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Tom's Holiday Buyer's Guide 2008, Part 1

Netgear ReadyNAS Duo 500
By: Ed Tittel

As more households begin to deploy their own in-home networks to serve multiple PCs, more home users discover the allure of networked storage to accommodate burgeoning media collections, backups, and shared files. Although the term "home network-attached storage (NAS)" may sound like an oxymoron, it represents a viable and growing market niche for networking appliance vendors to pursue. In case you haven’t already guessed, the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo is an excellent case in point. Whereas heavier-duty NAS devices usually include four or more drive bays to accommodate lots of storage, the ReadyNAS Duo includes two bays in a compact and attractive package.

The ReadyNAS Duo is not without its benefits, either. The device supports hot-swapping of drives and its front-mounted swing-open door makes it trivial to get at its easy-swap drive mounts. Slide drives in or out of SATA connectors at the rear of each bay to enable careful but unsophisticated users to switch out drives at will. There is also a Backup button on the front of this unit that fires off a one-step backup of its drive(s) on demand. It also includes three USB 2.0 ports (two on the back, one in front) to which external drives, flash drives, printers, or a wireless adapter may be attached. The ReadyNAS Duo is architected so that a second drive (if installed) automatically mirrors the first drive (this is a RAID 1 configuration) to maintain duplicate copies of everything and to take over automatically if the primary drive should fail.

As shipped, the unit includes a single 500 GB drive (which can be mirrored by any second drive of equal size or greater). With 500 GB SATA drives going for under $85 these days, you may simply want to slap another one into the second drive bay to mirror your storage at a modest price. Those who need more storage can opt for 750 GB or 1 TB models of the ReadyNAS Duo at higher prices.

The ReadyNAS Duo supports a broad range of network clients, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. Setting up the device requires designating one such machine to run its management console (RAIDar software) which uses a Web-based interface for set-up, configuration, updates, and maintenance. A Wizard will walk you through the setup process where you’ll handle IP addressing, configure shares, assign users and groups, and select file system types for shares (SMB for most clients, AFP for Macs, NFS for Linux/UNIX, HTTP/S, FTP, and so forth). Client backup works with either Netgear’s own NTI Shadow utility, Windows built-in NTbackup facility, or other third-party packages. That said, if you want to make an image-based backup of a network drive, you’ll need a third-party utility (a capability not included as part of the ReadyNAS Duo’s built-in backup).

The Home NAS angle for the ReadyNAS Duo really comes to the fore when used for media-serving capabilities. It offers support for a photo sharing Website and includes an iTunes server and a media server that works with Windows Media Center, Logitech Squeezebox, Sonos Digital Music Center, the Xbox 360, the Sony PlayStation3, and any UPnP AV-capable networked media-handling device (like Netgear’s own EVA8000 media server). Its GbE interface delivers files and media content quickly and effectively (those seeking to kick up its performance might want to replace its paltry 256 MB PC2700 SODIMM for a 1 GB modules for $25 or so).

Lots of multi-computer households are bound to find the ReadyNAS Duo an attractive proposition. If Santa comes bearing one of these babies in his bag-o-gifts, big grins should break out all around.