storage settings page screenshot above, don’t really do that much or provide much relevant information. These settings are actually utilized by other WD NAS devices that use the same firmware, but which actually have multiple drives and RAID arrays. And herein lies the secret as to why a consumer-level device has such advanced configuration options: WD is using the same firmware for the WD My Book World Edition that is uses on some of its higher-end products.
The Media page allows you setup the WD My Book World Edition as a media server. Like most modern NAS devices, the WD My Book World Edition has a built-in iTunes server. We successfully connected to the iTunes server from both Windows and Mac systems. With an iTunes library filled with 6,142 songs (53.46GB, 24.2 days), it took iTunes about 24 seconds to display the complete library saved on our WD My Book World Edition. The WD My Book World Edition is also capable of streaming music, Internet radio, photos, and videos, to a variety of devices over the local network using the unit's built-in Twonky Media Server.
If there is one settings page you are likely to come back to more frequently than others, it is the Users page. That is because this is where you can create, delete, and modify user accounts. When you create a user account, you designate a user name, assign a password, add the user to existing groups, determine if the user will have administrator rights, and choose whether to also automatically create a private share folder for that user; note that when you delete a user, that user's folder share does not get automatically deleted from the disk--this is an intentional safety precaution, in case there are files in the user's folder that need to be retrieved--other users who also had access to that folder can still access it, as long as their user accounts are still active.
Another feature of the WD My Book World Edition that is often found only on higher-end NAS devices, is the ability to create user groups. If you have a lot of users with similar access needs, it is easier to assign folder access and rights to groups of users, instead of having to edit the settings of each user individually. This is especially useful when you have groups of users who need access to the same specific resources, such as a private FTP or media folders.
Yet another setting that is likely to be frequently used is the Folder Share Permissions. For each of the existing private folder shares, you can set up which users or groups have access to the folder and whether it is full access or read-only access. You can also turn any private folder into a public folder, and vice-versa--including even the default Public and Download public folders. You can also set public folders to full access or read only.
The final Advanced Mode page is the Status page. From here you can do things such as check on the device's up-time and how much storage capacity is utilized, as well as peruse the device's system log files.
|Configuration (continued) & WD Anywhere Backup|
Instead of logging into the WD My Book World Edition's Network Storage Manager interface, you can instead choose to log into the device's Downloader feature. (Note that the Downloader's default password is different than the default password for the Network Storage Manager; the default passwords are documented in the electronic user manual.)
The Downloader allows you to download files directly to the WD My Book World Edition, so that once the information is entered into the Downloader, you do not need to leave your PC on in order to retrieve the files. To setup the Downloader to download a file, you must supply the URL of the file you want to download and what the name of the saved file should be. In some cases, the filename is already part of the URL, so this might feel redundant to some people; also, we found that the Downloader did not recognize all pasted download URLs. You can set for a file to start downloading automatically or place it in the download queue. Files placed in the queue will download based on when you've scheduled the Downloader to allow downloads; this is beneficial for those who want to download large files only during off hours so as not to impact the connection speed of PCs on their home network, or to avoid prime-time bandwidth caps from their ISPs. Note that you cannot schedule file downloads independently--the schedule is set for when to allow all queued downloads.
The third login option for the WD My Book World Edition's Web interface is for the Copy Manager (which uses the same administrator login credentials as the Network Storage Manager). The Copy Manager is a fairly simple tool that allows you to copy folders from the NAS device's built-in disk to an external drive attached to the device's USB port, or vice-versa. We didn't spend a lot of time with this simple feature other than to confirm that it works. As this task can easily be conducted a number of other ways that don't require logging into the device's Web interface, we question its overall usefulness--but then again, it is part of the geek's credo that it is better to have extra features you do not need, than to be missing features you might need.
WD Anywhere Backup
The WD My Book World Edition comes with the WD Anywhere Backup automated backup software for both Windows and Mac systems. The documentation states that the software license permits installing the software on up to 5 client systems, but you can always buy additional licenses if you need them.
When you install WD Anywhere Backup on a Windows machine, it creates a shortcut on the desktop and sets the application to automatically launch when Windows launches--it typically stays hidden in the taskbar unless it requires user intervention. You can create multiple backup plans on a system if you want to backup different folders to different destinations. Once you select a destination for a backup plan and save the plan, you cannot subsequently edit the destination for that plan; if you need to make a change to the destination, you will have to create an entirely new backup plan. When you select the source folders for a backup plan, you can manually add folders or you can select folders to backup from the software's pre-defined "SmartPicks," which includes folders, such as My Documents, My Pictures, IE favorites, Windows Mail, and Music and Sound Files. It is important to note that the WD Anywhere Backup software depends on Windows for network drive mappings--if a drive is not mapped in Windows, the backup software will not be able to see it.
When you create a backup plan, you can choose to also include the WD Anywhere OneClick Restore application; this is a stand-alone application that will allow you to restore files from the backup plan's destination folder without needing to use the WD Anywere Backup software (a useful feature when you are rebuilding a system following a local drive meltdown). While you could potentially backup the entire contents of a system's hard drive, you cannot backup a complete hard drive image for a full system restores from the WD My Book World Edition. Also, the software only supports source folders that are on drives connected directly to the system (internal or external, not networked). One feature we would have liked to see included with the bundled software or built into the device's firmware is the ability to automatically backup contents stored on the NAS device to a USB hard drive connected to the NAS device's USB port. Other available applications do support this, however, such as 2BrightSparks' free SyncBack Freeware software.
Restoring folders and files is pretty straightforward: You simply select an active (or even inactive) backup plan and then choose the folders and files you want to restore. You can restore to the Desktop, the original location, or assign a new folder to copy the files to.
WD Anywhere Backup works similarly on the Mac: the app automatically loads when the OS loads and it typically stays minimized as an icon on the menu bar. The Mac backup app also depends on the OS to map to network drives--if you can't access the networked destination with the Mac OS, the backup software won't be able to access the destination either. The Mac version of WD Anywhere Backup also includes "SmartPicks," which in this case, include items such as the Home folder, Application Preferences, iCal, iPhoto Library, iTunes Library, Keychain, Mail messages and settings, and Safari settings. The Mac version of the software also lets you create a backup plan that will automatically backup photos to either Shutterfly or Flickr. Unlike the Windows version of the backup app, however, the Mac version does not include a stand-alone restore app option.
Both the Windows and Mac versions of WD Anywhere Backup constantly monitor all of the respective, active backup plans' source folders. When there is a change to the contents of a watched folder, the backup software will automatically copy the incremental changes to the backup's destination folder. The backup software can also backup multiple versions of a file as it changes over time. We observed the CPU utilization of the Windows and Mac versions of the backup apps as the software monitored the source folders: the Mac version usually stayed well below 0.5-percent, while the Windows version was usually somewhere between 00 and 02-percent CPU utilization.
|MioNet Remote Access|
Much like the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition NAS Server's Seagate Global Access service (Seagate owns Maxtor), the WD My Book World Edition comes with access to WD's MioNet remote access service. These services allow users to access the contents of their respective NAS devices remotely over the Internet. The basic functionality of the MioNet service is free to WD My Book World Edition owners; however, a number of advanced features, such as remote access to your PC and online meetings with screen sharing are also available via subscriptions ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
The WD My Book World Edition does not come with a copy of the MioNet software, but it can be downloaded for free from the MioNet site. Unfortunately, our testbed was running the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home and the MioNet software is not compatible with this version of Windows (there should be a 64-bit Windows version by this July); there also isn't a Mac version of the MioNet software either. That said, all of the basic functionality of the MioNet service is accessible via the MioNet Website, so we didn't really need the software to remotely access the NAS device over the Internet.
Before you can access the WD My Book World Edition remotely over the Internet, you first need to set up a free MioNet account. You must do this from a system that is on the same local network as the WD My Book World Edition. In fact, you'll need to do this from the Create MioNet account link in the WD My Book World Edition's Network Storage Manager interface's Remote Access feature. This link takes you to a specific Secure Remote Access for WD Storage Page, which not only allows you to create a free user account, but also finds your WD My Book World Edition device and links your account to it. If you instead try to setup a free MioNet account using the generic MioNet setup screens, it will not link the account to your WD My Book World Edition for remote access.
Assuming you create a MioNet account via the Secure Remote Access for WD Storage Page, a user and folder share with same name as your MioNet account is automatically created on the WD My Book World Edition. Since MioNet is a multi-user Web-based service, you won't be able to use simple usernames like "Joe" or "Karen," because those names are already likely used by other users on the service. You can try your first and last name together, or an alphanumeric name like "Joe90210." We also discovered that if we wanted to create additional MioNet user accounts for remote access to the WD My Book World Edition device, we first had to choose the Reset MioNet feature in the device's Network Storage Manager interface; once the device is "registered" with MioNet, additional account creations will not link the accounts to the device. Resetting MioNet on the device removes the device's MioNet registration--previous created MioNet accounts that were successfully linked to the device will continue to work.
Once a MioNet user account is created and successfully linked to the WD My Book World Edition, that user can access the device remotely over the Internet via the MioNet service using either a Web browser or the MioNet software. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Note that you will need to have Java installed and enabled to use the service.
Once you login, you are taken to the Quick Start page where you can Access My Files, Share Photos, and Transfer Files to Others. Access My files gives you remote access to that specific user's folder share, any additional private folder shares that the user has permissions for, as well as all public folders on the WD My Book World Edition device. You can view folders and files as thumbnails, icons, or as a list; and you can open, delete, and rename files, as well as create new folders (assuming, of course, that you have full access to the particular folder; you'll be able do less, obviously, if you have read-only access).
The Share Photos features lets you share any folder you have access to with other users--these folders don't have to just contain photos, although that is the intention of this particular feature. You can select multiple folders, give read and write access or just write access, and invite both MioNet and non-MioNet users to access the folders--invitees will receive an e-mail invitation. The Transfer Files to Others option, does exactly the same thing as the Share Photos feature--it gives other users remote access to folders on the device.
The MioNet Web interface also includes a My Resources page that lists all the folder shares you have remote access to--it is the same thing as the Quick Start's Access My Files feature. A Shared with Me page shows all the folder shares that other users of the MioNet service have granted you access to on their respective networked storage devices. The Shared with Others page lists all of the users to who you have granted remote access, what folder shares they can access, and whether that access is Read-only or Read and Write.
In order to test the functionality of the WD My Book World Edition, we placed it on our Gigabit-Ethernet network and accessed it from a variety of Windows and Mac desktops and laptops. We connected to it via both wired and wireless connections, as well as remotely over the Internet.
To test the device's performance, we conducted a number of data-transfer tests to and from the device over our network using an HP Pavilion Elite m9550f desktop (2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, 8GB PC2-6400 DDR2 SDRAM, 1TB NTFS 7200RPM SATA hard drive, ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB, Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit) via a Gigabit-Ethernet connection. We conducted large-file write and read tests where we copied a 1.7GB ISO file between the WD My Book World Edition and the HP Pavilion Elite m9550f. We also conducted small-files write and read tests where we copied a 267MB folder made up of 70 JPGs ranging in size from 2.27MB to 4.38MB between the WD My Book World Edition and the HP Pavilion Elite m9550f. We conducted these tests by dragging-and-dropping the folders and files in Windows. We disabled the WD Anywhere Backup tool so that there wouldn't be any background data transfers occurring during testing.
We compared the performance of the WD My Work World Edition against that of a number of NAS devices we've looked at recently, including the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition, Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, and the Addonics NAS Adapter. We also repeated all of our tests on an older 500GB Maxtor Shared Storage NAS device--copying files between the Maxtor Shared Storage device and the HP Pavilion Elite m9550f. Additionally, we ran our tests on an external hard drive connected directly to a USB 2.0 port on the HP Pavilion Elite m9550f; the drive we used was a 320GB Western Digital Caviar Blue drive (7200RPM SATA-II, 16MB cache) placed into an external enclosure and formatted using the NTFS file system.
The WD My Book World Edition took 107.1 seconds to write and 60.2 seconds to read a 1.70GB ISO file. These speedy transfer rates, hands-down, make the WD My Book World Edition the fastest NAS device we have looked at recently, when it comes to large-size file transfers--and by a sizeable margin. Its transfer rates can't compare to that of a directly-connected USB hard drive, of course; but we wouldn't expect network transfer performance to be as fast as that of a directly-connected drive. The large-file transfer rates on our tests equate to about 16.3MB/Sec (136.4Mb/Sec) for writing and 28.9MB/Sec (242.5Mb/Sec) for reading.
The WD My Book World Edition took 28.5 seconds to write and 17.0 seconds to read a 267MB folder of small files. The device's small-file transfer speeds are also very good, but not necessarily fast enough to make the WD My Book World Edition the undisputed performance leader. We saw similar write performance from the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition; and the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub was even a few seconds faster. The WD My Book World Edition, however, did have the quickest small-files read performance. On our tests, the WD My Book World Edition writes small files at about 9.4MB/Sec (78.6Mb/Sec) and reads small files at around 15.7MB/Sec (131.8Mb/Sec). The USB-connected hard drive, obviously, bested all of the NAS devices. In fact, we couldn't even generate useful numbers for the USB drive's small-files read performance as Windows cached the files in memory and essentially performed instantaneous transfers whenever we repeated the file copy. (All tests were run multiple times to ensure repeatability.)
As to more anecdotal performance observations, we found the WD My Book World Edition to be very quick to respond to file queries and copies. The only time we noticed any significant lag time was when the device had gone into Sleep mode and our query only then caused the device to wake up.
We also connected the WD My Book World Edition to a power meter to get a sense of how much power it consumes. When the device is sitting idle, it uses only about 7 watts of power. Under load, its power consumption goes up few more watts to about 10 watts. When in Sleep mode, the device sips only about 4 watts of power.
|Summary & Conclusion|
The WD My Book World Edition truly impressed us with its combination of performance and features. The fact that it can equally meet the needs of general consumers and tech-savvy users is a testament to the device's flexibility and usefulness. There was a lot to like about the device and very little to dislike. Perhaps the only significant criticism we have of the WD My Book World Edition is that we wish it also included the ability to act as a networked print server, as we have seen with other consumer-level NAS devices.
The WD My Book World Edition's MSRP of $449.99 makes the NAS device a very good value, considering all it can do--including free remote access. This is even less than the $479.99 MSRP of the Editor's Choice award-winning Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition NAS Server. But while the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition can be found at a variety of online retailers for as cheap as $340, the least-expensive online price tag we could find for the WD My Book World Edition, was just under $400. At this relatively high price point--as much as we were impressed by the WD My Book World Edition--we have a hard time considering it as an Editor's Choice candidate. When and if the street price of the device comes down, it will become a true contender--until then, however, we still highly recommend the WD My Book World Edition as a viable NAS device option for virtually any home user.