Review: Netgear ReadyNAS Duo RND2150 (500 GB)

At one time, the typical NAS device was little more than a hard drive with a network connection used as simple backup storage or to share files between PCs. Today, more is expected from NAS, including data redundancy, the ability to stream various types of media, provide remote (and preferably secure) access to files, and maybe even a way to add storage without disturbing existing data.

Netgear ReadyNAS Duo RND2150
The Netgear ReadyNAS Duo RND2150 with a 500 gigabyte capacity.

Netgear’s new ReadyNAS Duo RND2150 fills the bill on all those counts. The Duo is small (5.6″ x 4″ x 8.7″ — HxWxD), but sturdily constructed, with a jet-black metal chassis. The Duo connects to the network via a rear Gigabit Ethernet port, which is adjacent to a pair of USB ports that support printers or external storage expansion. Along with a power switch and status lights, the Duo’s front panel sports a convenient third USB port. It’s worth mentioning that the Duo uses an external power supply rather than an internal one, which is easier to replace in the event of its failure.

As you might have guessed from the name, the Duo can accommodate a pair of internal (SATA) hard drives, even though all Duo models ship with a single drive. Our $400 model RND 2150 evaluation unit sported a 500GB drive, but two other models in the line — the RND2175 and 2110 — offer 750 GB and 1 TB drives for $500 and $680, respectively.

Setup and Administration

After powering up the Duo and connecting it to our network, we used Netgear’s RAIDar (get it?) utility to locate it. This utility lets you monitor the status of one or more Duos at a glance as well as view and access shared folders. All configuration tasks, however, are performed via FrontView, a browser-based administration console.

FrontView includes a setup wizard that will walk you through settings needed to get the Duo operational, but we found it less intuitive than most wizards we’ve used. For starters, you can’t use the Tab key to move through a page of settings, as pressing it will jump you straight to the Next button.

Administrative Interface
The admin interface on the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo

Even more irksome: The wizard requires you to click an Apply button before clicking Next to move onto the next page of settings. If you modify settings and simply click Next, you’ll see a dialog informing you that you haven’t applied your changes, but it doesn’t offer to apply them for you; you must go back and click Apply.

Finally, the wizard, like the admin console overall, is fairly sluggish — it usually takes several seconds for a configuration page to load after selecting it.

Usability issues aside, the wizard is comprehensive enough to save you from having to burrow through the menu system yourself to do things like create users, groups and shares. The Duo helpfully allows you to assign per-user or per-group storage quotas, and although we don’t think most people would need to, you can conveniently import large numbers of users or groups via .CSV files.

The Duo offers some useful power-saving features, like the ability to configure a power timer that will automatically turn the Duo off and back on again according to a pre-defined schedule. Although excessive use of the power timer could curtail access to needed data, it can be useful to turn the unit off at opportune times, like overnight or during the day when you might be at work. You can also configure the drives to spin down after a certain period of inactivity.

To guard against power failures, the Duo’s USB ports can also be connected to a number of compatible UPS devices. Our Duo recognized an APC XS1350 without a hitch when connected.

Those who want to back up computers to the Duo can use the bundled copy of NTI Shadow to do so. You can also back the Duo up to another storage device connected to one of its USB ports.

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