Netgear’s NASes feature an autonomous backup module that offers a flexible choice of the source and destination of files. You can choose local folders and disk volumes, remote resources (SMB, FTP, NFS, Rsync) and USB drives connected to a certain port. Multiple backup jobs can be created, each with an operation schedule. Both full and incremental copying is supported; the remote system can be turned on using WoL technology. The button on the NAS’s front panel can be programmed to launch any number of backup jobs.
If you’ve got an Apple computer, you can use Mac OS’s Time Machine tool to back up data to the Ultra 2. The NAS also offers a free 1-month trial subscription to Netgear’s exclusive online storage ReadyNAS Vault. After the trial period you can choose a tariff and pay to prolong your subscription. The ReadyNAS Vault client is integrated into the Ultra 2 and can automatically create backup copies of its data by monitoring changes in the local file system. Data stored in the ReadyNAS Vault storage is accessible via the Internet; you can restore it to your NAS via a special website.
The media services are limited to ReadyDLNA and an iTunes server. The latter is based on the popular FireFly software that has a dedicated setup interface in which you can choose folders for indexing. The DLNA server also offers this feature and supports the most popular multimedia formats including jpeg, mp3, wma, m4a, aac, flac, avi, mpeg, mp4, ts, m2ts, mkv, wmv.
The Ultra 2 also supports browser-based access to its files. Unfortunately, you cannot assign different access rights to the same resource for different users. There is only a list of users that can access the resource and the type of their access (read only or read/write). Depending on the latter option, a user will see either an ordinary file tree or a full-featured interface for managing files and folders including copying, downloading, removing or renaming (within the single shared resource).
As we’ve noted above, the Ultra 2’s basic firmware only includes key network features and a couple of add-on modules. The rest of features can be installed as individual modules of which there are plenty available. In most cases you have to download the module file to your PC and then install it onto the NAS but Netgear seems to be preparing a full-featured online catalogue for installing add-ons directly from the NAS’s web-interface. Most of the add-on modules have individual setup and management interfaces and place links to them in the NAS’s main web-interface.
The ReadyNAS Remote module can be used for accessing the NAS remotely. You install client software to your PC or mobile device, create a user account and allow this user to access the NAS. This remote access system is handy and does not require that you change anything in your router settings.
ReadyNAS Photos is a rather old add-on module that hasn’t been updated for a couple of years. It is not very easy to use as you have to install a client tool on your PC and register at a website.
The BitTorrent module is going to be the most popular, we guess. It was created by the namesake developer three years ago but it seems to be so stable as to require no updates. You can specify the folder to store files in, choose a connection port, limit the speed of downloading and seeding, and set up a task completion condition (a certain rating or time period). This client works fairly well but it is not handy in terms of remote management because it does not allow to protect its web-interface with a password. So, if you are going to use P2P networks extensively and manage download tasks remotely, we’d recommend you to consider alternative modules such as MLDonkey or Transmission.
Talking about add-on modules, we should also mention the SqueezeCenter media service which supports Squeezebox series media players and Orb, a tool for accessing the NAS’s media library (including photos, music and even videos) via the Internet from different client systems such as PCs and mobile devices.
The number and functionality of add-on modules is quite satisfactory, but Netgear itself seems to be not paying much attention to their development. It’s also not very nice that some mobile clients (for ReadyNAS Remote and Orb, for example) are not free. Of course, most users are not going to need them at all, but the consequence is that Netgear’s products may look inferior to other brands’ in terms of firmware capabilities.
You can visit www.readynas.com to download modules that support the APT package management system and enable console access. The standard x86 platform makes it easy to use third-party software (particularly, content management systems, P2P clients, iPhone/iPod tools, etc). You can find them in a special section of the mentioned website and on its forum.