Part of Netgear’s recently revamped family of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices, the ReadyNAS 314 is every inch a business product aimed at small companies looking for reliable network storage plus support for iSCSI SAN connectivity in the one box. Added to which it comes with the latest ReadyNAS OS, delivering support for thin provisioning and unlimited snapshot capabilities plus a new management interface, innovative cloud-based remote access and a whole lot more.
A Whole New Box
The first thing you notice about the ReadyNAS 314 is how compact it is for a four-disk NAS box. Typically, sold diskless at around £380 (ex. VAT), it’s also very well-constructed and surprisingly weighty, especially when disks are added using the new tool-less carriers. These simply slide into position behind a shiny plastic front door, making for easy and quick setup, although the lack of locks could be an issue for some buyers as could the switch from an internal power supply to external AC adapter on this model.
Up to four SATA disks can be accommodated inside the ReadyNAS chassis. These can be either 3.5- or 2.5-inch (the smaller disks need to be screwed into the carrier), with a list of officially supported disks to be found here.
Each disk can be up to 4TB, giving a total unformatted capacity of 16TB with the possibility of adding yet more by plugging in one or two expansion units (Netgear EDA500, £412 ex. VAT) – pushing total capacity to an impressive 56TB altogether. Disks can also be hot-swapped and protected by an extensive set of RAID options including Netgear’s own XRAID2 technology (applied by default) to allow for online volume expansion without having to power down.
You also get thin-provisioning on the latest ReadyNAS, whereby disk space is allocated up front but not physically used until required. Bear in mind however that, unless otherwise specified, both the ReadyNAS and expansion units come diskless, leaving you to choose and factor in the cost of the storage required. Plus with a RAID setup a lot of disk space is reserved for redundancy, reducing overall storage capacity.
As part of the recent refresh the motherboard inside the ReadyNAS 314 has been upgraded with a new 2.1GHz dual-core Atom processor supported by 2GB of DDR3 memory. Connectivity also gets a makeover with, on the back panel, two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.0 connectors plus an e-SATA port which can be used to attach external storage, either standalone or inside an EDA500 expansion unit.
An unusual combination eSata/USB 2.0 port is also to be found at the front and the USB ports used for printer sharing as well as for external backup. There’s also an HDMI port for direct streaming of video.
On the software side the latest ReadyNAS OS 6 comes pre-loaded on the Netgear hardware, booting from flash memory rather than being installed on disk as on most other NAS boxes. Moreover, as of this release the EXT4 file system used by most NAS vendors is replaced by BTRFS one of the key features of which is the ability to take unlimited snapshots for backup and recovery purposes.
This we found very easy and quick to use, enabling us to take point in time snapshots of both NAS folders and iSCSI LUNs with no real impact on performance. Backup and replication tools are also included along with built-in anti-virus scanning and encryption facilities to further protect data on the ReadyNAS box.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Apps
Another big change is the use of the cloud to find and configure the ReadyNAS. Instead of a local setup tool we simply logged onto a new ReadyCLOUD portal to discover and find the ReadyNAS on our local network. A link to the revamped Web-based management console is also available from here, the new interface delivering a much more modern and responsive experience compared to the previous management tool.
You don’t have to register with the ReadyCLOUD portal to setup the appliance but there’s a lot to be gained if you do, including easy access to remote VPN connectivity and ReadyDROP, a kind of private Dropbox service to synchronise data between clients and the ReadyNAS server. Synchronisation of data on the ReadyNAS to a Dropbox account is also supported added to which you can download and install a variety of other apps for use on the ReadyNAS server.
As with any NAS appliance, choice of disk and RAID configuration can have a big impact on performance as can the way the box is attached to the network. For our tests Netgear provided a set of four 1TB Toshiba Enterprise-class disks which were configured as a RAID 5 array. We then attached the ReadyNAS to our test network using just one of its two Gigabit ports and ran a variety of tests to measure throughput.
Using FastCopy to transfer a mix of small files and large ISO images to and from a server equipped with SSD storage, for example, we managed 90-95MB/sec in both directions. We then used IOmeter to stress test the Netgear NAS, getting similar results when using a NAS share and slightly better throughput (100MB/sec) when testing to an iSCSI LUN. A good set of results for a NAS appliance of this size, and a level of performance which could be further enhanced by careful use of the second Gigabit port on a larger network.
As well as delivering a noticeable and welcome step up in performance, we found the ReadyNAS 314 relatively easy to setup and manage although we were, at times, a little overwhelmed by the breadth of tools and options available. As a pure small business file server, however, it proved very quick to configure with a default set of file shares ready and good to go within just a few minutes of unboxing. And that leaves plenty of time to investigate the other, more advanced, options later and, hopefully, take full advantage of what the ReadyNAS 314 has to offer