It is rather hard to see any innovations in Netgear’s firmware that have been implemented over the last year. We do not find them even by reading through the description of the new firmware version. The reason is that the manufacturer doesn’t try to put as many functions into the basic firmware as possible but implements them as add-on modules.
The Ultra 2 offers two hard disk bays and supports RAID0 and RAID1 besides using the HDDs as individual disks. These configurations are available in you’ve selected FlexRAID as the disk management mode. By default, the NAS works in X-RAID mode, which is Netgear’s exclusive RAID management technology. X-RAID is not as interesting with dual-disk NASes as with quad-disk ones, but its point is that the user can start by installing one disk only. When a second HDD is added later on, the NAS will automatically build a fault-tolerant array without losing data on the first HDD. This RAID can then be upgraded by replacing the HDDs one by one with larger HDDs. You can learn more about X-RAID on www.readynas.com. Switching the operation mode resets all settings and removes all data from all the disks.
Changing the array configuration in Flex-RAID mode requires that the NAS be rebooted, but that’s not critical for a home model. The option of creating disk volumes that do not take up the full capacity of a hard disk can be useful. The remainder can be then included into yet another array. The Ultra 2 uses EXT4 as its internal file system.
iSCSI volumes can be created on any of the internal RAIDs. This technology may come in handy for virtualization and some specialized software. The access to such volumes can be restricted using CHAP and a list of permissible client names.
The Ultra 2 connects to a network via one or two Gigabit Ethernet ports. It supports Jumbo Frames which has become a standard feature of top-performance NASes. The two LAN ports may come in handy if you want to place the NAS on two networks at once. You can also use the integrated DHCP server and routing. The Ultra 2 does not permit to team its two LAN ports for higher bandwidth or fault tolerance. The setup options are standard: IP addresses and network names. IPv6 is supported but the Ultra 2 can’t be integrated into a Windows domain. It doesn’t support USB Wi-Fi controllers, either.
User accounts for access control are created on the NAS. To make this easier, importing and exporting users and user groups is supported. You can select the main group and UID, assign disk quotas for each volume, create home folders, and enable a recycle bin for deleted files.
A shared resource is the basic unit of network-based access. Each resource can have individual access rights for all protocols. For example, a user can be allowed to access a resource via SMB, but prohibited to do the same via FTP. Netgear’s devices have a special way of assigning user rights. First you specify the default access right and then create lists of users that have different rights. This may not be very handy if you’ve got a lot of user accounts.
The SMB and NFS protocols have a few special options: preventing a folder from showing in the network environment, a network recycle bin and OpLock for the former and synchronization mode for the latter.
SMB, AFP, NFS, FTP(S) and HTTP(S) protocols can be turned off if you don’t want to use them. You can choose ports for FTP (including passive ones) and select a download resumption mode. For NFS you can choose the number of streams. For HTTPS an additional connection port can be specified. There are some other, less important, additional parameters for these protocols. UPnP and Bonjour are supported for finding the NAS’s services on the LAN.
There is a special page for fine-tuning performance-related parameters where you can disable write caching, enable full journaling for the file system, and turn on write buffering for USB disks.