February 6, 2006 Infrant Technologies has just released an new addition to their already excellent ReadyNAS line of small NAS servers, the ReadyNAS NV. As digital life requires ever more personal digital storage, maybe it’s time to look at one of the new Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices now available – think of these as personal and small business equivalents to the large files servers that corporations use. Of the devices that we've seen, Infrant Technologies' ReadyNAS 600/X6, and their new ReadyNAS NV have impressed us the most. Dave Weinstein had the chance to test the new NV device and found it was smaller than its predecessor with hot swappable drives and a faster processor. Infrant even supports UPNP-AV (universal plug-and-play audio visual extensions), so when you store all your music on your ReadyNAS, you'll be able to access it from your media PC or media center extender or any other device compatible with the standard.

The ReadyNAS NV brings several new advancements to the ReadyNAS line, including four hot-swappable Serial ATA disk trays, a faster network storage processor (NSP) for better performance, a programmable backup button, a cable lock and a carrying handle, all in an ultra-compact design (8”Hx5”Wx9”D).

NAS devices enable business and home users to store and access large amounts of data in a cost-effective manner. The consumer NAS market will continue to grow at an aggressive rate over the next five years, according to leading analyst firm Parks Associates. The firm also sees significant growth potential in the SME market segment.

“Consumers have an increasing amount of digital content, and thus a growing need for storage and back-up solutions,” said Michael Cai, senior analyst, Parks Associates. “Considering this, the time is right for network-attached storage vendors to differentiate themselves and generate significant revenue in this emerging market.”

Infrant claims that the ReadyNAS NV is the perfect fit for all data storage needs, and has been optimized for digital media via a built-in media server. The ReadyNAS NV is equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet connection and it supports all popular streaming media protocols, such as UPnP AV, allowing users to access their digital content directly through the NAS without the need for a PC. Additionally, with the NV’s class-leading performance, it is the second home NAS system on the market capable of handling multiple HD video streams – the first being Infrant’s ReadyNAS 600/X6. We've seen a demo of this feature, and while it's cool, you'll need an appropriate media player that can universally-plug-and-play with your server to get any use out of it.

“In designing the ReadyNAS NV, we listened to our customers and engineered the system to address their many needs,” said Paul Tien, president of Infrant Technologies. “The end result is the most advanced NAS in this segment, empowering consumers, SMB and SOHO users to have affordable enterprise-level protection for their critical data.” The ReadyNAS line of products is dependable, as it incorporates RAID technology in a cost-effective and easy-to-use package, featuring Infrant’s Expandable Protection X-RAID technology. X-RAID completely automates all RAID tasks, allowing users with no previous knowledge of the technology to enjoy the benefits of RAID, which can protect against the loss of data due to hard drive failure. Additionally, X-RAID enables users to expand their storage as needed. Users may start out with a single drive in their RedyNAS server and can add a second, third or fourth drive to gain redundancy and capacity. The expansion process keeps all user data intact and can be accomplished with just a few simple steps. The NV also supports the industry-standard RAID 0, 1 and 5 configurations and, thanks to the new hot-swappable disk trays, servicing the unit is simplified and downtime is drastically reduced.

It's wasn't exactly easy for us to decide which ReadyNAS product to choose. Both devices are very similar thanks to Infrant's decision to update software on their earlier units to match their newest devices. The 600/X6 unit is larger and costs US$100 less than it's NV sibling, but while it doesn't have hot swappable drives, it does include a PCI slot for expansion. Currently Infrant supports several WiFi and wired ethernet cards, so if you want to set up your device in a place where there isn't an easy way to get an ethernet cable, you'll need to go with the 600/X6 device. Both devices are new, while the 600/X6 has been shipping for about a year, there's been a recent revision to it's design that updates it's internal layout and adds an integrated backplane to make it easier to add and remove drives. Build quality for both devices is excellent, and there are clear signs that the company tendency to over-engineer their products extends both to the hardware and software components.

These devices are slick, well build file servers that approach the features that you'd expect to find in high-end enterprise devices. We've never before seen any consumer device that could take a disk "snapshot", and the automated backup tools built into the device allow some very complex backup tasks to be scheduled automatically. There's even support for synchronizing file with remote linux server via RSYNC protocol.

If you've been thinking about added a second drive to your PC to store all those extra songs, we think you should consider a NAS device instead. And of the personal NAS devices we've seen, these are the ones to consider. Not only do they make it easier to share the extra space on your home network, but just having 2nd copy of your important data kept separately is an important hedge against disaster.

Pricing and availability

The NV is currently available in four standard capacities: a version sans hard drives that allows users to expand their storage needs as their budget allows (US$649), a 1-Terabyte version (US$1199), a 1.6-Terabyte version (US$1699) and a 2-Terabyte version (US$2299).

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