Western Digital's My Book Live Duo is the two-disk version of the company's My Book Live network storage solution. Western Digital calls these drives "personal cloud storage" because they offer an easy way for users to access their own data (which could be stored at home or in the office) from anywhere on the Internet. As far as ease of use is concerned, the Duo can be set up without any fuss, even if you have very little knowledge of networking.
The My Book Live Duo is a Gigabit Ethernet-equipped storage unit that comes pre-installed with two 2TB 'Green' hard drives (a 6TB version with two 3TB drives is also available for $799) and they are not stuck in the case forever. A spring-loaded door at the top of the unit opens up to expose another door that is held in place by a butterfly screw. Simply undo this to open the door and pull out a drive if you ever need to replace one. The two drives in the Duo are set up in a spanned mode by default, which means that you can use the entire 4TB capacity to store data.
You will have to re-configure the drive in RAID 1 mode if you want to make your data redundant — RAID 1 will mirror data on both disks and you'll only be able to use up to 2TB for data storage. This means that if one of the two drives ever fails, you won't lose your data and you'll be able to re-build the array after installing a replacement drive of the same capacity. If you plan to use RAID 1, set it up before you start using the drive to store your data. It only took 3min to convert the drive to RAID 1, but then the array had to be rebuilt, which means it had to copy the contents of the first drive to the second (even though the first drive was empty) to mirror the drives. This rebuilding can take many hours, but the unit is still usable during this time.
Put the drive into RAID 1 mode if you want to make your data redundant and decrease the chances of losing it.
If you don't want to use RAID 1 to keep your data safe, you can plug in a USB drive to act as a back up device for the Duo. You can use either the supplied backup software for this, or Windows' own built-in backup utility, or Apple TimeMachine. Any USB drive you plug in to the Duo can also be shared across your network.
The My Book Live Duo is a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) device, which means that it shows up as a storage device in Windows 7's networking section and you can simply right-click its icon and click 'View device webpage' to launch its Web interface. It's one of the most simple and well laid out interfaces of modern times, but it is sometimes a little slow at implementing changes. You can change the aforementioned RAID array from the Settings-Storage section of the menu; you can enable media streaming from the Settings menu, too, and the device is DLNA compatible and also capable of acting as an iTunes server. You'll need to go into the Settings-Remote Access section of the menu to enable the functions that allow the Duo to be accessible over the Web or through a mobile phone or tablet.
To access the Duo over the Web, it's a matter of creating a WD 2go account. The instructions in the Duo's Web interface tell you how to create this. When it's all said and done, you'll receive a confirmation email to the address that you entered during the setup and it will provide a link that you can click through to visit the WD 2go login page. If you're already a WD 2go user, you will be able to use your existing credentials to access the new drive in addition to any older drives you may have.
Setting up remote access through the Duo's Web interface.
If you want to access photos and music from the Duo from your mobile phone or tablet, then you will need to download the WD 2go app, which is available for both iOS and Android (version 2.1 and above). You'll need to authenticate your phone or tablet with the Duo, and this can be done from the Remote Access section of the Settings menu, which gives you a code to enter in to your device. However, we could not get the app to work with our HTC Rhyme phone. We received a message saying that the app was incompatible, despite the Rhyme running Android version 2.3.5 (the app requires 2.1 or higher). We faced the same problem with the My Book Live. It worked fine with the iPhone.
To transfer files over the Internet, you need to log in to WD 2go, click on your drive, and open your desired, shared folder in Windows Explorer. You might run into a few screens that warn you about expired security certificates while you do this, which you'll need to allow in order to use the site. Western Digital representatives tell us that it's an issue they are working on, but it's unknown when it will be fixed. You'll also need to make sure your computer is running Java.
The WD 2go Web site.
Once you open a folder in Windows Explorer, the remote drive is mapped to your system and you can access it through My Computer as easily as a locally-connected drive. You are able to drag and drop files to and from the shared folder as long as you have the rights to do so. Creating shared folders and users on the drive is very easy to do; simply create the folder and place a check mark next to all the users that you want to access that folder if it is to be private. Double-check to make sure write access is enabled in order to allow users to copy files onto the drive.
Setting up shared folders on the Duo.
We like the Duo because it's not necessary to know anything about networking to make files accessible over the Internet. There is no need to know about ports, firewalls and dynamic DNS services, the Duo basically does all the hard work for you. The main downside is that files can take a long time to transfer over the Internet from the Duo to your remote location, depending on how fast your Internet upload speed is. For many of us on ADSL2+ connections, the maximum upload speed is just below 1Mbps (megabit per second), which equates to 125KBps (kilobytes per second), which means a 100MB (megabyte) file can take up to 15min to transfer. In reality, our file transfers took much longer — a 175MB AVI file took almost 40min to transfer.
There is no way to share links to files with friends over the Internet, so you'll still need to make use of services such as Dropbox or Trend Micro SafeSync, for example, to allow others to access your files. Western Digital calls this a "personal cloud device", which means that it's your data, in your own "personal cloud", that you can access from anywhere if you choose. As mentioned though, it can be slow going for large files if your upload speed is not super-fast.
Overall though, the Duo works well as a network attached storage (NAS) device on a local network and it's extremely simple to set up for remote access. If you're a networking novice with aspirations of accessing your home data remotely, it's worth looking into. But it's also worth looking into even if you just want an easy NAS solution to stream files to media players and share data with all your computers.