WDC's My Cloud Home Duo is a natty piece of kit but beware iContent

Apple fans will be disappointed by its inability to sync iTunes files

Rear on/off switch

The rear on/off switch placement illustrates the pitfalls and difficulties of physical user interface design.

From a functionality point of view I said to WDC that I thought it should be on the front or the side. It is also tiny and hard to see and use. Why? The thing is at the back of the unit and should be big enough to be felt easily and give good tactile feedback. Who cares that it looks neat and almost concealed in the gap between the upper and lower parts of the unit? Here, I think, looks interfere with functionality

WDC replied: "The device in its essence was designed to be a stay-on device and provides the most value as such. Some of the ID design considerations were favoured for this and the front of the device was designed to keep a modern and minimal finish."

I also thought having the Ethernet port LED indicator lights on the rear face of the unit was awkward. Why can't they be on the front and easily visible?

WDC said: "One of our biggest pieces of feedback from our older generation of products were the over use of LEDs and system feedback. Most customers asked that we provide a way to turn off the LEDs as they were too active and bright in nature.

"We took this feedback into the design of the current product and created a light bar that diffuses the light instead of shining brightly. We also made a conscious decision to keep the existing LED indicator lights from the port for any users that were interested in knowing the status, etc."

Well, that perfectly illustrates the difficulty in creating a user interface that satisfies all or most users. WDC's design trade-offs are logical and understandable.

Cloud syncing

The unit will automatically sync my iPhone digital content using the mobile app. But it doesn't appear to automatically sync my iMac and my other Mac computer digital content using the desktop app.

WDC said: "We do have a 'Sync to My Cloud option' available for users to take advantage of. The option is available for any folders that are saved beyond your folders that are in your user folder.

"This is an industry standard practice as syncing folders that are tied to your system could pose issues as it's a sync and any accidental deletes could jeopardize your data. This is our way of safeguarding the user from making a catastrophic mistake."

Noise level

My iMac has a fusion drive and is basically silent. The My Cloud Unit has two disk drives inside it and is not. When active, which is quite often, the disk drive head sounds are intrusive. It is a Duo unit, with two drives and a RAID setup, so there is a a need for data copying from one drive to another. This was somewhat of a shock to a user conditioned to iMac and MacBook Pro operational silence.

Music

The system is marketed by WDC thusly:

Easy to use, the My Cloud Home storage device plugs directly into your Wi-Fi router at home so you can save all your digital content in one central place. Automatically back up the photos and videos on your phone, and wirelessly back up and sync your PC and Mac computers and cloud accounts.

Study this for a minute and ask what's missing. Yep, music. But tablets also are missing from the device list, things like iPads. I asked WDC why I can't tell the My Cloud Home Duo desktop app to automatically sync my music (iTunes) and pictures (Mac Photos App).

WDC said: "The mentioned folder hierarchy falls into the level where we've disabled Sync to ensure that the user does not accidentally delete or lose data that they were not aware is being 'Synced'."

The desktop app doesn't appear to sync/backup music (iTunes) or pictures (Photos) or video/TV Programs (iTunes) with the My Cloud Home Duo. None of these topics appear in the manual or in the WDC My Cloud community website by the way.

The My Cloud Home marketing pitch is "you can save all your digital content in one central place." It appears that you cannot actually do this.

WDC said: "Music, Videos, as well as Movies/TV Shows are all content managed through iTunes on either a subscription basis or purchased and consumed through the respective applications. Users should be able to locate the file stored on their Mac and manually backup this file but unfortunately there is no easy and automatic way to achieve this... The team will explore ways to achieve this for a future release."

The mobile app doesn't appear to sync music on the iPhone with the My Cloud Home Duo.

WDC said: "The music available on your iPhone [is] either managed through iTunes or through other third party music applications such as Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud, etc. These files are native to their application and only exchanges between their respective desktop applications. Backing up such content is prohibited by the service itself.

"The iPhone also doesn't expose this in their standard file system for us to autobackup the content to a different destination. [It's] industry standard practice from other cloud providers as well."

The net:net of this is that having a third-party-supplied central repository for all your digital content on smartphones, tablets, notebooks and Macs/PCs is actually impossible because of the limitations the WDC replies identify.

Tablet support

There is no iPad-like equivalent to the iPhone app. We mentioned this to WDC, saying: "There appears to be support for iPhones but not iPads. Since the marketing pitch for it says 'so you can save all your digital content in one central place' that would seem to be simply not true."

WDC said: "It does work on the iPad but it's not a dedicated iPad application so the experience isn't yet as premium as we'd like. We're working hard on a iPad application and it will be available presently."

Good news.

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