How build your own computer

Getting the convenience of the cloud with the value of external hard drives

Updated March 4, 2015 9:39 a.m. ET

My life has become a series of low-storage warnings.

My laptop scolds me that it’s out of free space; my smartphone refuses to let me take another photo. It’s 2015, and where are all the darn terabytes I was promised?

Right at a time when we’re amassing more photos, videos and other files than ever before, we’ve gone from having computers with beefy internal hard drives to ultrathin laptops and phones with puny amounts of flash storage. Our consolation prize? Terabytes of subscription storage found on tech companies’ invisible servers in the cloud.

But can you blame me for not entrusting my entire digital life—from wedding photos to tax documents—to Google. GOOGL 1.27 % Apple or Microsoft MSFT 2.25 % ’s servers? Trust aside, their monthly fees add up, and uploading big files on my poky home Internet connection can take hours.

So instead, I have been keeping my precious files on an old external USB hard drive that I shuttle between my desk drawer and bag. But that’s the digital equivalent of stashing money in a mattress. If something were to happen to it, I’d lose everything. And unless the drive is plugged into my computer, I can’t access my files, which is always a problem since, as my mom says, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached.


Seagate’s Personal Cloud systems and Western Digital’s My Cloud systems. Photo: Drew Evans/The Wall Street Journal

I’ve finally decided

to take some responsibility for my sad storage situation: I built my own cloud. Nope, I haven’t outfitted a hot-air balloon with a bunch of servers or anything. Rather, I set up Western Digital WDC 1.78 % ’s My Cloud website and Seagate STX 1.43 % ’s brand new Personal Cloud—a pair of giant hard drives that live in your home but are accessible from anywhere. You open and save files through apps, just as you would through a cloud storage service, like Google Drive or Dropbox.

They blend the convenience of cloud storage with the speed, space and affordability of an external hard drive. Both start at just $170 for a whopping three terabytes of space. That’s nearly 24 times the amount of storage in my laptop! By comparison, it costs about $120 a year to get just one terabyte on Google Drive. (If you just want to back up your files, there are much cheaper cloud options .)

Network-attached storage drives—which real nerds call NAS—certainly aren’t new. But the big advantage of these two user-friendly solutions is that you no longer have to be a real nerd to reap their benefits.

Easy Setup and Access

Both boxes are extremely easy to set up. Power them on, plug them into one of your Wi-Fi router’s Ethernet ports, hit their setup guide websites, follow a few instructions and then, just like that, your drive is wirelessly accessible from your laptop, phone or tablet. Using the companies’ apps, there’s no reason you couldn’t access it while on the other side of the world; you just need a good Internet connection.



Category: How to computer

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