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Great Concept - Dangerously Unstable Execution
on March 6, 2012
I have had the 6GB Duo for about three weeks now. Though I love the concept, the instability of the system is cause for alarm. Below is a detailed review:
(+) Great Concept
(+) Online Access
(+) Mobile Apps
(+) Large Space
(+) RAID redundancy (or so I thought - see THE UGLY below)
The concept is great - a personal cloud with fast speed, online secure access, mobile viewing through some nice iOS and Android apps, lots of space, the actual drives are WD Green drives (I have had many and none have failed to date) and the security of Raid 1 redundancy over two 3TB drives. Should one of the drives fail, in less than 5 minutes either drive can be easily removed and replaced (using a matching drive - an easily found and inexpensive WD Green 3TB drive).
I own a photography studio where we run a four-machine PC network. I'm always searching for the best way to efficiently and safely store our material. We are especially keen on ensuring our data is as safe as possible from corruption or loss. We've used a variety of systems and processes over the years, and were excited to see the release of this product as it seemed the perfect balance of security, accessibility, redundancy and speed. Unfortunately, the product did not meet my expectations, as you can read below.
(-) Laggy Speed
(-) Buggy Apps
(-) Limited Control
(-) Drive Runs Very Hot
We received the drive and quickly began migrating our data to the new system. Overall, my initial impression was good. It was pretty simple to setup and the conversion to RAID1 was simply a click of a button. In total, we transferred about 1.2 TB of data in chunks over the course of several days. However, once we started using the drive, I was surprised by how slow it was. We work with substantial quantities of large files, so the slowness was a serious issue and resulted in us having to rework our process to avoid the lag. Not ideal.
Another issue is that there is no button, or any way to turn off the system or put it into sleep mode in a way that ensures a safe shutdown. As a result, you are instructed in the manual to guess by the front LED indicator that it's not currently writing and can be shut down. Not the most user friendly.
THE UGLY:(in my experience really, really ugly)
(X) Dangerously Unstable in RAID configuration
(X) No Fail-safes
(X) Dual Drive Corruption possible
(X) Risk of Total Data Loss
About a week ago, we had an issue where our machines (Windows 7) where the drive was offline and could not be accessed. However, after shutting down all the computers and the WD Duo, then rebooting the DUO, waiting 3 minutes, then booting the other machines, we were able to access the Duo without an issue. Then yesterday happened. The same issue occurred and we went through the same process, but this time the drive would not respond. We tried again. Still nothing. To make a long story shorter, we discovered that the front LED indicator was indicating the drive to be stuck in the booting process. Both drives were corrupted. Looking into this issue, it is unfortunately very common among previous WD Live drives and the only viable solution is sending it to a data recovery service, which can cost anywhere from about $500 to $2500 depending on the amount of data and extent of the damage. Very, uber not good...
Luckily, if you find yourself in a similar pinch, I have found the following software to be helpful in recovering the data yourself (though you need to be able to put one of the two drives into your desktop computer in order to do anything). The program is called Raise Data Recovery for Ext2/3/4. I have been able to recover most of the content, though anything that I have edited on the WD Dus is either not detected or unreadable. But hey, I was looking forward to redoing two weeks worth of work.
The frustrating thing is that this didn't have to happen. WD could have easily put in a partition or even a built-in bit of memory to house a backup boot system, should the drives become corrupted. This would at least allow you to do diagnostic work. Hopefully, the next version will have such a feature.