Saturday, October 25, 2008

ReadyNAS Pro Review: Initial Impressions

Please see my updated ReadyNAS Pro review after you've finished reading this one!

I just got a new ReadyNAS Pro storage device to keep all of my photos safe and sound. I'm going to review it in a number of posts as we get to know each other a bit better. First, though, I'd like to explain some of my rationale as to why I chose ReadyNAS Pro over other storage solutions and share some of my initial impressions.

I have built, installed, and maintained a number of computer systems over the past decade - both Linux and Windows. So it's not surprising to me that a number of friends and acquaintances had the following advice and comments when I complained (I didn't ask; I complained - a lot.) that I needed more storage:
  • Get an external USB or Firewire drive.

  • You should just add more drives to your available systems.

  • Go on and build it yourself.

  • It seems like you're spending too much money to do something simple.

While all of these points are completely valid, they don't keep in mind the facts at hand as well as my goals:
  • My main desktop system functions, but it's seven years old. I'm not going to spend more money upgrading it at this point (adding SATA) or fixing components that never quite worked right (the Adaptec DuoConnect card comes to mind as a shining example). It will be replaced soon.

  • I must be magnetized, which is why I've lost so many hard disks over the years. Reliability is now a must have, so I use RAID 1 on all of my machines. Adding drives is not trivial, and I'd need to buy PATA drives which I'd likely not easily be able to migrate to anything else. If I did go with USB or Firewire drives, how would I automatically link them together under Windows?

  • I want to spend my time doing photography, not system administration. If I have to build a new machine, I have to maintain it, deal with downtime, and then eventually upgrade or replace it (seven to ten years down the road, which sounds more like replacing to me).

  • Migrating from one storage system to another is a pain and often non-trivial. Buying a COTS product that's supported and totally external makes complete sense to me. When I upgrade, all of my data is still there.

  • It is worth money to get storage and deal with all of the above constraints and not spend my own time hassling with it.

After realizing what my needs were and looking at the available options, I decided to order a NETGEAR ReadyNAS Pro Business Edition 1.5 TB NAS (3 x 500 GB). The closest competitor was Drobo, but ReadyNAS is designed for sitting on a network, which is important as it's going to serve multiple computers on our home LAN. It exports shares over the network as CIFS (Windows), NFS (Unix), AFP (Mac), and HTTP/HTTPS.

Here's what it looked like when I unboxed it:

That's right, there was a box in a box. I unboxed this one:

Now we're getting somewhere!

I've seen heavy, expensive equipment accidentally dropped and forklifted by shipping companies.It's nice to see that NETGEAR made some effort to develop decent packaging for this device.

Once I removed it from the box, it remained cold and lifeless while I read through the installation guide. It's pretty simple: install the RAIDar utility, plug in the ReadyNAS's network and power cables, and then turn it on.

The web-based setup is trivial. Seriously, this is the easiest setup I have ever had to go through for any configurable device on my network. Even printers require more time and effort to install than this.

From the factory, the ReadyNAS Pro is configured in X-RAID2 mode. While it doesn't seem as efficient in space utilization as Drobo's scheme (I wish NETGEAR would come out with a similar web gadget), it will work fine for my purposes.

I have two gripes so far. First, I cannot figure out how to easily change ownership of an admin-created directory (I have to disconnect all Windows shares and reconnect as admin), and there's no web interface to do this. Second, I cannot ssh in as a user without also first doing so as the administrator ("Please keep in mind that NETGEAR may deny support if you’ve enabled root access."); why can't I configure this access via the web interface?

Regardless, I'm happy, and so is the ReadyNAS Pro:


  1. I keep thinking I will do this. I'm on a Mac Pro tower and it's RAID Ready so I just have to go speak to the geeks when I'm ready to help me determine what my steps are. After losing data on a corrupt EHD, it's time to get more serious and be better prepared. Still trying to figure out the online backup too. It takes so long the first time, but I keep thinking that it will be nice having an offsite storage option too. Now, to just do it. Oh, wait, I need time? Sure!

    Glad you got it set up and can't wait to hear how it's working for you as you move along.

  2. very pretty. I'm interested to see what your impressions are after you've used it for a bit. keep us posted!