Interested in NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices? If you’ve ever dreamed of a single device large enough to store all of your digital files that was accessible not only from your local computers, but from any computer connected to the Internet around the World, then a NAS may be just the ticket for you. Did we mention that your data would be safe, even from drive failure? Join [Sam Feng | http://geekspeak.org/shows/2005/04/01/], Product Manager at [Infrant Technologies| http://www.infrant.com/], as the geeks learn about the latest in home and small/medium/large business network storage servers. They’re more reasonable than you think!
Plus, as a special bonus, the Geek Speak theme sung the Geeks in all its a capella glory.
The Geeks use [GRISOFT AVG|http://free.grisoft.com/] for virus protection.
! Article about the ReadyNAS NV from [InFrant Technologies|http://www.infrant.com/]
We’ve had many discussions on GeekSpeak regarding the volatility of hard drives and the importance of data backup. These discussions begin, invariably, with a listener calling into the show. They inquire about data recovery software for their failing hard drive, mimic the grinding noise their drive is making (at judicious prompting from Lyle), or simply lament the passing of their drive completely. We’ve said many times on the air; it’s not a matter of whether your hard drive will fail, it’s when. If you’ve never lost data to hard drive failure, count yourself lucky, because those of us who have truly understand just how quickly it can be lost. Once you’ve actually lost data, you understand just how precious it was. But of course, by then, it’s too late.
In this article, we’ll be discussing [NAS|Network Attached Storage] devices. Specifically, we will be discussing the ReadyNAS NV NAS from [InFrant Technologies|http://www.infrant.com/]. NAS devices use multiple hard drives to store data. If a drive were to fail, the data would be safe and a simple replacement of the drive would restore data protection. If you’re not quite sure what a hard drive is, how a hard drive works, or what types of hard drive connections technologies exist (like Serial ATA), please refer to our [article on hard drive technologies |http://geekspeak.org/articles/12/].
! What is a NAS?
[NAS|Network Attached Storage] is an abbreviation for Network Attached Storage. A NAS is typically a box that contains multiple drives that appear as one large volume of space. If a NAS supports four drives, like the ReadyNAS NV, and you place four 500[GB|A gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes] drives in it, you effectively see one very large 2000GB drive, or 2[TB|a terabytes is 1000 gigabytes] of data. TWO TERABYTES!
NAS devices use a technology called [RAID|Redundant Array of Independent Drives] that allows the hard drives used by the NAS to be configured in such a way that if one drive fails, the data on the volume is not lost. There are different flavors of RAID that offer different features. These are explained in a bit more detail in the RAID section.
Why is a NAS device important? Because it protects data that is most important to you, such as archived tax returns, financial statements, your music collection, digital pictures, contacts, old emails, and anything else important to you—as long as you keep that data on your NAS device. Keeping your data on the hard drive in your computer or on external hard drives that attach with [USB|Universal Serial Bus] and [Firewire|Also known as 1394] connectors is a form of digital Russian Roulette with odds that get progressively worse over time.
! The Infrant ReadyNAS NV
We had the opportunity to test Infrant’s ReadyNAS 600 unit, the predecessor of the NV, and found it to be small, durable and very well made. However, the ReadyNAS 600 pales in comparison to the ReadyNAS NV’s sturdy, double-steel construction. The NV is beefy, sturdy and very well made. If you like Macs, you’ll love the ReadyNAS NV.
[readynas_front.jpg|The ReadyNAS NV is 7.9 inches (200 mm) tall, 5.2 inches (132 mm) wide, and 8.7 inches (222 mm) deep.]
The NV’s mirrored front panel is simple and somewhat elegant. The blue power button reminds us of the [Prius|The Toyota Prius is one of the world’s first commercially mass-produced and marketed hybrid automobiles.] start button and the grill is heavy-gauge metal that not only provides a nice, industrial feel, but allows airflow to flow from the fan in the back to the front and across the four hard drives. The NV is also completely lead (Pb) free and compliant with the European [RoHS | Restriction of Hazardous Substance] environmental standard.
[readynas_back.jpg|Infrant says the handle is strong enough to be grabbed and carried quickly should the need arise. If this is where your precious data resides, keeping it close on hand is not a bad idea.]
The back of the unit has two USB ports for connecting portable hard drives or USB printers, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a large 120mm fan that blows into the unit and out through the front grill. It even has a handle in the back that’s sturdy enough to support the weight of the 15 pound chassis (with hard drives)!
[readynas_drive_tray.jpg|The front door is sturdy and closes with a magnetic snap. You’ll find yourself opening and closing it over and over…]
The NV holds up to four hard drives that are housed in special drive trays that slide directly into the unit and connect with a snap. Once in place, the drives are safe and secure. The ReadyNAS NV can be configured with only a single drive and more can be added later to increase the size of the volume and to add data protection. This is good for those on a budget; you can buy an empty unit and buy drives at your convenience. Also, the fact that the ReadyNAS NV has hot-swappable drive trays means replacing drives is easy. When the unit is off, you can pull a drive to quickly get the make and model number and insert it back into the NV without affecting your data.
[readynas_uses.jpg|The ReadyNAS NV has many uses.]
The ReadyNAS NV can be used with a Windows Media Center PC to stream digital videos, music, and pictures. We were not able to fully test this function and will provide more information in this area when we revisit this article with benchmark data.
Since a NAS can pretty much reside anywhere where a network cable can be strung, they can be easily tucked away out of sight as long as it has proper airflow. Hiding it in a closed closet may not be a good idea.
! Gigabit Ethernet
In the past, a NAS with typical 10/100 [Ethernet|Ethernet is a frame-based computer networking technology for local area networks (LANs)] connectivity was more than sufficient for any network. 10/100 refers to the speed of the network connection, so 10/100 supports both 10[Mb|A megabit is 1,000 bits] and 100[Mb|A megabit is 1,000 bits] connections. Megabits are different than megabytes. A byte is made up of 8 bits, so a megabyte is 8,000 bits. To get the megabyte equivalent for 10/100, which is 10,000,000 bits and 100,000,000 bits, divide the numbers by 8 and you get 1.25 megabytes of bandwidth for a 10 megabit Ethernet connection and 12.5 megabytes of bandwidth for a 100 megabit connection. Those sizes refer to the amount of data that can be sent across the line of an Ethernet network connection per second.
Gigabit Ethernet is much faster. A gigabit Ethernet connection is 1000 megabits, so it has a data rate of 125 megabytes per second.
Let’s put this in perspective. What if you want your cutting-edge media server or NAS device to stream HD content to your TV and various computers. What type of network would you need? Most video is compressed, which reduces the amount of bandwidth needed to stream the video over a Network without dropping frames, so a 10/100 Ethernet connection may cut it, but it’s doubtful. To stream uncompressed [HD|High Definition] content, your network would need to support data rates of 82 to 124 megabytes per second. If your video has a lot of scene changes and movement, such as ocean shots of water, it cannot be compressed very much, so a 10/100 Ethernet connection won’t cut it.
The ReadyNAS NV not only supports gigabit Ethernet connections, it also has support for jumbo frames, as long as your gigabit switch supports jumbo frames. This is how it works: on the receiving end (write performance), the frame size is auto detected (up to 8K) and adjusted accordingly. The Network card or [NIC|Network Interface Card] also needs to be set to use 8K packets (or something larger—during the negotiation process, the client/NAS will communicate at the lowest common denominator) in order to realize the best performance. On the send side (Read Performance), Infrant does not use jumbo frames yet in order to minimize compatibility issues. Infrant claims that things can get tricky if multiple clients are communicating on a network and only some support jumbo frames. This may be changed later.
[RAID|Redundant Array of Independent Drives] is an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Drives. It is sometimes referred to as Inexpensive drives, but we prefer Independent because larger Serial ATA drives are not inexpensive.
[readynas_raid_config.jpg|This RAID chart provides an idea of the amount of space that is available using the various RAID configurations. The green is the total amount of volume available to you while the blue slices denote how much space is dedicated to protection (also called redundancy)]
In a RAID 0 array, the ReadyNAS “stripes” data across the drives, breaking up large files into smaller blocks and then performing disk reads and writes across the drives in parallel. RAID 0 is ideal for applications that require high bandwidth but do not require fault tolerance, or protection. It provides the best performance and capacity of any RAID level, but the lowest availability (no fault tolerance). In a RAID 0 array, if one drive fails, the entire array fails because part of the data is missing with no way to recover it other than restoring from a backup, and since a NAS device is your backup, you could be in big trouble. RAID 0 is a great as a separate RAID array dedicated to work-in-progress applications like compressing very large videos.
In a RAID 1 array, every read and write is carried out in parallel across two disk drives.
The mirrored—or backup—copy of the data resides on the second redundant drive in the array. RAID 1 provides complete data redundancy, but at the cost of space. Since both drives essentially hold the same data, the overall space is halved. Performance is roughly the same as for a single drive, although in some instances the dual write may be somewhat slower.
RAID 5 stripes both data and parity information across three or more drives. RAID 5 writes data and parity blocks across all the drives in the array. Protection, or fault tolerance, is maintained by ensuring that the parity information for any given block of data is placed on a different drive from those used to store the data itself. RAID 5 provides an ideal combination of good performance, good fault tolerance, and high capacity and storage efficiency.
Infrant’s patented X-RAID technology allows easy expandability of a RAID volume by simply plugging in new hard drives. Infrant’s automatic volume expansion technology sets up drive security and expands the overall capacity without damaging your data. Infrant X-RAID technology offers scalable capacity and protection as drives are added:
*1 Drive = NAS
*2 Drives (RAID1) = NAS + Protection
*3 Drives (RAID5) = NAS + Protection + Double Capacity
*4 Drives (RAID5) = NAS + Protection + Triple Capacity
RAIDar is a pun on radar without losing its root meaning—it looks for the NV’s RAID volume.
Yes, that’s the RAIDar Radar.
After RAIDar has located the NV unit, it can be used to access the configuration settings of the NV unit, to launch an Explorer window to the files (via the Browse button), or to locate a selected ReadyNAS unit should you have several. This is done using the Locate button that makes the buttons blink on the selected ReadyNAS unit.
The snapshot feature allows a certain amount of drive space to be set aside when the volume is created to be used for backing up volumes so they can be recovered should a virus crop up.
Infrant’s ReadyNAS NV is administered using a standard browser-based interface. The embedded RAIDiator OS provides a bunch of advanced features including automated backup capabilities, stream media using built-in media server capabilities, auto update utility and auto shut-down options.
Actually, all of the ReadyNAS NV screens are much wider than the screenshots we show here. Located in the bottom-right corner is a graphical representing the health of various aspects of the unit. The [LED|Light Emitting Diodes]s change depending on the health of the unit. This screenshot was taken when the NV unit was in the middle rebuilding the volume after the right drive was pulled. The health of the Fan in the back of the unit, the temperature of the unit, and status of the [UPS| Universal Power Supply] if the NV is connected to one.
The first time you enter FrontView, you must go through a Setup Wizard that walks you step-by-step through a numerous screens. Once done, your ReadyNAS NV is essentially ready to run. Of course, you may want to manually tweak settings.
The ReadyNAS NV can automatically detect a network connection or it can be configured manually. In the best-case scenario, you have a [DHCP|Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol] server already, so you would have no need to enter a static IP, net mask, gateway, or DNS—it is all done automatically for you. In case you don’t have a DHCP server, the ReadyNAS NV can provide those services for you. This means that it will automatically dole out IP addresses to all of your computers, making it easy to add computers to your network.
The ReadyNAS NV supports three different security modes:
The first mode is called “Home and small office”. In this mode, security is granted on a per-share basis. This means access to the NAS is limited based on who has the share password. If you want to prevent kids from accessing the NV, simply donÔøΩt tell them the password. As the name implies, this mode is sufficient for a home or a small office environment.
The second mode is the “Medium-sized office and workgroup”. In this mode, a larger number of users may exist, with users perhaps grouped into functional groups, such as Sales or Accounting. This mode requires an explicit login using a user id and a user password to access the NAS. Once logged in, the user can access only the shares that the user or the group that he or she belongs to are given access to. This security mode requires a little more maintenance because user and group accounts must be maintained on the NAS using FrontView.
The last security mode is the “Department or corporate environment”. This mode is very similar to the second mode, however, instead of maintaining the accounts on the NAS, accounts from the company’s central Windows domain controller or [PDC|Primary Domain Controller] or the [ADS|Active Directory Service] are accepted. In corporate environments, having a central server allows for reduced overall maintenance considering the number of servers on the network.
This is what the options look like when User access it selected. From here, you can click on the various protocols that you have enabled (here we chose Win and Web for Windows and Web HTTP access) and you can specify read/write access to the various shares.
Shares are the actual directories/folders that you and your users will see over the network.
The Backup and Media shares are created automatically by the ReadyNAS NV after the volume is created. You can add files using your Windows Explorer. You can add additional shares using this interface.
Since my home does not have a static IP address, there is no way for me to know what IP address my router at home is using, so I could not access my ReadyNAS NV remotely. However, the [SonicWall TZ150|http://www.sonicwall.com/products/tz150_wireless.html] that I’m testing has a capability called Dynamic DNS that connects to a website called [DynDNS|http://www.dyndns.com/] that provides web redirection for those with dynamic IP addresses. Once I had it all set up, I could connect to my ReadyNAS from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. This is what it looks like. Sweet.
The ReadyNAS supports a large number of Internet and networking protocols. If you prefer FTP access so you can copy entire directories easily, you only need to enable FTP access to your ReadyNAS.
By default, the backup button located on the front of the ReadyNAS Nv will copy all contents from the ‘Backup’ share onto any external USB storage device that is connected to the front USB port. With this functionality, you can copy data to and from local shares, network shares, attached USB devices, and remote Rsync servers. Data can also be copied from remote websites and remote FTP sites.
This is really simple stuff. All you need to do is connect your USB hard disk or flash drive to the front USB port and it will automatically be detected and will be listed in the Frontview Manager. Currently, ReadyNAS supports the following files systems: Fat32, [NTFS|NT File System] (Read Only), Ext2, and Ext3.
The ReadyNAS NV contains embedded server software used to stream videos, music, and pictures networked devices including DVD players such as Momitsu and IOData. It also supports UPnP AV Devices. Simply copy your media files to the Videos, Music, and Pictures folders in the Media share and the files are available on your player. A version of TwonkyVisions [DLNA|Digital Living Network Alliance] Certified Media Server is available for the ReadyNAS family of devices, which enables users to share music, pictures and videos with standard UPnP-enabled client devices throughout the home.
Instead of throwing a barrage of tests at the ReadyNAS, we determined to dig into its features. We geeks are more concerned about availability of data via a remote Internet connection and ability to stream various types of media rather than raw data throughput. Copying data from one drive to another or across the network is something that’s done in the background, and multitasking in today’s PC and Mac environment makes this possible without bringing your computer to its knees.
Infrant’s [IT3107|http://www.infrant.com/products_IT310x.htm] [NSP|Native Signal Processor] is a NAS-on-a-chip that Infrant claims provides approximately a 20 percent increase in performance over the previous version processor used in the ReadyNAS 600. The IT3107 is a 32-bit [RISC|Reduced Instruction Set Computer, a microprocessor CPU design philosophy] [CPU|Central Processing Unit] that includes a 4-channel [SATA|Serial ATA] controller, 64-bit [DDR|Double Data Rate]-[SRAM|Static Random Access Memory] controller, 3 [DES|Data Encryption Standard] encryption/decryption engine, DataJunction [DMA|Direct Memory Access] and Gigabit Ethernet [MAC|Machine Access Code]. It supports [RAID|Redundant Array of Independent Disks] (0/1/5/xRAID) and has a [PCI|Peripheral Connection Interface] host/[USB|Universal Serial Bus] interface
Performance on the ReadyNAS NV can be optimized via the user interface.
According to the Reviewer’s Guide sent to us by Infrant, here are the performance tuning options for ÔøΩWriteÔøΩ performance:
*Enable Disk Write Cache ÔøΩ On each hard disk drive, there is usually an 8 megabyte cache designed to enhance write performance. If there is a sudden data power loss situation, all data that exists in the cache at that moment will be lost. Since the ReadyNAS can have up to 4 hard drives, there is the chance of losing up to 32 MB of data if this option is enabled and there is a sudden power outage situation while the device is executing a write.
*Enable Fast CIFS Writes – It is more accurate to say ‘Force Fast CIFS writes’. The CIFS connection is forced to always perform in ‘writeback’ mode as opposed to ‘writethrough’ mode. If this option is not enabled, it is left up to the OS or Application to decide which mode the writes should operate in.
*Enable FAST USB Disk Writes – again, the only danger occurs if you are constantly plugging and unplugging USB drives into the USB ports. The safe way to unmount is to go into frontview→Shares→USB and select unmount. If you prefer not to unmount every time, it is recommended that you leave this option unchecked, at the cost of some USB write performance.
*Disable Full Data Journaling ÔøΩ As mentioned above, with this option, you run the risk of the RAID Write Hole, where a portion of the data is written, but the rest is not, and the parity bit is incorrectly calculated.
*Disable Journaling ÔøΩ This feature is merely for speeding up the disk and volume check procedure when the device recovers from a sudden power loss situation. It does not enhance data integrity in any way. Such a check can be quite lengthy depending on the amount of data you have stored on the device.
*Enable Jumbo Frames ÔøΩ For transferring files over 5 Megabytes in size, enabling Jumbo Frames can substantially improve performance because it essentially lowers the TCP/IP overhead by utilizing larger size packets. Again, this feature does not affect data integrity.
*Optimize for OS X ÔøΩ For Macintosh users using the latest operating system from Apple. Enabling this option will enhance transfer performance. However, please make sure you do not have any Windows NT 4.0 clients that need to access this NAS device. This feature does not affect the data integrity.
! Status, Log Files, and Backup
The integrated Backup Manager is new to Infrant’s ReadyNAS line of devices. It offers a choice of either performing backups from the client or initiating backups from the ReadyNAS. The latter is the better choice to avoid multiple network hops. The centralized management screen above makes it easy to view and initiate backup schedules and logs.
If you ever find yourself in a jam, the log files can help you determine what went wrong. I had an issue with what I thought was a drive failure and I worked with Infrant support to figure out the issue. All they asked for was a copy of my log and they got me back up and running. Other features include email alerts that can be configured to notify you about hard drive failures or other NAS issues that may arise.
Aside from a few minor issues when we first set it up—most likely due to user error—we had no trouble with the unit. We love the NV’s form factor and it’s small, sturdy design. It is certainly quieter than the ReadyNAS 600, but not so quiet that you would want it on the desk next to your monitor, especially in a quiet office. Of course, it’s so good looking, that’s exactly where you want it!
We especially like the Data Journaling feature. This feature comes in handy if the ReadyNAS NV is inadvertently powered down by a kicked cord or power outage. How long does it take it bring the NAS back online? Without journaling, it can take hours. With RAIDiator data journaling, the ReadyNAS typically takes just a few seconds longer than the normal power-up time! This mode can affect overall performance.
The most important aspect of a NAS, especially for home and small businesses, is ease of use. The ReadyNAS NV is fairly straightforward and the quick start guide out of the box provides all the information you need to get the NV running. However, we had to do some searching on the Infrant website to learn more about the FrontView browser-based user interface. A user manual in the box would have been nice. We will update this review in the near future with performance numbers and feedback regarding the media streaming capabilities. If you have any questions about the ReadyNAS NV, please feel free to drop us a line or ask us a question on the air.
Manufacturer: [InFrant Technologies| http://www.infrant.com/]
*Infrant IT3107 Network Storage Processor
*4 Serial ATA Hot Swappable and Lockable Disk Trays
*Compatible with SATA 1.0 and SATA II disks
*3 USB 2.0 Ports
*256MB PC2700 DDR-SDRAM SO-DIMM, expandable to 512MB
*Embedded 64MB Flash Memory for OS
*Compatible with Windows, Mac, UNIX, & Linux
*DHCP Server and Print Server
*Hardware RAID 0, 1, 5 or X-RAID
*Hardware X-RAID Single Volume Auto Expansion (New disk must be equal or larger in size, original disks are replaceable with larger disks one by one for unlimited volume expansion
*Multiple Volume Support for RAID 0, 1, 5
*Disk Capacity Supported: 80/120/160/200/250/300/400/500GB
*Single Volume Auto Expansion (X-RAID)
*Journal and non-Journal Mode
*User, Group, and Share-level Quotas
*!Network File Services
*CIFS/SMB for Windows
*AFP 3.1 for Mac OS 9/X
*NFS v2 / v3 for Linux and UNIX
*HTTP/S for Web Browsers
*Anonymous and User-level FTP/S
*! Media Streaming
*Network DVD Player Compatible
*! Network Security
*Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
*Share Access Control
*All Network Logins utilizing Encryption
*Selectable Share, User, and Domain/ADS modes
*Backup button for USB Drive or Preconfigured
*Integrated Backup Manager
*Backup to/from CIFS/NFS/FTP/HTTP/RSYNC
*Backup to/from USB disks
*Genie-soft Windows Backup Software Included
*DHCP or Static IP
*! System Management
*! USB Device Supported
*USB Disks and Flash
*UPS Monitoring and Auto Shutdown
*Wireless Network Adapters
*! Web Browsers Supported
*Internet Explorer 6.0+
*Netscape Navigator 7.0+
*Opera 7.0+; Safari 1.22+
*Mozilla Firefox 1.03+
*Management UI: English, Japanese, Chinese, German
*File Name: Unicode
*Server-rated AC Power Supply
*Temperature Sensitive Power Supply Fan
*Voltage: 100~240 VAC Auto-ranging
*Input Frequency: 50/60Hz
*! Power Consumption
*55 W typical (with 4 × 250GB disks)
*92 mm Ball-bearing Chassis Cooling Fan
*Fan Failure Email Alert
*Disk High Temperature Email Alert and Auto Shutdown
*! Operating Environmental
*0C – 40C
*20 – 80% Humidity (non-condensing)
*! Safety and Environment
*FCC, UL, CE, RoHS Compliance
*Kensington Lock Security Hole
*Easy Carry Handle
*Height: 7.9 in (200 mm)
*Width: 5.2 in (132 mm)
*Depth: 8.7 in (222 mm)
*Weight: 10.2 pounds (4.6 Kg) without Hard Disks
*! Optional Spare Parts
*Lockable Disk Tray, Set of four (P/N: RNV1-DTR1-4)
*92 mm Chassis Fan (P/N: RNV1-FAN1)
*AC Power Supply (P/N: RNV1-PSU1)