Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson


Last week I bought a Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4+. Network attached storage (NAS) is just another name for "file server" but doesn't make you sound like an IT geek. NAS servers are just little linux computers made to look like overgrown wireless routers, and they have slots for installing hard drives. Buy a NAS, buy some hard drives, connect together and to your network, and your laptops suddenly have terabytes of storage whenever they're at home.

I've had need for more storage since I bought my new laptop -- it has a super fancy SSD drive but only(!) 120GB of storage. When setting up my laptop I learned I had more than 40GB of photos -- and buying a DSLR last month is only going to accelerate my storage needs. I figure I didn't need the storage on the computer directly, just when I was at home. I also wanted a solution for creating backups -- hard drives fail and I don't want to lose any data. A RAID sounded like the right thing, and NAS fills that need.

I bought the ReadyNAS Ultra 4+ out of chance -- a friend had an unused one that I bought at a discount. I bought four 2TB Seagate drives to max out the storage (for present-year technology at any rate) and with redundancy it offers a little over 5TB storage.

Setting it up was pretty easy. Mount the drives in the trays in the unit; the NAS comes with screws for the trays. Plug in and run the setup wizard. I renamed the NAS because the default name (nas-4-B-5 or something like that) isn't memorable and I want an easy Windows server name. I set up accounts for me and Melinda; I had to require a password for all users, else Windows would give me a "disallowed user" message. No docs said this, I just pieced it together. Also, no need to create a share for each user; per-user home directories are created automatically. If you want a guest-accessible share for a user, though, you'll need to create it (eg, "corinshare").

I also want backups to run automatically. The NAS came with Memeo Premium Backup which I'm trying out now. Reviews aren't good for it but it's free so I'm trying. The product tries to upsell me to other products and their online service, none of which I'm interested in (why would I want to backup 1GB of data to their online service when I've just bought 8TB of local storage? If I had only 1GB of data I wouldn't have bought a NAS, would I?). It's the same backup software I had for my desktop computer using the external USB drive, I think. It's not filled me with confidence yet, let's see how it works. For example, I set up a backup plan for "c:\corin sans corin\photos" because photos is the 40+GB folder that I'm moving entirely to the NAS; it doesn't need to be backed up. The backup software calculated that plan would be 50GB+ -- ignoring the exclusion. I'm not sure, then, if the plan actually is excluding that folder or if only the size estimation code is bad. I'll find out come morning when the backup completes, I guess. But also, the backup format looks like it's just rsyncing files to the backup directory; if so, that's pretty great, because recovering files even without the backup software will be easy.

The NAS is now also my printer server, which is slick. So, anyone visiting my apartment can print to my deskjet, and, importantly, I can print from across the room. The NAS can also serve shares (eg, my photos) on a web server, which I'll set up next in a way that'll let me access it on the Web. I rather like the notion of not needing to upload all my photos to Flickr just to share a vacation.

The device is pretty quiet, even with its fans running. I can't hear it over Melinda's laptop's fan, for instance, although if other computers in the room are off the NAS is noticeable. I'll bet I could put it in a cozy where it would still ventilate and be quieter. I'll work on that in the future.
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