Net Gear ReadyNAS Pro

Almost as soon as we brought a baby home from the hospital I had a computer set up for them in their room. The kids have grown up never knowing what life was like without a computer available to them. Every couple of years the computers get upgraded to newer technology to ensure that each member of the family has the appropriate technology to meet their needs.

I have noticed that at each technology refresh junction the data storage needs have grown exponentially. Early on I could get away with a small hard drive that would store not only the operating system and programs but also all the data the user would need. As the kids have grown, their needs have changed and so has their appetite for storage.

During the last technology renewal I did for my daughter and my son, I ended up having to build computers with a terabyte of data to hold all of the information they deemed necessary for their survival. After all, how could they possibly be expected to live without their music, documents, pictures, and of course games?

netgear_readynasI realized that this constant extension of personal storage space was getting expensive not to mention difficult to manage. Rather than continuing this trend where I installed larger and larger hard drives; I decided to take a different approach. I chose to create a NAS or Network Attached Storage unit.

In simple terms, this is a hard drive with a network connection that allows any computer on the network to access the hard drive for storage and retrieval. As I began researching NAS devices I quickly learned that there are several flavors from a single drive to an array of disks and each type has strengths and weaknesses.

I began by creating a list of needs I had for an NAS. The device must be capable of supporting Macintosh, Windows, and Linux since I have all three operating systems on the network. The NAS must be capable of password protecting data volumes to allow segregation of the data by user and maintain at least some privacy. It must also be fault tolerant since I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to recover from failures. Finally, and perhaps most importantly it must fit into the house.

This final criterion was a plea from my wife to please not turn our house into a computer data center. The last thing she wanted was a rack mounted unit in our living room. After all this was still a house and not a raised floor computer center (at least for the time being).

After doing a lot of research, I settled on the Netgear ReadyNAS Pro as the product of choice. The ReadyNAS pro is a network drive array with six bays for hard disks. The array can be separated into several partitions or it could be configured as a RAID to gain speed or fault tolerance.

Considering the amount of data this family was going through I chose to build a RAID 5 drive array that would utilize one disk for fault tolerance. Of course this meant that the overall capacity of the array would be the total of all disks minus one.

I ordered the ReadyNAS empty to populate it with my own drives. In a sad state of affairs I actually had six 1.5 terabyte drives lying around. Adding a drive to the ReadyNAS box is relatively simple. It has hot-swappable drive bays that allow you to slide in a new drive while the device is running.

Configuration of the ReadyNAS device is done through a combination of a small utility and a web page internal to the ReadyNAS. Set up can be accomplished from either a Macintosh or a Windows PC. I did not try Linux but since most of the configuration is via the web I would anticipate that you could set up from there as well.

The ReadyNAS has two gigabit Ethernet ports on the back and can manage the traffic through each port separately meaning you could theoretically get 2 gigabit/second. While I did not measure that specifically, I can attest that the access to this device is near instantaneous. The users were hard pressed to tell whether the device was local or remote on the network.

With six 1.5TB drives I had roughly 7.5TB of usable space. Creating volumes was fairly simple using the web interface. Likewise user creation was relatively straight forward allowing me to assign users and set space restrictions per user to help manage the data sprawl that some users on the network are guilty of.

The ReadyNAS has the ability to monitor environmental issues such as fans, state of each Ethernet port, and even whether an uninterruptable power supply is present. The device can be set to alarm if thresholds occur or hardware failures happen. These alarms include sending the error via email. I set this up to not only send email but to send notification to my iPhone so I am aware if there are issues with the device.

The ReadyNAS has not been in place for a couple of months and I have been impressed with the functionality of this device. By having this network appliance I am now able to manage the space for each user in a centralized manner without having to go from computer to computer.

While not every house needs a 7TB array, you can configure the device with as much data as you need and grow it as your requirements warrant the expansion. I definitely recommend the Netgear ReadyNAS, it’s a workhorse and just keeps working.

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