Review – Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

by Marc

nas-small.jpgProblem: You need hard drive space to store your vast downloaded legally purchased music and movie collection. Plus the tens of GB of photos your digital camera has spewed out over the years. Plus all of the documents, email archives and general digital detritus that are a feature of life with a PC.

You’ve also got at least a main PC and a laptop around the house that need access to that data, plus perhaps something to stream videos to the TV or HiFi, so something that plugs into a LAN would be nice.

You could buy a simple external hard drive. They’re cheap these days ($200 for 500GB) but take it from me – when you leave them on 24×7 for a few years they die. And when they do, the 0.5TB of data that was on there dies with them. Not fun :-(

If you’re like me you only need to learn that lesson once which is why I went shopping for something that had RAID capabilities. What that means in non-geek speak is that the data is stored on many disks instead of one so you get redundancy. When a disk dies, you can just replace it with a new one and no data is lost.

I also had 2 machines sitting in a cupboard making noise and heat to do nothing but serve up the various drives I’d bought over the years. It was about time to upgrade and replace all those machines and disks with one box.

After a fairly in depth look at the market for home NAS devices I settled on the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+. So what is it? Well the short version is that it’s a box you fill with disks, connect to your network and forget about. You can buy it bare to put disks in yourself, or you can get pre-populated versions with up to 2TB. For details, read on.

The specs are:

4x hot swap SATA drive bays
3x USB ports
Built in media server
Gigabit ethernet
(realtively) quiet

The specs don’t prepare you for the looks though – this thing is cool! The unit is about the size of a large toaster. It’s not a whole lot bigger than the disks your putting in it and the polished finish looks great. It’s almost a shame that it’ll spend its life in a cubpbaord…

The advantage of buying it without drives is that it’s cheaper and you can add more disks as and when you run out of space. To start with I put in a pair of 320GB Seagate drives which (because of the redundancy) gives me a shade under 300GB of usable space and 2 spare drive slots for future expansion.

For the technically minded, the ReadyNAS has a really neat trick for auto-growing the array. With 1 disk there’s no redundancy. With 2 disks it sets the second disk up as a mirror. To add more space, you just power it down, add a new disk and reboot it. It then converts the array from RAID1 to RAID5 (which does take a bit of time) and when it comes back up your newly added storage is available. Simple and painless. It’s also worth pointing out that your existing data is preserved during the array conversion and expansion – not something that every NAS device can claim!

Setup
Setup was a breeze. 1) Insert disks. 2) Plug the ReadyNAS into your network. 3) Power up. 4) Wait about 2 hours for the ReadyNAS to initialise the disks. 5) Install the supplied RAIDar software on your PC which finds the unit and opens up it’s web administration interface.

From there all the setup is done via a simple set of web pages. At a basic level you just create shares to be visible on the network. If you want to get really detailed you can set up individual users with their own passwords and disk quotas. You can also link it to a corporate Active Directory although that’s outside the scope of this writeup.

You can also enable options to enhance performance for Windows or Mac clients as well as expose network shares over FTP or HTTP. It’s quite versatile!

The USB Ports
As I alreaady mentioned, the ReadyNAS has 3 USB ports. These can be used for

  • Printer sharing. Plug a USB printer into the ReadyNAS and it will make it available to all network clients
  • UPS Monitoring. For absolute data security you can plug an Uninterruptable Power Supply into the ReadyNAS. This ensures that even if you have a power cut the ReadyNAS can still secure your data and do a timely shutdown if the UPS battery runs low
  • External hard drive sharing. You can plug a USB stick or external hard drive into the ReadyNAS. It will see it and make it’s contents available over the LAN.

nas-small2.jpg
Monitoring
This is often overlooked. Think about it – you’ve got something sitting there, quietly humming away to itself in a cupboard. You never go in there as long as it’s working. Then a disk dies. No problem, it’s got RAID so you’ve not lost any data – yet. But unless it can tell you that the disk has died you’ll be blissfully unaware so you won’t know to replace it. RAID is only as good as it’s spare disk!

The readyNAS has all this covered. Point it at an email server and it will let you know when a disk has died, when it’s running low on space, when it had a power cut… you get the idea. It will also shut itself down if the disks start running outside their safe temperature – data security is the word.

Media servers
One of the features of the ReadyNAS is that it comes with built in media servers. It will stream audio and video via uPnP to devices on your LAN, such as the DLink DSM520 or Snazio NetDVD. It also contains an embedded version of Slimserver to control my favourite music streamer from Slim Devices.

Last but not least there’s also an iTunes server, if you’ve chosen that route for your digital home.

I’m using the SlimServer plugin to talk to my SB2 and it works flawlessly streaming FLAC files. The web interface is pretty slow compared to the same software running on a PC and navigating menus on the SB2 is perhaps slightly less responsive than it would be if I was running the server software on a standard PC. On the other hand running it on the ReadyNAS lets me retire the PC completely which means I have one less box making heat and noise and draining power. For me the tradeoff is worth it, at least for now.

Performance
I’ve not run any performance benchmarks on the NAS. It’s slower than having a SATA drive in the PC, and it’s faster than my old USB hard disk. Toms hardware ran a fairly in depth technical review of the ReadyNAS here and I won’t repeat their tests. Suffice to say that in my environment where I mainly need to stream media around the network and edit digital photos it’s fast enough for me.

Final thoughts
It’s not a cheap option, especially compared to a straightforward USB drive. But if you care about your data you’ll appreciate the security that RAID brings and data security is what this device is all about. If you want an easy to use way of putting all your data on a network, making it secure and guarding against disk failure then the ReadyNAS should definitely be on the shortlist.

21 reviews or comments

Infrant ReadyNAS NV – Full Backup Solution » Gadget Venue dot com Says: April 1, 2007 at 2:04 pm

[…] For the full review, check out Coolest-Gadgets. […]

Mike Says: April 1, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Nice write-up. I’ve been wanting something like this to replace an aging PC that I run FreeNAS on. I really like that it will auto-convert to RAID5 when you add a third/more disks.

It’s just a shame that these NAS boxes are so pricey, even when you provide the drives. It seems like LinkSys or someone like that could come-up with a well-cooled, multi-drive enclosure with NAS functionality for $100 or so, with you adding your own drives. I guess I need to keep dreaming…

Mike

Marc Says: April 2, 2007 at 5:18 am

Yeah, I agree they aren’t cheap. I think it’s the RAID5 that’s the problem. There are a few solutions out there that will hold 2 disks and mirror them but as soon as you want to talk RAID5 you’re into some sort of processing and number-crunching to calculate the parity data. That means a slightly chunkier CPU and some software and that all puts the price up.

Don Says: April 8, 2007 at 6:22 pm

I had a Buffalo Tech 300GB Link Station and it crashed recently. I found out the hard way that Buffalo Tech will not touch any unit that is out of the 12 month warranty. My unit was 15 months old. Anyway, I am in the market for a replacement and it obviously will not be a Buffalo unit. I am interested in moving up to at least 1 TB and this Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ looks like a really nice unit. I checked out their warranty and they at least will still repair out of warranty units for a fee. I am definitely interested in this NAS. It may not be the cheapest NAS out there, but I found out that you get what you pay for. Thanks for the informative review. Now NV or NV+? That is the question.

Marc Says: April 9, 2007 at 10:46 am

The NV+ is the direct replacement and the main difference is the addition of an LCD display on the bottom of the unit. It shows the current IP address and various statuses while booting – useful but not essential.

The NV+ also has a new fanless PSU which helps bring the noise levels down – how important that is to you depends on where you’re putting it ;-) The same PSU was also fitted to later revisions of the NV so I’d expect the ones on the shelves now to have that (worth checking if you can).

I’d say if the LCD and PSU aren’t important to you and you can find an NV for cheaper than an NV+ then grab it while they’re still around!

Marc Says: April 9, 2007 at 10:49 am

I should also have added (just to make it clear) that I was reviewing the NV+ but the LCD is hidden behind the mirrored finish and only shows up when the unit is powered up, which is why it doesn’t show on my photos…

Doug Says: April 10, 2007 at 1:27 pm

iTunes server on the ReadyNAS NV+? Infrant’s site does not mention this… please tell us more!

Doug Says: April 10, 2007 at 1:51 pm

iTunes Server? Please Explain…

Introducing… Drobo! » Coolest Gadgets Says: April 10, 2007 at 2:07 pm

[…] do you get when you take a ReadyNAS, swap the Ethernet connection for direct USB and give it lots of sweeping curves? You get Drobo! It […]

Marc Says: April 14, 2007 at 7:10 am

Doug, as far as I can tell iTunes has the capability to stream audio/video over a network to iTunes clients. I don’t know how this works in detail because I don’t use the system but it looks like OSX has an iTunes client that can playback the media over the network.

The readyNAS will basically replace iTunes in that system, making your media collection look like an iTunes server to any iTunes clients on the LAN.

network23 Says: April 20, 2007 at 1:54 pm

I have an NV+ and love it! I use the iTunes streaming feature as well. It acts just like when you share your library to others on your network, those libraries or playlists show up in their own submenu in iTunes and others can listen to your songs. But, just like iTunes sharing, they can’t copy the songs to their libraries or burn CDs with those songs. Essentially, what you do is move your iTunes library out to the NAS. One, your local drive is not loaded with your songs and videos, giving you much more drive space locally. Two, sharing doesn’t require that you stay logged in and have iTunes running (like you have to if you share from iTunes). Your computer can be off and the NAS will happily share away. Three, since your library is on the NAS, it’s protected from drive failure. Not a catastrophic failure, like a fire or something, but if one drive fails in the NAS, you won’t be kissing your valuable tunes and vids goodbye.

I’ve even taken it one step further, and moved all the iTunes content to a shared directory that everyone has access to. Then I really don’t need NAS’s server, everyone just points iTunes to the network drive. Pretty easy to set up for the most part.

Hitachi first to market with 1TB Deskstar » Coolest Gadgets Says: May 30, 2007 at 11:04 am

[…] have to say, the temptation to put 4 of them in a ReadyNAS is strong but I think a reality check is in order – a 4TB RAID array? Even I’d have problems […]

Travis Says: September 6, 2007 at 5:31 pm

network23, thanks for the explanation on iTunes. How do you manage the iTunes library, playlist, added songs, etc since you can’t do that from a share? Do you setup the NAS as a drive letter on one machine and then have that one machine treating the NAS as the physical storage for the iTunes running on that machine? Do you have to do something special to tell iTunes where to store the iTunes library file? Are there any sharing issues while the modifying machine is changing things and the NAS server is also accessing the library files? Does the NAS box count as a different authorization vs. the computer managing the playlists?

Glen Dahl Says: October 17, 2007 at 8:08 am

My experience was little different. I tried to setup the readynas but changing the ip address seemed to fail. I lost connection (as one would expect when changing the ip address) but could not regain connection. I restarted it and it came up with the dhcp address on it. I tried again. Same thing. So I attempted to take it back to factory defaults. Then it didn’t find the dhcp server. I tried the factory reset again. Panic:kernel. Yikes. Tried their forum. Every question got the same list of posts. Tried email support. Needed a registration. No way to register. Tried phone support. Thick accent. Trouble communicating. He would not help me without a registration. I told him I would not register if it did not work. He just kept askiing me to register.
I sent it back.

Mark Says: December 16, 2007 at 11:59 am

back to the original review – i also use slimserver with 12k or more flac music files on an internal 750Gb sata ultra ata-100 seagate drive. a 2nd drive – same specs – also resides in the pc system. question: can these two drives be made part of the readynas nv+ setup? will it benefit from the speed of ultra ata-100’s capabilities? if i add two more hd’s down the line – can they be of larger capacity than the current drives? also is it possible to expand to two readynas nv+’s when the need arises?

Stan Berry Says: March 12, 2008 at 5:54 am

Based partly on your review I recently purchased a ReadyNAS NV+, already populated with 2 500GB Seagate drives. It came with RAIDiator (their customized Linux operating system) version 3. Version 4 was available when I ordered mine.

1) the included backup doesn’t work. Details available if you’re interested.
2) the printer support doesn’t work. Details available if you’re interested.
3) upgrading (to version 4) doesn’t work … trying it left the ReadyNAS NV+ crippled … it took me a day of research and about 6 hours’ work to restore the ReadyNAS NV+ to the state in which it had been received. All data was lost in the process (I had backed it up before I started). Details available if you’re interested.

I’m left with a NAS box (a fairly fast NAS box … if attached to a NetGear gigabit switch) that cost me $300 more than market for a TB. I would tell anyone considering adding a NAS box to their network to steer clear of ReadyNAS NV+.

Tim Koltek – Rusty Bytes Says: May 31, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I love the ReadyNAS – though there are a few things that would make it better.

The backup app has lots of options from using a usb drive to an ftp site, but it doesn’t appear to have differential backup or the ability to compress then upload. Uploading every file every backup on a TB drive doesn’t make sense.

It would also be great if it supported OTHER Bit Torrent clients as the included is very limited.

Mark D Says: August 25, 2008 at 11:12 pm

I have been using the ReadyNAS NV+ for over a year now and highly recommend the Unit. I work in IT and have tried various other units. The ReadyNAS NV+ in my view is the best by a long shot & would be my Pick. I have upgraded the Firmware & Software problem free. I have also installed 2 Printers sucessfully. There are faster units out there for File Transfer across the Gigabyte networks so if Transfer Speed is critical then maybe shop around. There is also great Support Groups & Forums out there that will answer all your queries. Overall I give the ReadyNAS NV+ 9 Out of 10.

Drew M Says: December 2, 2008 at 11:16 am

We use 2 3Tb ReadyNAS NV servers at my work. Good luck if one of them goes bad after the warranty expires. Here’s a copy of a tech support email I just received:

[quote]
12/2/2008 1:53:00 AM
Dear Drew,

I understand you have a Ready NAS device that does not power up and is out of warranty. At the present time we do not have a facility that accepts devices for repair from customers. I would advise looking online or locally for a company that may be able to repair NETGEAR Ready NAS devices.

I apologize we could not be of any assistance.

Please have a wonderful day!

Warmest Regards,

Brandon
NETGEAR Customer Care

[/quote]

network23 Says: December 2, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Drew,
It’s not an excuse, but I regularly see stories like this on the Infrant site — lots of times, Netgear drops the ball in terms of support and they fail to forward the customer to Infrant, who in every case I can remember, have been able to help out.

Please visit Infrant’s forums and post your dilemma there. I would suggest either in the Feedback forum or one of the forums under Support. They really are very nice and I believe they will do what they can to help you out.

network23 Says: December 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Steven,

I believe they did, and still do, repair their own units. Being a subsidy of NetGear though, sometimes NetGear support doesn’t have the info to know to forward customers to them. Hopefully they’ll be able to help Drew out.

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