NetGear unveils NAS gear for SMBs

NetGear Inc.’s latest release of its centralized network storage technology for small and medium-sized businesses comes in a compact desktop form factor that the Santa Clara-based equipment manufacturer is calling an industry first.

ReadyNAS Pro Gigabit Desktop Storage technology is housed in a six-bay network attached storage device, effectively extending the previous four-bay limitation on its first-generation devices, said Mark Song, product line manager for network storage products with NetGear.

The form factor, said Song, is part of the company’s response to the unique demands of the SMB – specifically targeted at businesses of up to 200 users – who also seek product performance as high as that demanded by enterprises, “but they want it in a small package and affordable format”.

The new products include ReadyNAS Pro 1.5 TB Gigabit Desktop Storage (RNDP6350), ReadyNAS Pro 3 TB Gigabit Desktop Storage (RNDP6310) and ReadyNAS Pro 6 TB Gigabit Desktop Storage (RNDP6610).

This desktop version is “small enough, and it’s a smart storage,” said Song.

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And, smart storage is important for SMBs who aren’t exempted from regulatory compliance requirements, and who are also observed to be generating increasing amounts of data – including high resolution rich media like images and videos. “Often the trend is people are not really deleting stuff today to make more space for new data, instead they want to archive, they want to backup,” said Song.

The latest products provide SMBs with management functionality, including vertical and horizontal storage management to add drives on the fly, and replace individual drives for greater capacity without interruption. IT administrators can also automate the redundant array management of the hard disk “so you can fix a problem without interruption,” said Song.

The management and configuration is simplified for the administrator with a Web-faced graphical user interface, whereby system changes and alerts can be delivered via e-mail.

The products also have failsafe features for data protection, like dual redundant Gigabit Ethernet ports to allow one port to automatically take over when another one fails to ensure uninterrupted data transfer. Also, the system can perform load balancing to grant higher performance.

According to Philip Barnes, senior research analyst for the storage market with Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada, the appetite for network attached devices among organizations with less than 200 staff is “still fairly small compared to enterprise use.”

The low adoption, said Barnes, is likely due to the availability of alternative technologies that are less sophisticated such as the classic approach of direct attached storage, where storage is aligned with a PC or a server. Although costs are falling with network attached storage, he said, it’s still quite difficult for SMBs to make that business case.

“There’s still some ways to go before it’s the predominant technology that’s deployed,” said Barnes.

However, there are exceptions where network attached storage makes “absolute sense” for those SMBs dealing with large amounts of data on diverse operating systems, said Barnes. In those cases, network attached storage is advantageous because data can be stored independent of the operating system on the client side. “That’s a key advantage,” he said, adding that otherwise, the business would have to either run multiple islands of storage or standardize on a single operating system.

Specifically around NetGear’s products, the automatic system management feature “resonates well with the SMB where the ability to have alerts sent via e-mail to the administrator can remove the requirement to always be checking in and have that almost hands-off approach,” said Barnes.

The product will be shipped worldwide in Q3 of 2008. Song said he anticipates adoption will be highest in Canada, U.S. and Europe where the company has typically observed high demand.

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