Now that the home entertainment market has moved towards streaming video services and Blu-ray content, there has never been a better time to convert DVD collections to digital.
Netgear Australia ReadyNAS NV+ RND4000
- Easy to use, very small footprint, X-RAID is set up transparently
- Interface still has a couple of features that aren't intuitive, the hard drives are too easy to access
Up to four hard drives can be installed in this NAS enclosure, which is easy to use and quite powerful. It's suitable for a small office environment, but home office users will get good value out of it, too.
Price$ 1,699.00 (AUD)
ReadyNAS is a comprehensive storage appliance that's suitable for serious home users and small businesses. It has an easy to use interface, with a very helpful wizard to get you started, and it can be populated with up to four Serial ATA hard drives of any size.
You don't get any drives with the RND4000 – you'll have to buy and add those separately – but what you do get is a reasonably solid housing for those drives and a management interface with plenty of features. It connects to a network switch or all-in-one broadband router using Ethernet, and it supports speeds up to 1Gb (gigabit). It's a relatively small unit, considering it can house four SATA hard drives, but it does have an 8cm fan at its rear to keep them cool, and its management utility will keep you apprised of each drive's temperature and alert you if it reaches a dangerous level.
The configuration interface takes you through the process of adding users and managing user accounts, and it also lets you enable the many services that the drive offers. These are services for streaming media files mainly, so if you have a Logitech Squeezebox, you can set-up the drive to be a SlimServer, and if you use iTunes on multiple machines, you can also set it up to be an iTunes Streaming Server (simply look for it in iTunes' 'Shared' section). UPnP for audio/visual files is also supported, so it can be used to serve data to a Netgear Digital Entertainer unit, for example.
Apart from sharing data, the ReadyNAS can be used to share a printer – you can plug the printer into one of the available USB ports on the rear of the unit. These rear USB ports can also be used to share more USB-based hard drives, while a USB port on the front of the unit lets you easily copy data from it and onto the ReadyNAS – just plug it in and hit the 'backup' button to copy all the content of your USB stick to the ReadyNAS.
ReadyNAS is setup by default to provide redundancy, using the X-RAID architecture, which stripes and mirrors data automatically; in fact, the RAID array in the ReadyNAS is very much transparent to the user, although you can delve deeper into the settings and implement RAID 0, 1 and 5 architectures, too. You can use only one disk in the enclosure if you want, but as you add more drives, the volume of the array will be automatically managed.
If a disk in the array goes bad, you can easily replace it without even powering down the unit, and the appliance will resynchronise the data in the array. It can take many hours for a volume to be resynchronised, but you'll still be able to use the ReadyNAS in the meantime, albeit while its performance is slightly degraded. Migrating to larger capacity disks can also be done relatively easily by replacing the old drives one at a time.
Indeed, there's a lot to this network attached storage device and Netgear has done a good job in making it easy to understand and setup through its Windows discovery application and the drive's own management software. The unit could use a lock so as to keep anyone from accessing the drives, and the management interface does have a couple of aspects to it that aren't intuitive (such as setting up backups for data on the NAS), but overall it will capably, and safely, store and serve data either in a home or small office environment.
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