NAS shoot-out: Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 6

The ReadyNAS scores with simple setup, easy management, and the best hardware in its class

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Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 6: Software and administration
Netgear provides a handy Java-based utility (for Windows, Mac, and Linux) called RAIDar to assist with the setup. As long as your PC and the NAS are on the same network, RAIDar automatically discovers the ReadyNAS and walks you step by step through the installation. Once the NAS is configured, you'll probably never use RAIDar again -- unless you want to reformat the drives, because formatting cannot be done via the Web interface.

Netgear's Web GUI is getting long in the tooth compared to the competition, but it's both functional and straightforward. You can take the wizard-based path, which will hold your hand all the way through the setup process. If you are not technically inclined, you'll find this extremely helpful. If you have some IT knowledge, you'll probably find it frustrating. It's a difficult balancing act, and Netgear has done a good job of it. Overall, the Web interface is both functional and straightforward, and only power users will feel held back. Except for installation and RAID configuration, use of the wizard is optional.

Like Iomega, Netgear throws in features -- an iTunes server and UPnP and DLNA media streaming -- that really aren't important to business users. In my opinion, Netgear customers would be better served if these were provided as ReadyNAS add-on modules. For business customers, these extras are an unnecessary distraction.

Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 6: Backups and cloud services
Netgear combines the standard backup options and a three-pronged cloud strategy. Let's cover the most basic pieces first. Rsync, Time Machine, and backups via the USB ports are all here. In my testing, these worked as expected and produced no surprises. I like the ability to program the backup button on the front of the unit for on-the-fly backups of specific folders and files. However, considering many business users might not be comfortable with rsync or remember to do their own backups with a USB hard drive, these features probably will not get much use. The real "secret sauce" is Netgear's three different options for "cloud backup." These solutions will be what most business customers are going to use.

Among these, the easiest is the ReadyNAS Replicate solution. ReadyNAS Replicate is similar to Iomega's Personal Cloud solution, but whereas Iomega provides the replication service for free, Netgear charges a one-time software license fee of $199 for each desktop NAS ($399 per rack-mount device). Once this software is installed on each of your ReadyNAS boxes, you can start replicating data. A word of advice: If you have a considerable amount of data, you should do your first backup job with both boxes on the same network. As with any backup like this, the first job mirrors all of your data, so having both devices on the same LAN will speed up the process.

Netgear has succeeded in making the replication process very easy. You manage the backup jobs using Netgear's SSL-encrypted website, which walks you through the process of backing up the entire NAS device or just certain directories. ReadyNAS Replication also scales, allowing you to manage replications across multiple NAS devices -- versus the one-to-one limitation of Iomega's Personal Cloud. A business with multiple satellite offices could back up several small ReadyNAS boxes at each branch to one large ReadyNAS box at headquarters. Overall, ReadyNAS Replicate is truly a "set it and forget it" solution for businesses.

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