Netgear SC101 NAS Review
A little more than a year ago I made the mistake of purchasing a Netgear SC101--a network-attached storage (NAS) device. I emphatically recommend against these devices; they're junk.
As I said, this is a network-attached storage (NAS) device. Basically, it's simply storage that is always available from anywhere on the network. Storing files there leaves them accessible to any computer on the network. It's basically like having my own file server. In particular, what I liked about the SC101 was that it offered mirrored redundancy: two drives could fit in the SC101 and whatever was copied to one gets copied to the other. If one fails, the other still works. In that way, a simple hard drive failure will not cause me to lose my important data. Most NAS units just hold a single hard drive.
I previously mentioned an interest in the SC101 and impulse-bought shortly thereafter without doing any more research. I bought two 250 GB Western Digital hard drives for it to use in a mirrored configuration. I wanted to have a central location for our "My Documents" stuff that sits on the notebook and desktop computers, so it'd always be available. Also, I wanted this to serve as a digital photo backup/repository.
Installation was a little rocky. I couldn't figure out how to tell which drive the SC101 was working with and so was left seeminly mirroring a 100+ GB partition to another 100+ GB partition on the same drive. Eventually, somehow, I figured it out. Honestly, I don't remember what I did--it was more than a year ago!
Since this was going to hold some important data for us, I thought I should test it out first. You know, force the SC101 to fail to see how it handles itself and my files. First, I tried just yanking the power cord to simulate a power failure. I plugged it back in, heard the drives spin up... and nothing. The desktop computer couldn't connect to the SC101's drive anymore, and even the Netgear SmartWizard software couldn't find it. I followed the troubleshooting guide to power things down and up and recheck this and that... and nothing. Eventually I followed some steps I found in the Community Forum using the UT program and got it working.
Even though that wasn't an auspicious start, I continued: I pulled one of the drives that made the mirror. The other drive continued to serve files from the SC101 just fine! However, even after several reboots of the desktop computer, the SC101 still didn't warn me that the mirror was broken. (To sidetrack a bit: the redundancy of the SC101 is something that I really liked. The chief reason for buying it, in fact. Both drives have to fail before I lose my data.) Anyway, I wasn't notified that the mirror was broken. Running the SmartWizard software told me that there was only one drive in it and that it wasn't mirrored. I searched the manual, the Netgear site, and the community forum and was rather surprised to find no mention of how to rebuild the mirror when/if it breaks. I decided to pop a different disk in and see if it would just start to rebuild. No dice.
I finally e-mailed Netgear's tech support about this problem. The response I got back was basically "just plug a new drive in and it'll re-mirror." I e-mailed back and forth a few times with tech support describing what I saw, but English obviously wasn't their first language and I got nowhere.
I decided to recreate the mirror from scratch and go ahead using it. It appears that if the mirror breaks I'll have to copy the data to another local drive, then recreate the mirror, then copy the data back. Slow and painful, but manageable because I don't plan to have hard drives die frequently. I set up our desktop and notebook computers to work off of the SC101 for our bookmarks and documents, and other little things.
Within a few days, I found that the notebook wasn't able to connect to the SC101 as a network drive anymore. I had to reboot the SC101 and use the Netgear SmartWizard software to re-attach it. Then, a few days later it happened with the desktop. Then, a few days later, it happened again. And again, and again, and again.
I tried some new firmware and SmartWizard software, but that rendered the device completely useless for a while. The next revision let it work again, but shortly thereafter I was back to the same problem where the device couldn't be connected to anymore.
Somewhere in here I should mention that--at the time--Netgear's community forums were basically flooded with complaints about the SC101. I haven't been there in quite a while, and don't intend to go back. Over the summer I finally unplugged the SC101 and set it aside. (I've intended to write this review since then!) We're back to having unsynchronized files on the notebook and desktop, but it's better than always having to try to get the SC101 to work.
You get what you pay for, I guess. I think I'm going to purchase an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ before too long: many more features, a much more capable device, and a solid support team.