Why virtualise your NAS environment?
Netgear ReadyNAS RN10400 NAS device
Netgear's RN10400 network storage device offers solid construction and an equally solid user interface
- Strong build quality
- Useful Cloud access and mobile app
- Improved interface
- Not a great performer, but more than adequate for home use
- Plastic brackets that hold the drives in place could be better designed
Netgear's ReadyNAS RN10400 won't win any races, but it's a more than capable NAS for any home that has lots of data serving and backup needs. Its interface is clean and quite easy to navigate, and its Cloud features worked well for us. The X-RAID technology that Netgear uses also makes drive installation and redundancy a more or less automatic task.
Price$ 469.00 (AUD)
Netgear’s ReadyNAS 104 (RN10400) storage device can be used not just for backing up data on your home or small business networks, it can also be used to stream media across your local network to TVs, consoles, tablets and smartphones, as well as provide access to all of your data remotely over the Internet. Importantly, it’s quite easy to set up and use.
Ease of use
The ReadyNAS 104 is primarily designed for home use, and it can be put to work as a repository for media files, a location for backups, and also to directly download files using torrent trackers. Taking a cue from other modern NAS devices, such as those from Asustor, Qnap, and Synology, the ReadyNAS 104 has a more icon-based interface than before, though it stops short of offering a full-blown, desktop-like environment.
It has a clean Web interface that features the main sections of the NAS at the top in text labels, and when these are clicked they spawn graphical elements that make the interface look a little more inviting. Folders, users, and user groups can be easily created, and files stored on the NAS can be easily viewed within the Web interface in a tree structure. Individual files can be downloaded to a computer or mobile device through the Web interface, but the function to download entire folders is not present (it is when browsing through the Cloud).
When browsing your local network through PCs and laptops, you can simply see the NAS’ folders and drag and drop files to and from the NAS, and its file transfer speed will be about 35 megabytes per second as long as you are using a Gigabit router and your computers are also attached to the router via Gigabit. It’s not as powerful a NAS as others that we have seen recently, sporting a 1.2GHz Marvell Armada 370 CPU and only 512MB of RAM, but it’s nevertheless decent for getting files on and off the NAS, and it also facilitates the use of plug-ins such as Plex Media Server so that video, music and picture content from the NAS can be easily viewed on any device that has a Web browser. We had no problems streaming two Full HD streams simultaneously to two computers over an 802.11n (2.4GHz) network.
Apps and Cloud access
Plex Media Server is one from a range of different apps that can be installed on the NAS device, much in the same way that apps can be installed on Asustor and Synology devices. In addition to the Plex Media Server plug-in, which we find very useful because apart from anything else it means media content can be accessed easily on Chromebooks, you can elect to install BitTorrent clients, a virus scanner, Drupal, Wordpress, PHP, MySQL, IP camera surveillance, and a lot more. The only inconvenience is that you can’t actively search for apps or see ‘top’ lists.
Cloud access is one of the major features of the ReadyNAS 104, and it’s a feature that can be set up and used with relative ease. Once you head over to the Cloud portion of the Web interface, simply enable the ReadyCLOUD feature. You will have to create an account with ReadyCLOUD so that it can track the location of your NAS device without you lifting a finger or forwarding a port in your router. Furthermore, you need to register the NAS with ReadyCLOUD, and this requires a physical long-press of the ‘Backup’ button on the NAS device. This will put the NAS into discovery mode so that the ReadyCLOUD service can find it.
Once you have set it up, the ReadyNAS 104 will be accessible over the Web from any computer simply by logging in to the ReadyCLOUD Web site using the account that you created. In addition, you can download and install an app on your computer that will allow you to access the NAS over the Web as if it were another folder on your desktop. There is a ReadyDROP feature available, too, which allows you to synchronise files and folders between your computer and the NAS.
To access the contents of your NAS on a mobile device, look for the ReadyCLOUD app in your app store. This will allow you to stream videos or listen to music directly off the NAS to your mobile device (as long as you have an appropriate player installed for the file type), but be aware that if you do this using your data connection over the Internet, the performance can be very slow (depending on the Internet connection at home), and you will use up a lot of data. It’s best for accessing files on your local network over Wi-Fi.
Backups can be made to other NAS devices on a network using rsync, or they can be saved to attached USB drives or an eSATA drive. This can all be set up within the ReadyNAS 104’s Backup tab, and it’s simply a matter of selecting the folder that you want to backup, the location where you want to store the backup, and the schedule of the backup.
Drive bays and RAID setup
Physically, the ReadyNAS 104 offers four storage bays that can accommodate 2.5in or 3.5in hard drives, and it supports a total capacity of up to 16TB via 4TB drives (without redundancy). The unit ships without disks (you have to buy them yourself), but our review unit arrived with two 3.5in hard drives already installed, each with a 2TB capacity, giving a usable formatted capacity of 1.8TB for data storage in a RAID 1 array.
If we wanted to install two more 3.5in drives, we would simply manipulate the plastic bracket from the metal drive tray, attach it to the hard drive (it has plastic protrusions that fit into a drive's mounting screw holes), and then slide it into the tray until it locked in place. For 2.5in drives, you have to screw them in place instead. The plastic bracket is held to the metal tray using a spring mechanism, similar to the mechanism that is used to release the metal drive tray from the NAS enclosure. In fact, they are released by the same mechanism. This means that there is a danger of releasing the plastic bracket from the metal tray when attempting to remove a drive; it happened to us during our tests, leaving the drive stuck in the NAS.
Since the NAS uses Netgear's X-RAID feature, which is essentially an automatic RAID building technology, you can start off with one drive, then add a second drive for redundancy. The NAS will build a RAID 1 array automatically. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to add a drive that is at least the same size as the first drive.
When you add a third and fourth drive, the capacity will increased, but your data will still be protected. X-RAID also allows you to add drives of higher capacities to increase the overall capacity of the NAS, as long as you install each larger drive one at a time to allow the array to be re-built. In our tests, we degraded the RAID array (that is, we removed one of the two drives) and then replaced it with another of the same capacity. It took about 10min for the array to be re-built.
The overall build of the unit feels sturdy, and this is a bright spot compared to some of the other consumer network storage units we’ve seen recently. Connections are via two Gigabit Ethernet connections, which can be used for redundancy or load balancing. There are three USB ports (two of them are 3.0), one power port (the power adapter actually has a plug that can't simply be pulled out of the port), and a hard-to-see, two-line LCD for displaying system messages.
We found the ReadyNAS RN104 to be a decent unit overall, not only for local storage and streaming activities (it also supports DLNA), but also for Cloud access. The ReadyCLOUD service worked a treat for us during our tests, and it wasn’t a pain to set up. Our only qualm is that sometimes it seemed to be a bit slow in detecting our drive. We like the inclusion of apps, which can add functionality to the NAS, but a way to search or sort the apps is needed, especially if a lot more are added to the store in the future.
• The 4-bay ReadyNAS RN10400 that we have reviewed here costs $469 without disks.
• A 2-bay version (ReadyNAS RN102) is also available, and it costs $279 without disks.
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