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the simplest Time Capsule replacement

When Apple decided to exit the WiFi products market, one unwelcome casualty was the Time Capsule. Forgetting its router and access point capabilities, it solved an important problem for Mac notebook users — it was a drive that attached to your network, rather than directly to your computer. In my experience, laptop users simply don’t and won’t attach a drive to their Mac with any kind of regularity, myself included.

Time Capsule took the “human factor” out of the equation by allowing you to set up the Time Machine feature of macOS to back up not to a directly attached drive, but instead via WiFi, over your network. Then your Mac could be backed up every hour, without your ever having to see it. But you haven’t been able to buy a new Time Capsule in two years.

There are a number of potential replacement products, all of which fall into the category of Networked Attached Storage, or NAS for short. They’re drives that attach to a network. Quite a few of these products are excellent, and better than Time Capsule in many regards — Synology in particular stands out and is a favorite among consultants.

However, NAS products aren’t simple. They’re miniature, multipurpose servers, and setting one up for network Time Machine use can require a fair bit of technical skill.

One exception, though, is the Western Digital My Cloud Home. Unlike previous “My Cloud” products, this one is intentionally¬†inflexible — it’s a cloud appliance. You plug it in, you go to a URL on your Mac to set up an account at Western Digital to activate the drive, and that is it. It’s ready to go on your network as a preconfigured Time Machine Drive. Then, you just go to Apple Menu, System Preferences, Time Machine, and select it. The end.

The My Cloud Home also sold in a “Duo” model, with an automatically mirrored second drive for redundancy; this is a good choice if you are invested in your history of Time Machine backups, because if a drive fails, you can replace it without losing any of your data.

There are some things I don’t like about the My Cloud Home — I’d prefer not to have to create an account at Western Digital to have it operate, and, as long as I have to, I’d like if it could email me if it detects a drive failure, rather than relying on me to make sure that a light on its front panel is the right color. I’d like if it had a USB port on the back, like Time Capsule did, for backing up the backup. And the My Cloud Home is certainly not the right product if what you’re looking for is a traditional configurable NAS drive.

But I am glad there’s one product I’ve come across that I can simply recommend to do one important job simply, and which I can guide a client through setting up in just a few minutes. The My Cloud Home fits that bill.

(Image from Western Digital’s website.)

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