Archive for May, 2007

ReadyNAS Heat issues

After reading some more on the Infrant forum about the heat issue with the power supplies on NV+ units, I’ve reversed my previous fan-reversal procedure. Confused yet?

Out of the box, the NV+ pulls air through the unit, blowing it out the back. The minimum speed of the fan in the unit is 1600 RPM. Infrant reports that a small percentage of their customers are having power supply failures. Apparently, they did some testing and found that the power supplies were failing due to heat issues. To help ensure their customers don’t have premature failures of ReadyNAS units, they released two potential fixes. The first option is to apply a firmware update to set the minimum speed to 2100 RPM. This should keep the power supply cool enough to prevent these failures. The bad thing here is that it would be a bit louder. The second option would be to reverse the fan in the unit so that it draws air into the unit from the back. This air would be much cooler than the air it gets from the front of the unit since it hasn’t been pulled past hot hard drives.

They initially suggested that the fan reversal would be the preferred solution, so that’s what I did.

What made me flip-flop? According to a more recent post on their site from an Infrant employee, they are shipping new units with no physical difference, just using the updated firmware to set the minimum fan speed to 2100 RPM. I figure that a future firmware update would most likely still have this setting, so if there is any appreciable noise difference, I might as well get used to it now, as I would be probably stuck with it eventually anyhow.

After updating the firmware and going through the two reboots, I really don’t hear much difference in terms of sound. Of course, I already have two machines in this room that make a decent amount of noise, so it may just mean that I can’t hear it over them.

May 29, 2007 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS Scheduled Backups

As I looked through the web interface for the first time, I ran across a feature that looked very interesting, but I didn’t examine it too thoroughly at the time. I’ve now taken the time to explore this feature to add an extra layer of protection in my backup regiment. The feature I’m talking about is the mechanism built right into the web interface of ReadyNAS to perform scheduled backups.

With it, you can schedule backups of data on the ReadyNAS from one share to another, from the ReadyNAS to a remote host, or even have the ReadyNAS pull back data by connecting to a remote network share.

I’m using this for a local backup. I have Acronis True Image making full backups of four Windows machines once a week. These backups are going to private shares of four different users. The day before this scheduled backup occurs, I’ve scheduled a copy of the last Acronis backup on each private share to an archive share.

In a nutshell, Acronis gives me a full backup each weekend of each Windows workstation and the scheduled backup copies the previous weekends copy to another location. I end up with two full backups, which may be useful if a problem happens late in the week and I don’t hear about it until Monday. If this could be performed with via a move (instead of a copy), that would be great for my situation, but that’s not an opion. Technically, this could be chained to several shares, so I could have a month’s worth of backups or more. The interface also allows you to perform backups every few hours during the day, which could be very useful if you are working in an environment where files change throughout the day.

The scheduling isn’t as good as it could be, though. The current software only allows you to select which day of the week you want this to occur. You can select more than one, or even every day, but you can not select a backup to occur on the first of the month, or quarterly, etc. This is something I think could be easily corrected by Infrant in a software update, though the functionality they provide is more than enough for the majority of buyers (including me).

May 28, 2007 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

ReadyNAS Read Performance

Due to limited funds in the network infrastructure budget this fiscal year, I do not have a full Gigabit connectivity to all network jacks in this facility. In order to perform the Gigabit copies that I have previously mentioned, the network topology had to be changed. This allowed a cable previously used as an uplink to a 100 Megabit switch to run at Gigabit speed to one workstation in that area. Unfortunately, a certain high ranking person in my organization needed to access the network, so my remote test machine is back to 100 Meg.

This has actually led to some interesting test results, though. Copying data back from the ReadyNAS NV+ to this Windows client (using the standard Windows drag ‘n drop method) is being tested now. With a single stream, the copy hovers at about 76-77% network utilization. However, when a second stream is added, the network utilization goes up to about 95%. It’s likely that I’m running into the limit on a 100 Meg Full Duplex link. I’d definitely be interested in what sort of read speed this ReadyNAS is capable of on Gigabit.

Perhaps I’ll be able to get my wife the high ranking person in my organization to get off the network so I can try it…

May 26, 2007 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS performance using SMB at Gigabit Speeds

More unscientific testing, but with the ReadyNAS and a Windows machine attached to my Gigabit switch, I copied 122 GB. I didn’t actually stay up to see how long it took, but the Windows estimated time seemed to consistently stay around 180 minutes just after the start of the copy. Now, these are mostly very large video files (1+ GB each, some as large as 7 GB), so I’m sure this won’t hold true for your multi-gigabyte midi file collection, but that seems to indicate a top speed of roughly 40 GB per hour, writing, assuming Windows was giving a half decent estimate.

A second copy of about 80 GB (again, writing) seems to be showing about 37.5 GB per hour.

Watching the (probably inaccurate) network graph in Task Manager shows me that it mostly fluctuates between about 7% and 10% utilization during a copy on this Gigabit link. 7% would be about 70 Mbps, which calculates out to about 31.5 Gigabytes per hour. 10% would (of course) be about 100 Mbps, which would work out to 45 Gigabytes per hour, so the 37.5 – 40 GB per hour estimate sounds feasible.

On another note, I have seen that copy speed can diminish greatly if you have more than one copy stream going. Like, if you want to copy files to the NAS from two different machines at the same time.

Again, all unscientific… I do want to try some actual tests here later.

May 26, 2007 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

ReadyNAS NV+ Enhancing System Ventilation

It seems that there is a small issue with a percentage of the NV+ units on the market. The power supply can overheat, causing premature failure. Infrant says this is happening in about 0.5% of units, so it’s not time to go crazy, but I’m guessing that is a significant increase in failure rate over their older units.

If your machine serial number falls into a particular range (like mine), Infrant offers you two methods to lower your chance of having a hot and bothered NAS:

First, the “I don’t care about noise” option, which involves loading some software to it to raise the fan speed from 1700 to 2100 RPM. It’s easy, but an extra several hundred RPMs may let everyone know the NV+ is in the room.

The “low noise” option involves reversing the direction of airflow through the unit. Instead of sucking air in through the front and sides of the unit, it will now suck air in the back, pushing it out the front and sides. It takes about 10 minutes to do this, according to their doc, requiring only a Phillips screwdriver and the ability to follow simply instructions.

Despite my inability to follow my wife’s simple instructions, I chose the 2nd option. It was pretty painless.

May 25, 2007 at 10:13 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS NV+ Web Interface

What else is there to say, but Wow, that’s a lot of options!

The web interface borrows heavily from the brushed metal look that Apple has used frequently in the last few years. If there is one sure thing, this web interface won’t win any interface usability awards, but to offer the sheer number of options and settings that this thing does… Wow! It would probably take 25 screenshots just to show you all the functions and features you can set on this thing. I am sure that once I am used to navigating it, I’ll be comfortable.

One interesting feature is a “Setup Wizard”. This is a screen by screen guided tour through setting up your ReadyNAS. Nice feature, as I’m not sure I would have known where to start otherwise.

For CIFS, it asks you which security mode to use. This confused me a bit at first, but the lengthy descriptions they have pretty much spell it all out. Basically, you have “Share” mode, which lets you put a simple password on a share (like Windows 95/98 did, I think?). Then, you have “User” security, which is basically setting up local users and groups to secure shares. Finally, there is “Domain” security, which lets you integrate with a Windows Domain.

The “User” security is nice because it lets you create local users and groups via the web interface to handle security. Fortunately, it doesn’t limit you to creating one user at a time, but has multiple lines so that you can enter them in a batch mode, to some degree. Users and Groups can each have quota of disk space they can use. Users can have private home directories, a recycle bin, etc. You can even specify that users can change their password, though I’m not exactly sure how they would do this. Thoughtfully, they include an option to import and export users and groups. This would be very useful, I think, if you have multiple ReadyNAS devices and you want to use the same usernames and passwords across them. (In that case you probably wouldn’t want the users changing their passwords… Could get out of sync between units, causing support troubles…)

Anyhow, since I’m not running a Domain at home, I’m sticking with “User” security.

Email alerts is a very nice feature. You can have it send email to multiple addresses when an event happens. The first one I got was just one telling me that the Sync process was complete, so my volume was now fully redundant.

Looking through various other screens, I see that this units Gigabit Ethernet port supports VLAN tagging and jumbo frames. It can also act as a WINS server, and even a DHCP server. Infrant put some smarts in this puppy too. It knows enough that if it got its own IP Address via DHCP, it won’t let you enable the built-in DHCP server.

One feature that I not quite get yet is the “Snapshot” feature. It looks like you can schedule snapshots to happen on regular intervals. Unfortunately, I didn’t gather enough from reading in the web interface to really understand why I would want to use it.

The Shares interface lets you add and delete shares, as well as enable what services will have access to which share. You can independently enable CIFS, AFP, FTP/S, and HTTP/S for each and every share.

Backup Jobs. This looks like it has some potential. With this feature, you can select the source and destination for a backup. The source can be another network attached machine and you supply credentials to connect right in the “Backup Jobs” interface, even with a “Test Connection” button to make sure it’s working properly. Now, I’ve not actually used it for anything, but it looks potentially very useful. There are options for backing up an FTP server, etc. So, this could be a good once-a-week website backup tool, or any number of other automated backups.

May 25, 2007 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS NV+ in operation

My two Seagate 500 GB drives arrived today. Installing them in the ReadyNAS is about as easy as it can get.

I removed the hazy plastic that covered the top and bottom bezels and it has a mirror finish beneath. Very nice looking. Interestingly, the LCD display on the bottom isn’t visible unless the unit it turned on. With it on, though, it’s as clear as can be. Very nice effect.

After powering up, the ReadyNAS booted the OS, then created the volume. Volume creation took about 45 minutes or so. I was busy with other things, so I got back with it later. At that time, it was busy sync’ing the 2nd disk. I’ve always thought this behavior was a bit of a mystery. I mean, it just created a new, blank mirror. So, why does it have to sync the entire thing over to the other drive. There’s nothing to sync yet, or so it would seem. I’m sure there is a technical reason for this, but I’ve just never taken the time to check into it. As I’m writing this, the sync phase is almost done.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until the sync process is complete to start using your ReadyNAS, though I imagine that only slows it down a bit.

As for performance, I currently am limited to 100 MB Ethernet due to where I have the NAS attached to the network. Once I get the final home ready, it will be on Gigabit Ethernet.

Even with this 100 MB limit, while it is syncing the 2nd drive, I am happy to report decent performance. A copy of just over 10 GB of data shows up (in OS X) with an estimated time of approximately 30 minutes. 20 GB of transfer per hour certainly trumps the 4-6 GB per hour that I have been experiencing. I’ll have to do some scientific testing when I get things arranged like I want.

May 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS NV+ has arrived!

The UPS man paid me a visit today. Here are the photos:

The box
ReadyNAS Box
Everything that was in the box
Unboxed and unwrapped
Now that’s a small unit (In a good way!)
Size compared to an Apple Mighty Mouse
The Front
Front of ReadyNAS NV+
With the door open
Front opened up
A close up of the top panel. The button on the right is the power button. The “Backup” button, by default, causes the unit to back up to whatever device is connected via the front panel USB port. The numbered cylinders signify the hard drives, but you can’t see where any lights are due to the material the panel is made of.
Close up of the top panel
The Back (MAC Address blured to protect… me!)
Back of ReadyNAS NV+

The drives should be in tomorrow. Then I can actually plug this thing in and see what it can really do!

May 24, 2007 at 11:41 pm Leave a comment

OpenDNS.com

I ran across this computer world article today about speeding up your internet connection for web browsing. Since I have been seeing sluggish browsing recently, this caught my attention.

The “big tip” in the article is to use the free DNS service offered by OpenDNS.com. The article does talk about increasing your DNS cache size in Windows also, but the big push seems to be toward this free DNS service.

The browsing problems I’ve been having recently looked to be either (maybe) DNS related or (more likely) packet loss related. The only tool I’ve used to take a look at the packet loss possibility didn’t back me up though, but I wanted to verify against other tools. I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  Really.  I mean it.  Stop looking at me that way!

This article spurned me into action.  I quickly changed my router to perform DNS lookups against the OpenDNS.com DNS servers.

Wow.

I am utterly shocked with the difference. I suspected the DNS servers I used MIGHT be related to the problem. I think back to the time I switched ISPs after my service tanked with major packet loss and the old ISP wouldn’t (or couldn’t) fix it. Then, changing ISPs was like moving to broadband all over again.

This is really ALMOST like that! You know those annoying commercials for broadband Internet service that show websites popping up on the screens of computers at unreal speeds? Perhaps they made those very commercials using OpenDNS.com‘s DNS servers! It’s absolutely amazing.

Ok, ok, it’s really not that amazing. But, honestly it is very noticeable. Much more so than I would have thought.

They use geographically dispersed servers, and they seem to take about (cue Dr. Evil) 1 BILLION DNS queries a day, according to a stats page on their site. How do they pay for all this? When you try to go to a page that doesn’t exist, instead of getting a timeout, you are redirected to a yahoo search page, searching for the name you tried to reach. They get a cut of ad revenue on any ads your users click on. That’s it. Oh, and if you run your own company, you can even put your logo on this search page. How sweet is that?

In addition, they have phishing protection, typo correction, plus a few more features. All in all, I’m actually very impressed.

I highly recommend that you stop whatever you are doing right now and check out OpenDNS.com

[In my best Monk impersonation] You’ll thank me for it later.  

May 24, 2007 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

ReadyNAS NV+

Today, I finally made the decision on my NAS of choice: The ReadyNAS NV+.   NewEgg has it now for close to the lowest price I could find. I did see it for about $5 less elsewhere, but I’ve had positive experiences with NewEgg each time I’ve purchased from them in the past, so why change now, especially for just a few dollars on a high-end item like this.

To go along with my Diskless NV+, I picked up two 500 GB Seagate drives. This costs a bit more than buying three 250 GB drives (which would net the same capacity in the NV+ as my pair of mirrored 500 GB drives), but I felt the extra few dollars was an investment. I would hate to need more space in 6 months and my main option would be to just buy one more 250 GB drive. If I then needed more, I’d have to start replacing drives. I feel comfortable that 500 GB will hold me for the next 6 months or so, at least. The possibility of adding two more 500 GB drives should have me covered, storage wise, for the next several years to come.

I’ll be sure to post my experiences after it arrives.

May 22, 2007 at 8:18 pm Leave a comment

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