In 2006 I purchased an Infrant ReadyNAS network storage device. Soon after, Infrant was bought by NetGear and ReadyNAS devices are now being sold under the NetGear name.
I did a review of my ReadyNAS device on Meandering Passage in August ’06 as well as an article concerning a memory upgrade on the device in February ’07.
When I purchased my ReadyNAS it was a diskless model. I purchased four 250GB drives separately, configuring them into a single array using Infrants X-RAID (Expandable Raid.) This RAID mode allowed acceptable performance, data protection and array expandability (1 drive > 2 drives > 3 drives, ect.).
Combined in a single RAID Volume, these four 250 GB drives gave a total usable space of 681 GB, which at the time was more then adequate. That’s not been the case recently.
This device backs up my digital media (music, movies and photos), syncing data automatically each night from my primary computer. Lately the free space has been steadily disappearing.
Adding additional space to a RAID array most isn’t often as simple as adding one larger drive. Especially when all four drive bays are already in use.
With RAID protection and four drives, the ReadyNAS stripes data across all the drives. To increase total storage space you have to increase the size of all four drives. The storage array can only be as large as the smallest drive in the array, minus checksum and overhead space.
My decision for this upgrade was to replace all four of the 250GB drives with 500GB drives. Interestingly, the current cost of these 500GB drives was less then the cost of the 250GB drives at their time of purchase two years ago.
I considered two methods to accomplish this drive upgrade/replacement. I’m sure there are other methods or slightly different steps then what I’ve outlined below to accomplish the same goal. Times are estimates based on my experience and using 500GB drives. As a rule of thumb, larger drives take longer.
Method I – Disk Initialize and Re-Sync Raid Volume
This process of replacing the smaller drives is simple but time consuming and consist of the following steps:
- While running (these drive are hot swappable) you pull out one of the old drives from the ReadyNAS. The ReadyNAS will continue running uninterrupted.
- Remove the old drive from the drive tray and attach the new drive to the tray (four screws) in its place.
- Slide the drive tray back into the ReadyNAS.
- The ReadyNAS will recognize the new drive and will begin initializing/formatting it.
- Once finished initializing the ReadyNAS will “re-sync” the volume data across the new drive.
- When step 5 is complete, repeat steps 1~5 for the other three drives.
- After all four drives have been initialized and re-synced, reboot the ReadyNAS and it will expand/resize the array volume to use all the new drive space.
On my ReadyNas the initialization and re-syncing of each 500GB drive was estimated to be about 4.5~5 hours. Then there’s the array rebuild process after all four drives have been replaced.
Yes, 18-24 hours of processing to replace four drives but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Except for physically pulling our the old drive and putting in the new drive the whole process takes place unattended. Also, the ReadyNAS is only unavailable during the final reboot/resize process.
Method II – Scratch: New Raid Volume and Reload Data
This method will appeal to you if you have a temporary drive you can back all the data to and you want to make a change to the current RAID Array Volume or type of RAID protection used. It consist of the following steps:
- Back up all your data to another disk or disks. A large USB external drive with the ReadyNAS configured to automatically backup all data should work great.
- Power down the ReadyNAS and remove all the drive trays. Replace the old drives on the trays with the newer larger drives.
- Re-insert the first drive tray with the new drive into the ReadyNAS.
- Reset the ReadyNAS to factury default settings. (Use a paperclip to hold the reset button in the back while powering the device on…hold reset button for 30 secs or until the drive lights flash for the second time.)
- Using the RAIDar client monitor the ReadyNAS and click on “Setup” when told to do so.
- Select the options you wish for your new RAID Volume (you could change the type of RAID at this point.)
- Wait while the new Volume is created.
- After the new RAID Volume is complete, add the next drive and return to Step 7. Do this until all four drives have been added.
- When all drives have been added to the new Volume, restore the data from the temporary backup drive.
This method also can take as long as 24 hours for four 500GB drives. If you decide to use RAID 5 the times and steps may slightly differ. That copy/restore times depend upon how much data you are restoring.
I used Method I since I only needed to replace the drives with larger ones and this seemed the most straight forward method.
I experienced one problem with a hang-up, but a reboot and reinsertion of the disk got it going again. I believe this problem was related to a scheduled back-up trying to run that I’d neglected to put on hold while doing the upgrade.
It did take a long time to upgrade, longer then I’d like and I’m sure many are wondering why all the effort when larger external USB drives are so cheap and faster. Here’s a few reasons:
- data redundancy – I’ve had a drive fail in the unit and it was a simple matter of removing and replacing the failed drive while the unit was still running. Nothing was lost and nothing had to be restored.
- server capabilities – My ReadyNAS serves a multitude of functions on my network. It’s a file/backup server, digital music server, ftp server and WINS server to name a few. It does this all quietly and reliably day in and day out without my computer having to be on.
- flexibility & accessibility – data security and storage quotas can easily be configured via a GUI to make the management of the available storage space straight forward. This storage is always available to any computer on my network yet has the safeguards to prevent unauthorized access, deletions or overwrites.
After installing the four 500GB drives using X-RAID (Expandable RAID) I ended up with 1.4TB of redundant hot-swappable storage. Hopefully it’ll be a couple more years before I need additional space.