I am a NETGEAR Ambassador and I received this product in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion and review.
Netgear’s ReadyNAS 214 is a flexible home backup solution and full-featured file server that runs applications like the Plex Media Server. What’s Plex? Read on.
Everyone has a lot of media. The iPhone 6s has a 12MP camera and people are shooting more photos and video than ever before. With this proliferation in media, your laptop just won’t have enough space to store everything indefinitely.
Some people are rapidly pushing their content up to the cloud, guaranteeing access anywhere. The problem with the cloud is that it puts you at at the mercy of your internet connection speed and locks you into a subscription payment model to pay an annual fee to store your stuff.
Enter NetGear’s ReadyNAS storage system.
The ReadyNAS is a great solution for families with tons of media who want to keep everything locally in their home without paying anyone to store it in the cloud. The ReadyNAS platform is a home server with 4 hard drive bays. You can purchase it with drives pre-installed or you can buy it diskless and add your own hard drives as your needs grow. The quick-release hard drive brackets each support a 3.5 inch SAS hard drive, the kind commonly found inside desktop computers. These “bare drives” are extremely easy to find online, and they’re faster and cheaper than laptop hard drives. Installing them is a breeze, and then they just snap into the ReadyNAS drive bays.
ReadyNAS can support up to 24 TB of storage (4 bays each filled with a 6TB hard drive). That’s about 48 times the average laptop hard drive, or a metric crapload of storage.
ReadyNAS has a Gigabit Ethernet port on it to wire directly into your home WiFi AP or cable modem.
Now that you have access to up to 24 TB of storage that is instantly accessible within the house, what can you do with it?
Turn the ReadyNAS into a streaming media server
NetGear ReadyNAS supports Plex, the leading home media server application. Plex organizes and serves media to devices across your home network. This includes photos, music, and most importantly, videos. These could be home videos or electronic copies of Hollywood blockbusters. The ReadyNAS system acts as the server, storing all of the content, ready to stream it to other devices. Plex has been growing quickly and has a client applications for just about every device you can think of. Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, AppleTV, TiVo, Chromecast, Roku, AmazonFireTV, Xbox, PlayStation, Linux, and several Smart TV brands.
When serving electronic versions of Hollywood movies, Plex gives you a thumbnail preview, plot synopsis, and movie ratings for the film you are about to watch. It’s an extremely polished interface across all of their platforms. If you have been looking at Plex or thinking about building a home media server, the combination of the NetGear ReadyNAS with push-button Plex support is unbeatable. You download, install, and enable Plex directly from the ReadyNAS GUI, and it just works. No command line fiddling or anything.
One of Plex’s features is that it can transcode video for smaller screens. Perhaps your original content is HD, but you are currently watching on a small mobile device. The Plex Server on the ReadyNAS server can automatically down-convert the video format to be optimized for your screen. The ReadyNAS 214 contains the processing power to handle this job with ease.
3 Other uses for the ReadyNAS:
1— Put your photo library on a shared hard drive
iPhoto/Pictures app isn’t great at managing multiple photo libraries, but Fat Cat software’s PowerPhotos provides the missing functionality to move photos to an archival photo library. Other photo management software, like Lightroom, natively support storing your media across multiple volumes.
2— Backup all of the computers in the house
The ReadyNAS can be used for network backup from your PC or Mac. For Mac users, the system is TimeMachine compatible so it can be setup to look like one (or many different) TimeCapsule systems. All of the machines in the house can backup to one account/folder, or each person in the house can be given their own discrete TimeMachine volume to back up their stuff.
3— Stream your music
The ReadyNAS has a built-in iTunes music server. This allows you to put your entire music library on the ReadyNAS, and then have access to it from any device with iTunes inside the house. The ReadyNAS shows up as a shared iTunes library. This gives people in the house access to all available music, not just what fits on their iPod / iPad. The iTunes streaming worked like a champ, once I figured out that it needed to be enabled in two places (somehow left out of the manual). When you can’t figure out, here’s the answer:
- Enable the server at a global services level
- Go to the music folder
- Click on the arrow next to it
- Enable the iTunes server to access this specific folder
Flexible Permissions & Storage Quotas
With the ReadyNAS 214 from NetGear, you can setup multiple remote locations for storing photos or video on the system’s hard drives. Locations can be read-write accessible by the entire family or you can have private folders to protect your data from accidental deletion by others. If your kids can’t stop recording silly videos, you can also put a cap on each user’s storage space, giving them hard storage quotas. This applies to photo and video libraries as well as TimeMachine volumes. All of this is easily managed from the ReadyNAS’ web-based user interface.
The ReadyNAS features 5 different levels of data protection to ensure that the data on the ReadyNAS is never at risk.
The primary means of data protection is through the use of RAID technology. When you copy a file to the ReadyNAS, the changes are simultaneously written to two completely separate hard drives. In the event of a hard drive loss, you lose nothing. The ReadyNAS has additional features to create time-based snapshots, automatically scan shared files for virus threats, and something they call “Bit Rot” protection. If that is not enough, you can even configure the ReadyNAS to automatically replicate its content to another ReadyNAS across the Internet, or back itself up to Dropbox. This gives you redundant, and even off-site data storage options not available with most backup solutions.
Remote Access and Cloud Integration
ReadyNAS can be your own personal “home cloud” and still give you remote access to your data like a public cloud would. You can enable ReadyNAS Remote and then you can VPN into the ReadyNAS from anywhere (after some home firewall configuration) to access your content. Another option is ReadyNAS Cloud which makes content available via a secure web portal, which may be easier for mobile devices.
Many of the ReadyNAS’ features are easily explainable and applicable to the entire family. But if you want to dive in head-first, there is a whole lot more that the ReadyNAS can provide. It’s a storage system with its own App ecosystem. From right within the user interface of the ReadyNAS system, you can point and click to install advanced third-party software modules directly onto the ReadyNAS.
You can turn the ReadyNAS into a WordPress blog server, install a PHP application server, BitTorrent downloaders, an Asterisk home PBX, an e-commerce server, a VPN server, ownCloud file syncing, or even monitor your home network performance using Cacti. For the power users, the ReadyNAS runs Linux under the hood, and NetGear has made it incredibly easy to add popular services to the ReadyNAS through a click-to-install GUI.
If you are an uber-nerd, you can install Radius, DNS, a source code content control system, and even a trouble ticket system. Then, if that’s not enough, you can enable SSH login to the box, and really go to town. Please note that once you start SSHing into the ReadyNAS and messing around at the Linux prompt, NetGear’s support group can’t be responsible for what you mess up.
The ReadyNAS comes with 90 days of free support. After repeated Google searches failed to help me get the iTunes server working, I tried calling support. Their support line features distorted hold music and no indication of what the expected wait time is. When I called (middle of the day on a Tuesday), I was told that call volume was higher than normal, but not given an opportunity to simply have them call me back. I waited on hold for almost 20 minutes before giving up.
NetGear does have an extensive knowledge base, and there are lots of people with ReadyNAS systems on the Internet, making self-service a possibility. Just keep in mind that there have been different generations of ReadyNAS units over the years, so make sure you’re reading information about a current model.
Price & Options
The NetGear ReadyNAS 214 as-tested costs $499 without any disks. It is important to recognize that the ReadyNAS is much more than just network-attached storage. If you simply want a shared hard drive to backup a small amount of data, and you have no interest in applications, there are other choices, including lower end NetGear ReadyNAS products, or even the built-in NAS features on NetGear’s Nighthawk home routers. Think of the ReadyNAS as a home server, a system that does a great job at storage and provides you an open platform for installing 3rd party applications. If the idea of a “Home Server” appeals to you, then the ReadyNAS is worth checking out. The ReadyNAS has a quad-core ARM processor and 2GB of RAM, way more than is needed for simple file sharing.
You could easily run an entire small business off the ReadyNAS, with an E-Commerce site, WordPress blog, VPN server, Asterisk phone system, in-house support ticketing system, CVS source code control, and even options for off-site disaster recovery. Do you need all that at your house? Maybe not on day 1, but there is a lot of CPU power available on the ReadyNAS for whatever you want to throw at it in the future.
The Netgear ReadyNAS 214 tested for this review sells for $499 and has two 1TB drives added. High performance network attached storage system and home server. Available through Amazon and other retailers.
I received the ReadyNAS through my involvement as a Netgear Ambassador. All opinions are my own. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. Images courtesy of Netgear.