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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

Update from an older blog entry: (7/20/11)

I still have the Readynas Pro Business mentioned in the article below.  It works well at the moment.  I did want to point out some additional information/points.

There is a 5 year warranty.  It was only a little more money to get the extra hardware warranty they offer to allow for faster service/replacement swaps, etc.  That turned out to be a good deal as when I had an issue they swapped my entire unit out, and they also replaced one of my drives that failed.
If you need software support on using the device, that can get expensive, prices for a 1 year support plan ran around $300 if I recall.  Luckily if you search for the SKU you might find it a lot cheaper somewhere.  I did and picked up the warranty for a fraction of that amount.  Having the software support made working with Netgear support much easier to deal with and helpful.

The issue that started happening with my readynas was it kept dropping off the network, nothing I could change or do seemed to keep it working.  I noticed if I factory defaulted the drives the problem went away... so the only option was to backup ALL my data (luckily still fit on a 2TB USB drive), and factory default the Readynas unit with 6 drives in it and reload the data.  That solved the problem.  I think perhaps trying to install a third party add-on at one point perhaps caused issues, I don't know if that is the case or not just speculation.

With all of that corrected it is running ok.  I do seem to notice that drives seem to fail in it more often than I would expect. I've had probably two drives fail in the last 6 months or so and another drive seems about to fail.  I don't know if that is the drives, the unit is sensitive or some other factors are involved.  The drives should be under warranty if I can find the time to get warranty replaced.  Often I just upgrade to the next size up to increase my storage.

Another note is the power saving spindown option never seems to work well for me and often seemed to take the unit offline and requiring a restart of the unit to get things working again, I haven't tried with the latest firmware as I gave up on this feature a while back.
On the good side I haven't lost any data with this NAS running in X-raid dual redundancy mode even with drives failing once.  I wish that the xraid was a little more flexible like the Drobo units raid, but all in all the xraid seems to be doing a fine job.


Older Blog entry below:

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

May 21, 2009
I’m going to offer this from the point of view of just a power user looking for a good NAS to provide redundancy for data/backup. I did review a lot of sites drive reviews. I only looked at data I could find on web sites and did not have drives to test myself. The reality is often times most of us looking to buy something have to decide based on limited/imperfect data.

When I went looking for a NAS drive, what was important to me was keeping my data safe, backing it up as quickly as possible, providing enough storage for the future, easy upgrading of storage, raid 6 (or mirror striped 10 support for speed and redundancy.), Good support and available recovery services in case any issues ever arose.

Other NAS drives I considered:
Thecus N5200Pro
Thecus N7700
Synology DS-508
Buffalo NAS drives (varied Terastation, etc.)

Handling dual drive failures:
Since the 4 drive units didn’t generally support striped mirror (except buffalo units) or raid 6 I decided to focus more on the 5+ drive NAS drives. This allowed for handling two drive failures while still being able to handle easily 3-4TB of space with today’s drives.
If you don’t support two drive failure cases if one fails your data is unprotected until you swap the drive (other than backups).

I wanted to focus on devices using Sata II or later for speed. This dropped the dated ReadyNAS NV+ out (though was dropped earlier for space and redundancy reasons).

iScsi (optional but nice):
While not essential this is a nice option if you want to add drive space to a computer and have it look like and actual drive, while having the data be stored safely on the NAS. Windows Vista can support iScsi right out of the box connection to a partitioned drive on your NAS as an iScsi target as if it was an actual drive, often times could be better performance than a pure NAS.

Snapshots (optional but nice):
A very nice feature to freeze a snapshot of a view of your drive to allow you to backup files that might otherwise be in use. (Ideally enterprise NAS can have many snapshots at different points in time).
Snapshots are often implemented as a block level differences between the snapshot and the current drive state. This means space needs to be allocated to hold enough disk differences between the time you take the snapshot and the time you can release/delete the snapshot.

The ability to add hard drives or swap out a smaller drive for a larger drive

In the event of a raid failure which company offered at least seemingly available and reputable data recovery services such that they should be familiar with their raid nas storage to facilitate recovery.

No extra software required on client machines.
Cost – (Of course)
Cloud storage (optional but nice).
Recycle Bin

ProductReadyNAS Pro (6 bay) RNDP6350 – 1.5TBThecus N5200 PRO (5 bay)Thecus N7700 (7 bay)Synology DS-508 (5 bay)Terastation III (4 bay) – 6TBQNAP TS-639
Raid6/10Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 01Raid 6
iScsiYesYesYesNo (one model does though)
SnapshotsYes (1)YesYesYes?No
Recovery serviceYesNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on site?
Cloud storageVaultNoNo???
Recycle binYesNOYesYes
U.S. SupportYes?????
Community supportYesYesYes???
Multimedia supportYesYesYesYesLimited?
Warranty5 years1 year?1 year?3 year
Street Cost$1530$585$906$1025$1923$1100

The cost of the N5200Pro definitely made it worth considering. From all accounts it appears to be a formidable nas drive. The lack of recycle bin support was nagging at me for this one, along with some complaints about support, not being U.S. based or publishing their recovery service, along with short warranty made me decide against. The same thing could be said of the Thecus N7700 the allure of a 7 drive NAS, recycle bin support made me seriously consider this along with the virtual cd/dvd option on Thecus. If my criteria had been just a fast network storage location with great features for the money the Thecus units probably would have been my pick. If recovery at all costs were not a main theme on my mind I might have went for the Thecus line for cost and features.

ReadyNAS Pro:
At first you would think why go with the readynas given the price. Many of the other units have their price with no drives and if you added 1.5TB would probably add around $210 or so to the cost. Plus the readynas units come with a 5 year warranty that could easily run another $150+. Still some of the units seem a better deal price wise. Then factor in xraid2, cloud storage capability, U.S. based support and recovery services available, at least for me kicked this one over the edge.

Only one snapshot allowed.
Vault service - no real private key support, and allows online configuration to pull anything off your drive rather than limiting the shares.
FlexRaid modes do not support any volume expansion.

Generally great recommendations and reviews online
Vault service – cloud storage available
Xraid2 – flexible volume expansion
Recovery service available
6 drives
U.S headquarters
One on the highest performance NAS drives
Good web interface
Good community support
Nice add-ons available

After purchasing and using found out:
Vault service:
Vault service seems to insecure for me as if someone hacked your password they could backup and view anything on your readynas (I leave the service disabled).

Power saving:
The ReadyNAS Pro Can’t run power down mode if you do not have a UPS and want drive safety, as journaling is required to be disabled in power down mode.

If you don’t use the same user name and password as your workgroup you will likely have login issues.
  1. Rather than selecting from a list of users configured it has you type in the name of the user free text.
Also you don’t set the read/write permissions for each user or group you instead add the user or group freetext to an a field.

I discovered the costly way that older UPS’s (non-USB) don’t work with the readynas. Once I got an APC ups on their approved list it was just plug and play.

Shares/Configuring security:
Creating basic shares seemed easy enough, configuring the entitlements for read/write was a little non-obvious having to click on the CIFS icon on the share screen.

Frontview (web) backup:
The frontview (web) backup option to backup up many sources including remote shared drives is a nice feature. Backups using the frontview sometimes seem to slow down to the point of they might as well be stopped. Luckily restarting them usual it picks up speed quickly. The performance of writing to usb drives is fairly bad unless you enable the usb write caching option on the interface. Once that is enabled, the data rate seems reasonable at something like 1GB copied between 30-60 seconds or so. Cancelling backups are either taking a very long time or don’t work. I also had wished the backup logs could be viewed while the job was running (maybe it can and just doesn’t update anything till complete… I never saw any data till complete). I set up my backup to copy my entire volume all shares to my external usb drives on different days each week into different directories. I don’t have enough storage for daily backups to external, so I use once a day snapshots to help at least keep the previous 24 hours available on top of the 4 times a week backup I have to the usb drives.

iScsi Target:
The iScsi target worked fine, easily allocating space and connecting to it from a windows vista machine. Expanding the storage space for the iScsi drive also worked well.

Redundancy/raid recovery:
Note that xraid2 with dual redundancy (basically raid 6) needs the 4.2.5 firmware or later and requires a minimum of 4 drives for the option to display. Also not that you lose the expandability normally associated with xraid2 unless all drives are upgraded. (also requires rebooting and setting up the array).
I tested switching to xraid2 dual redundancy and adding a 4th drive to make it redundant.
I also tested removing a drive and adding it back.

Email notifications:
Allows entering an smtp server to send email. These are nice but they notify on normal conditions for many items rather than just on errors.

The plethora of features like dual NIC in failover or bonding mode for the ReadyNAS Pro wasn’t something that I had been looking for but was a pleasant surprise.

When running with 4 drives installed noise is about the same as a PC’s fan. When first starting up the fans sound like they are cranked to their highest rpm and are quite a bit noisier. I have the unit in a closet I keep open about 7 ft away I can barely hear a faint hum over my pc’s noise.

The online community is pretty responsive and they seem to have ReadyNAS experts from netgear frequent the site often with answers to a lot of questions. Also helping users with purchase/product issues.

Add Ons:
There are a bunch of add-ons including things like wordpress blogs could be run on the readynas, some monitoring add-ons (performance), etc.

I did find out a number of items after the fact like the lack of easy expandability in xraid2 dual redundancy mode. , Vault service not very secure, decided not to run in power saving drive spin down mode since journaling is disabled. It has been running well with automatic backups going to two external USB drives I have. One is an old 500GB western digital I just threw in a case. Another a USB Seagate free agent 1.5TB I connected to the front port as my rear port has the other drive and an APC UPS. I did find out after the fact only one snapshot is supported and I find myself wishing it supported multiple snapshots.
  1. I find I wish it allowed a separate password than using the logged in account and wish it ran as a pure service rather than just under the account the user logged in with.

Firmware upgrades were painless and easy done right from the frontview web interface.
Even with all of these things finding out after the purchase, I still find I’m pretty happy with the NAS. Other than the price of the NAS I would definitely recommend this drive to others. Knowing ReadyNAS Pro has a 5 year warranty, expandability, recovery service and a great community board at www.readynas.com, this is an easy one to recommend to a friend that had enough of a budget to cover this. Be careful the cheaper versions of the readyNAS pro the pioneer edition are reported to be lacking a bunch of features like snapshots and line bonding, etc (I don’t know all of the missing features from that model).

Update September 2015 After several years of great use it seems to have developed a power problem where it will either continuously restart if turned off using the power button on front, or if shut off with the back power button it may take a while before it will start up if turned back on again.

Old version is hard to find, but newer revision of original shown here:

Click to find on Amazon

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