It has been a long while since I reviewed any high tech device on this blog, but I am so delighted with my new Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ that I had to post about it.
The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is one of the new generation of simple, easy-to-setup storage servers available for home and home office use. Although individual hard drives are getting cheaper every day (I regularly see 500GB drives for $99 on NewEgg now), storage of large media files (like video and DVDs) are outstripping even the biggest drives.
The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is a really interesting solution. For about $600 you get an shiny, empty case, about the size of two large Harry Potter hardcover books. The case has a plug for power, 3 USB ports, and a single Gigabit ethernet port. The little server has a cute little LCD, hidden behind a mirror, which displays status in plain English. The case has room for up to four SATA hard drives, although it will function with only one if needed. However, the magic really starts when you install multiple drives.
You see, the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is actually a little genius of a server. It is built to magically turn multiple hard drives into a single, large volume, with professional-class protection from data loss, and the ability to be accessed from anywhere on the network, by any Mac, PC or Unix machine. For techies out there, the device seamless handles RAID 0, 1, 5 and “RAID X” configurations. By default, the machine comes configured for RAID X. More on RAID X in a second.
The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ offers the amazing feature of data protection. If any one of the hard drives crash, you won’t lose one byte. In fact, you can just pop out the drive, insert a new one, and voila, everything is back to normal. Fantastic for anyone who has dealt with the struggles of trying to back up hundreds of gigabytes of data.
Even better, the “RAID X” virtualization software in the ReadyNAS allows you to start out with as few as two drives, and still have complete data protection. When you run out of space, you can just add a third drive, and voila, more storage!
This data protection costs you in terms of GB… one drive is utilized completely for protection. So if you have just two drives, you only get access to a single drive worth of storage. However, drives are cheap, and losing data isn’t, so these days it is worth.
I have had two major hard drive crashes in the past two years – each one was almost tragic. The first cost me about 5% of my photo library – that may not sound like much, but it meant whole event albums were lost… (sorry, Rebecca, your prom photos are gone). The second cost me about 1/3 of my music library, leading to many hours of re-ripping CDs.
Those events led me to the conclusion that it was worth spending the extra dollars on more robust storage. Now that we have multiple computers in the house, and devices like the AppleTV, it makes more sense than ever to have cheap, reliable, massive network storage.
The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ has a lot of professional-class features. The OS is on flash, and is thus protected from any drive failure. The LED gives great status, and the device has a lot of file-server configuration tools on it’s web based administration. You can even plug an addition USB drive into the device to automatically backup the ReadyNAS! The NV+ is quieter, and has improved technology for compatibility and speed with Mac OS-based machines. It supports full duplex Gigabit ethernet with large frames, making it as fast as possible for network storage.
I configured my device with 2 750GB Seagate 7200.10 drives, each with 16MB cache. Over my Gigabit network (I’m using a NetGear 8-port 1000/100/10 Switch), I am seeing speeds of about 500MB per minute, but the ReadyNAS hasn’t finished synching yet, so I expect speeds may improve a bit. At this speed, I can do an incremental 1-4GB backup easily in minutes.
The machine is relatively silent, louder than a Tivo though, quieter than a PC. It’s small, and I’ve actually installed it not next to my computer like a hard drive, but on a shelf near my ethernet switch.
When I mount the drive, I see the shares on my PowerMac G5 just like any other server, with 666GB of storage available. (Yes, weird how the 750GB drives come out that way… just an artifact of the fact that hard drive manufacturers continue to label their hard drive sizes incorrectly, pretending that 1 Kilobyte is 1000 bytes instead of 1024.) I paid a lot more for the 750GB drives – about $200 each vs. $100 for the 500GB versions. Still, this gives me room for an additional 1.5 TB of storage over time, and I really think I’m going to need the space. At this point, my backup needs about 300GB, and I have 60GB of photos, 100GB of iTunes music & video, and 400GB of ripped DVDs… and that’s just right now!
Anyway, I love the device, despite the cost. There are cheaper boxes out there, but this server lets me start with the storage I need, and painlessly expand over time. I also considered the Drobo, which is about $200 cheaper, and connects via USB 2.0. The Drobo has an even better trick with storage – it will let you use drives of different sizes! Use 2 500GB drives today, and add 2 1TB drives in a year when those are available. Still, in the end, I wasn’t comfortable with a drive that had to depend on a computer to be used by other machines – I like betting on the future of Gigabit ethernet more than on USB 2.0.
You could always buy a cheap PC, get a RAID 5 card, and try to build this yourself… but when I priced it out, it was hard for me to save much money, and the time & quality of the end result was just not compelling. I was able to install the 2 drives and set up the ReadyNAS in less than 45 minutes. It would have been faster, but I of course insist on tweaking the security and network settings.
Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about the ReadyNAS NV+. It took a bit of work and confidence to get the drives to slide in properly, but it really is a great product.