The VAR Guy Review: Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4
Way back in April 2011, Netgear loaned me a Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4 to review. Fast forward to the present, and I can easily recommend the ReadyNAS Pro 4 as a solid investment for VARs within the SMB and professional consumer (pro-sumer) market. Here’s a closer look at my findings.
Netgear sent me the ReadyNAS Pro 4 fully populated with 4TB of space, which came out to roughly 3TB of space after the NAS accounted for space needed in case of a drive failure. The unit is small, but extremely heavy and dense. It’s also very loud. Do not leave this in an employee workspace or where silence is needed. The noise issue aside, setting up the unit was easy. I plugged it in to my router and plugged it into the wall outlet. Turned on, booted up, and the LCD screen on the front of the until told me its IP address. Brilliant and simple. Thank you, Netgear.
After a quick setup wizard through a web portal, I had the NAS up and running on my home network and inter-device connections were a breeze. The ReadyNAS supports numerous protocols including SMB, CIFS, AFS, and FTP. Basically, if you have a connected device, ReadyNAS can talk to it. There wasn’t a single device in my house that didn’t automatically recognize a compatible protocol and connect to the NAS. My original hacked Apple TV, my Boxee Box, Windows, Linux and Mac PCs, all connected with ease. The NAS even streamed HD video directly to my Boxee Box without incident.
Outside of all the under-the-hood backup features, the ReadyNAS Pro 4 acted like a floating chunk of storage. Moving files around between devices was replaced with moving files to the NAS, because said files would then be accessible to all devices, not just one. I’m unsure if my wireless network connections were less than optimal, but wireless network transfers (of files larger than say, 500 MBs) were a tad slow. Switching over to the hard-line, however, clocked decent speeds.
What makes the ReadyNAS Pro 4 really special is the plethora of add-ons you can install. Case in point: Egnyte, which is designed to be a mix between a multi-user-controlled Dropbox and NAS syncing. Simply install the Egnyte plug-in and you can turn the ReadyNAS into a cloud server. A user sends their data to Egnyte’s cloud, and Egnyte then pushes the file back down to sync with the ReadyNAS. It’s an extra step, but you get double the protection, since Egnyte keeps your data in the cloud, and your NAS. (Sad to note, it’s only free for 15 days, but prices are reasonable.)
But wait, doesn’t Netgear have ReadyNAS Remote? Yes, except as a mobile Mac user, there’s a big problem. Right now ReadyNAS Remote isn’t working for 64-bit kernels, which exist in both Snow Leopard and Lion. Netgear support forums say that Netgear is working on remedying the issue, but since Snow Leopard has been out since 2009, I’m a bit disappointed this wasn’t fixed earlier.
The good news is that there are plenty of extra tweaks to make your ReadyNAS into whatever kind of storage solution you want, and if you use FTP a lot, you can open a port on your router and remote into the ReadyNAS that way. The better news is that the add-on ecosystem is full of interesting and useful community-built mini-apps, offering everything from bit torrent clients to web servers and even search-engine integration to search through your NAS files. ReadyNAS can also do neat tricks like instantly sucking the data off any inserted USB drive, or turning it into a new shared network drive. It can also double as a print server if you chose to connect a printer, and it can even be used as a Time Machine backup for OS X.
For your SMB cusotmers, you’ll be happy to know you can manage and micro-manage user accounts for the ReadyNAS, including controlling user groups and specific folder access and of course, you can schedule automatic backups. Avoiding file clutter is no problem, because each specific task the ReadyNAS performs automatically puts data in a specific folder related to the task, or a folder of your choice.
Lastly, the best feature of the RedayNAS Pro 4 isn’t even a feature at all. It’s the simple fact that through 3 long months, not once did the ReadyNAS ever glitch out, behave oddly or need a reboot. It was always there and always on. There’s an exhaustive list of extra settings that I could list here, but I can’t. It would just be too long. You can check them out on Netgear’s product page.
The best compliment I can pay Netgear is to say that I’ll be sorry to see it go and I’m considering buying one of my own. They’re not much more expensive than what you’d pay for a mini server, but a heck of a lot more easy, stable, safe and feature-rich right out of the box. It’s not a huge capital expenditure. At roughly $550 for an unpopulated one, the value, productivity and peace of mind your customers will receive is fantastic.
On expandability, versatility and flexibility alone, the ReadyNAS Pro 4 gets my seal of approval with a 9/10.