If you are used to a single USB plugin hard drive, the Netgear ReadyNAS looks quite a beast and feels quite heavy too. It is mains powered and requires a network port to operate through. This doesn’t just plug into your computer to be ready for action.
The ReadyNAS requires at least one drive to be operational and 2 drives to provide redundancy.
The system we use to store our visual databases has 2 x 4Tb drives (it’s attached to a flight simulator) giving us 3.7Tb of mirrored drive space.
First-time use requires your download a utility called RAIDar from the Netgear site. This recognises any ReadyNAS units on the network and can report the IP address back to you. You may then need to configure a computer to be on the same IP network as the ReadyNAS in order to set it up.
The drives need to be totally unpartitioned to be set up properly. This was my first mistake as I assumed they would need to be partitioned and formatted. If you do this, the drives will be recognised as being in place, but will resolutely refuse to take part in anything the NAS is doing.
Once the drives were de-partitioned I was able to start.
The NAS will spend its first half hour with a pair of new drives setting the first one up. It is best if you just let it get on with it until the tiny LCD screen tells you that it now has a ‘C’ drive. You then enter the setup utility, which is web-browser based from the RAIDar program or you can navigate your browser straight to the ReadyNAS IP address.
On your first visit to the browser based admin panel, you will be in Wizard mode. This steps you through every section, giving you a chance to fill in any details that are necessary for you. By this time, drive 1 of the NAS will be synchronising disk 2 to itself – this takes over 4 hours so make sure you have plenty of spare time.
Most things can be changed and applied without recourse to repowering the ReadyNAS so the setting up can be done whilst the synchronising is taking place. The one thing that will require a reboot is changing the device name. However, this does not affect anything else and just appears to be a nicety for multiple NAS situations.
The ReadyNAS comes with 2 ethernet ports that run up to gigabit speeds if your network supports it, so it can be on 2 separate networks at the same time and either or both can be fixed IP or DHCP assigned. There are also 3 USB ports that will accept other drives (for backup purposes) or printers. The front USB port has a ‘backup’ button beside it which when pressed, will dump the contents onto the attached USB drive onto the NAS.
The LCD screen shows only minimal information and is very limiting in what it will tell you. The web admin utility will tell you far more and give you access to the running and fault logs. Drives are hot-swappable but it does take a few minutes for a removed drive to be recognised and similarly for a new drive to be picked up and start synchronising.
The ReadyNAS itself has been pretty reliable in use although we have had a couple of hard drive failures in the 4 years it’s been in use. The most unfortunate thing is that if the ReadyNAS starts throwing a hissy fit (and this can happen), then it almost certainly needs a factory reset and drive building starting from scratch. It’s therefore, a good idea to make regular backups of the NAS to another external drive at regular intervals.