Recently, Tim reviewed the features and performance of NETGEAR’s new ReadyNAS 104. In that review, he promised this more in-depth look at NETGEAR’s new ReadyNAS OS 6 software that powers not only the RN104, but NETGEAR’s family of ReadyNAS products. Without further ado, let’s dive into the features of the new OS 6.
Tim's review noted setup problems associated with formatting disks to use NETGEAR’s “Flex-RAID” mode that lets you manually configure your device for traditional RAID configurations such as RAID0, RAID1, RAID5 and RAID 6. By default, NETGEAR uses X-RAID which allows for simple and automatic volume expansion.
Your setup experience will strongly depend on whether you purchase a diskless “BYOD” model to use with your existing disks, a BYOD model to use with brand-new disks or one of the models that come with drives pre-installed and ready to go. In the four bay RN 104 family, NETGEAR offers a diskless model (NR10400), 2X1TB (model RN1-431D), 4X1TB (model RN10441D) and 4X2TB (model RN01442D).
If you use new disks in the diskless version, or purchase a device with factory-installed disks, your setup experience should be the same. However, if you use disks that contain any data, expect to do some additional work before you can start setting up your device. Upon booting, the screen will display an error message indicating “corrupt root”. Likewise, if you use the RAIDar utility to “find” the device it will also display a Corrupt Root error, and the setup option will be grayed out. Though NETGEAR could just automatically reformat these drives, they chose not to in order to protect your pre-existing data.
RAIDar Utility showed corrupt root
If you encounter this message, let me save you some time. You to need to reboot the NAS into “Boot” mode and reset the device to Factory default. This will re-format all of the disks and, depending on the number of disks installed, install either X-RAID (which supports automatic volume expansion) or Flex-RAID which supports traditional RAID configuration.
But first, you’ll need to download the Hardware User’s guide, and you’ll need a paper clip. You’ll find the links to the User guides on the supplied CD, or you can go to NETGEAR’s download center, type in the model number of your NAS and download the Hardware manual. You’ll find the information needed starting on Page 23 (for the RN104).
The hardware manual covers all of the models in the ReadyNAS – just look for your model in the table of contents. While you’re on the download site, you might as well download the software manual, too. It’s an extensive manual that provides step-by-step instructions for virtually anything you’ll need to do.
One of the new features of ReadyNAS OS6 is cloud-based setup. For standard installations, ie, those that are performed with new drives, or on a device that is supplied with drives, this is what you’ll use. Using your internet connection, all you have to do is point your browser to http://readycloud.netgear.com.
All of the hard work of setting up remote access and identifying your device is invisible to you. ReadyCloud will find your device, prompt you to login to ReadyCloud or create a new account. You name the device, set the time zone and you’re finished. Just click on the Admin tab to make additional changes the NAS, or click on access to access the public shares created. If all goes as expected, the complete setup process should be under a couple of minutes.
The gallery below shows the setup process.
A few of OS6's features deserve special focus, so I'm going to cover them first. NETGEAR’s ReadyNAS OS6 breaks new ground – at least for NASes targeted at home and small business users. While most NAS devices are Linux-based and have relied on the EXT4 file system for quite some time, OS6 is based on Btrfs – a file system that some are saying is the future file system for Linux. Btrfs, (B-tree file system) according to Wikipedia, “…is intended to address the lack of pooling, snapshots, checksums and integral multi-device spanning in Linux file systems, these features being crucial as Linux use scales upward into the larger storage configurations common in enterprise.”
Indeed, since I found the snapshot features, enabled by the use of Btrs in ReadyNAS OS6 to be one of the most compelling features of the new release, I’ve included a short gallery to demonstrate how it works.
When you create a share, you have the option of enabling snapshot protection. Your choices are for hourly, daily or weekly snapshots. Brtfs supports a virtually unlimited number of snapshots. But unlike snapshots on a conventional file system, they are just pointers into the file system and take up only a negligible amount of space. After creation, only block level changes are added to the snapshot. And the snapshots are very quick to create.
The gallery demonstrates that once you have enabled snapshots, you can roll back a share to any of your snapshots. In addition, you can create a clone of your volume based on any of your snapshots that you mount (map a drive) to check if the contents of the snapshot are what you need. The clone is read/write, but takes no incremental space unless you actually write files to it.
Like the snapshot, a clone is very quick to create. Imagine being able to mount a 600 GB clone snapshot of a share from an earlier time almost instantly if your NAS only has 200 GB free. With Btrfs, you can. Typical examples of uses for a snapshot would be to recover a corrupted share, or to recover files or folders that were accidentally deleted.
When you roll back a share to a previous time, you lose any data and snapshots created after the rollback snapshot time. If you just want to recover a couple of files and don’t want to go through the clone process you have two choices. Open Windows explorer and select the network drive. Right click and select Properties and then select the Previous Versions tab. (Snapshots are fully integrated with Windows Explorer.) All automatic snapshots appear. (Manual snapshots do not.) Click on any of those snapshots to access a read-only copy of the share. (Note – this doesn’t take any additional space on the NAS.) From there, you can copy files/folders back to the original share.
For the second method, make sure that ”Allow Snapshot Access” is selected for the share. This will unhide the snapshot folder that is located off the root of the share. Open the snapshot folder and click on one of the snapshot directories. Again you’ll have read-only access to files and folder in the snapshot.
One caveat: snapshots are only available on the default public shares and shares that you create. Private shares, created when you create users don’t have snapshot capabilities. My wish list for future releases of ReadyNAS OS6 includes snapshots for private shares.