Saturday, March 24, 2007

Infrant ReadyNAS NV Network Attached Storage

After trying to use a few different low end NAS devices on my home network, I had mostly given up on the category as interesting but immature, and not reliable enough for archival backups.

Most, if not all, the different boxes run a variant of the same Linux-based application to provide Windows file services. The problem is that cobbling together open-source code to produce something that is seamless and mature takes work and care. That just wasn't the case, with unexplained crashes, occasional hangs, and at one point, corruption of the data.

None of that is acceptable when the device is supposed to be the backup of last resort.

A NAS is basically a bunch of disks attached to one's network instead of directly to a computer. This means that it can be seen and used by all computers on the network. The penalty comes with performance, where the speed of the network limits the rate at which data can be written and read from the NAS.

With the growing number of digital images, music files, and videos being stored on computers, along with the usual data generated by word processing, spreadsheet, email, and finance programs, there is a pressing need for keeping a backup that sits outside the primary machine.

A NAS fits the bill perfectly, unlike tape or optical storage, as it is quick to access, and comes in capacities that are at least as large as the primary. Using various flavours of RAID to protect the data, the NAS can also tolerate the failure of a single disk without losing any data.

Which leads me to Infrant. I had never heard of the company until Slim Devices, the company that sells the Squeezebox music streaming device offered a bundle deal with an Infrant NAS and 3 Sqeezeboxes.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV is a toaster-sized device that contains four 3.5 inch hard disks. As shipped with the Slim Devices bundle, the Infrant was equipped with 1TB of disk, (4*250Gb), yielding approximately 660Gb of usable space.

Doing some research on the 'net, I found that Infrant routinely wins Editor's Choice awards.

The setup of the ReadyNAS NV demonstrated why. All that is required is to plug in the power, and plug in an Ethernet cable. A supplied software utility is run on any PC attached to the same network which "discovers" the IP address of the unit, and launches a setup wizard. There are a huge number of things that can be set and tweaked, but even a novice user should have no trouble completing the setup.

If an email address is provided, the ReadyNAS NV even sends an email every time there is a change in status or if there is a problem.

After the initial setup, all the settings are accessible at any time by using a web browser to access the Infrant's built in web server. The screens are clear and easy to understand.

The whole thing is slick, smooth, and a pleasure to work with.

My unit has now been running for more than 6 months without any problems. It has essentially become invisible, just doing what it was designed for, and providing me with secure, reliable storage.

Highly recommended.

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