Netgear has long used their small RAIDar utility to find their products on the local area network. Since the unit default is to grab an open IP address from the local DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server, you must learn the IP address of the just-installed unit somehow to start configuration. In the screenshot, you can see the Netgear model is listed, along with the MAC and IP addresses.
Once you put the IP address in your browser, you login with username "admin" and password "password." Yes, really, but part of the initial configuration process is to set a new admin password. Configuration is handled with fewer steps than in the past, and starts with the Welcome screen.
First step is to set the time details. The default is to use an NTP (Network Time Protocol) server somewhere, and the system provides two at Netgear, so the user needn't set anything except the time zone.
Next is to set the lucky person who will get all the alerts from the unit. New here are the multiple email services (Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL) you can use as the forwarding service rather than your own server. Small businesses may not remember their SMTP server name and port, but NETGEAR fills in those details for the listed email services automatically. Easiest email alert setup we've ever seen. By default, the alerts are a bit chatty, but you can choose what type of alerts you want to receive, from informational to emergency only.
The next screen allows you to change the name of the unit on the network. We changed ours from DS-E0-06 to NETGEAR312. Changing the admin's password is next, and Netgear now has a way to ask a security question to recover a forgotten password, another nice touch at this price point. Firmware updates tend to be a pain for small business appliances, but not this time. When informed an update was available, the traditional shuffle of downloading a large file to a PC, then uploading that same file to special directory on the unit and rebooting was avoided. Instead, we just hit the Upgrade button, and Netgear handled all the details, including the reboot.
Small NAS appliances like the ReadyNAS 312 tend to go into small companies or departments that don't have Microsoft's Active Directory running, so adding users and their rights must be done manually. Everything in the process is normal until the email part. Why email? Because remote access directly to the unit or through Netgear's ReadyCLOUD is an important part of this appliance (more soon).
Users and groups are created and managed like they have been for years and years. However, the new interface is clean and to the point, which is nice.
Once through the user setup, it's time to go to the admin system overview. Here you can see the box (the "V" is for the anti-virus app loaded). Under System (top left), the Overview button shows the model, name, status, anti-virus, serial number, firmware version, and device time. The gear icon to the right of the device time setting allows you to change the time, date, timezone, or NTP servers.
Next icon under System is Volumes, where a pie chart of open to used space displays alongside a picture of the two SATA 1TB disks with green lights. You can change form the X-RAID mode to Flex-RAID, but the popup window discourages that change.
The next icon, performance, provides real-time readings and graphs on temperature (CPU and System), and Volume Throughput. Below Volume Throughput are Network Throughput, volume utilization, and system temperature. Overkill? Maybe, but not as much as all the log entries that display when you click the Logs icon.
On the top menu, the next button is Shares, which displays all the volume shares on the unit. For a business-oriented NAS, default shares for Music and Pictures seem odd, but makes for consistency with their consumer models.
The last button is Backup, which only discusses NAS data backups, not clients. Unlike some NAS boxes, this unit does not come with any client backup software (but it supports Windows backup software and is a Time Machine destination for Macs).
You can configure backup jobs easily. Give your job a name, set the source and destination (including remote Rsync over Remote SSH, external storage attached via USB or eSATA, or remote FTP or NFS targets. Dropbox gets some love, too.