by Marke Clinger

This weekend I did the unimaginable. I purposefully pulled out, one by one, every drive in my Netgear ReadyNAS RAID while it was running. I am pretty familiar with RAID technology because of the work I did in the late ’80s with several pioneering companies working on early RAID and network attached storage (NAS) implementations. Even with this knowledge I was apprehensive about removing anyone of the hard drives in my NAS RAID Array, it was outright frightening to pull all of them out and expect the data not to get lost.

The Netgear ReadyNAS  is a fantastic solution which serves several purposes for me:

1) Network Attached Storage – Connects to the Gigabit network in my house.
2) RAID Array – Disks are redundant therefore I don’t have to worry about data loss.
3) iTunes Service – I can put all my music on this and it serves it up on my wireless and wired network. Music stored securely in one place, available in all.

It is a great solution for a home server that works well with both MACs and PCs.

This pull a disk, wait, pull a disk, wait is the published procedure to upgrade the size of your NAS volume. My plan is to replace 4 x 400G drives with 4 x 1000G drives. Infrant* has their own RAID protocol, X-RAID, that allows you to replace the disks in the array with larger disks to create more storage. My four 400G drives gave me a total usable volume of 1.06T which is 97% full. After installing the new drives I expect to have about 2.65T of storage.

After a careful review of 1T Hard Disks on Tom’s Hardware, I purchased 4 Seagate Bare Hard Drive (Seagate ST31000340AS **) from which has great prices on hard drives and good customer service. Then I checked Infrant’s web site to find out they weren’t supported. Oh well, let’s put them in and see what happens. This is where it gets a bit scary. I have my backups for the last 18 months, movies, pictures, music…all my data on this RAID array. Some of which is live on the other computers in the house, some is only on the RAID. After several hours of angst and reading Infrant FAQ, blogs, and their discussion groups I find that no one has reported successful use of Seagate drives I purchased. I guess I get to be the first.

I upgraded the firmware on my Netgear ReadyNAS to the latest release did a volume check and a resync to make sure everything was in order. Then, out came the first disk. My array is in the garage so it was a couple of minutes to get the old drive out and the new one in. When I made it back to my Mac, warning messages had appeared on my screen and in my e-mail. A couple where pretty scary. The web interface was reporting that the disk was initializing. That was a good sign. That took almost 4 hours, then it did a resync where the new drive joined the array which took 3 more hours. The Borg have assimilated my first disk into the collective!

The drive reports 931 GB of usable space, with only 364 GB allocated to the collective. X-RAID volumes are limited in size to the smallest disk. 24 hours later I am ready to install the 4th and final drive into the Netgear ReadyNAS NV. Now it is 8 hours since I put the last drive in, 32 hours since I started the process. My volume on the ReadyNAS NV is still 1.06T. I download the force expansion add-on, run it, and reboot. After several hours I decide this isn’t going to finish anytime soon and go to bed.

It is now Monday morning and all the lights on my Netgear ReadyNAS are still blinking like the night before. I go to work. I have the ReadyNAS setup to send me an e-mail when of the predefined events it keeps track of happens. When the APC UPS takes over during a power failure I get an e-mail. Evidently after the Borg have finished assimilating the drives and full enhancement of the collective is achieved I get an e-mail telling me. Nearly 14 hours after I rebooted the ReadyNAS my volume is now 2.738T. What a relief!

I am looking forward to my next disk drive upgrade which will be to 4T Solid State drives which should bring me up to 10T of disk storage and blazing fast speeds.

* In May 2007 Netgear purchased Infrant. An outstanding buy on their part as the Infrant product line was way better than Netgear’s attempt.

** The Seagate Bare Hard Drive 1T drive wasn’t in his reviews when I did my analysis. That drive looks like a leap in performance!