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Old 03-01-2012, 06:42 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default An Introduction to FreeNAS - The Do-It-Yourself NAS OS

Despite the importance of keeping our personal data safe, many forego setting themselves up with a solid solution that can come to the rescue in the event of a disaster. NAS boxes can be a bit pricy, however, and not to mention restrictive. That problem is solved with FreeNAS, a perfect start to your DIY storage solution.

Read through Greg's first look at FreeNAS and then discuss it here!
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Old 03-02-2012, 05:44 AM   #2
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I used to have server that did this (not FreeNAS, but a full blown Linux OS), but I switched to a dedicated NAS, to save power!
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Old 03-02-2012, 09:03 AM   #3
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Gosh, I have so many questions!

First, thanks a bunch for this Greg. The thought of creating my own NAS is so appealing, I'm being physiologically challenged. Can hard(ly) wait for your NAS build.

But... FreeNAS. Hmm. Well, I always looked at FreeNAS as something that actually ends up producing a more expensive NAS solution than just going out and buying a NAS box. The price tag on that Synology is just pretty much impossible to reach by a FreeNAS solution unless I already have an unused machine around.

The RAM requirements are what get me the most. With 6GB recommended, this is something that can only sit on a 64bit system. Definitely not something that someone with a low income has around not being used. CIFS shares are a very poor choice on older processors and are slow, so it's invariable that -- except for the most exotic situations -- everyone is required to go with ZFS. But here, as you say, 8GB minimum is suggested. So how am I going to handle this with a low income?

FreeNAS seems aimed at the professional end of things, or comfortable users with either powerful machines on the side, or not worrying about buying the parts to build one. Solutions like the DS212, on the other hand, seem much better fit for the general population.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glider View Post
I used to have server that did this (not FreeNAS, but a full blown Linux OS), but I switched to a dedicated NAS, to save power!
This is another problem. With monthly electric bills ~50 Euros and the recent government decision to raise VAT on these from the mid tax of 17% to the full tax of 23% starting January (an imposition of the IMF and EU), I'm getting monthly bills close to 60 Euros. My wife demands I no longer leave the computer on at night (or anything else for that matter). I can only imagine the cost of having another computer running alongside this during the day to serve as a NAS.

While I completely agree that building my own NAS is the best solution in terms of getting it just how we want it (commercial NAS boxes are notoriously hard to customize), and it is a fun thing to do. I do not think they are actually cheaper solutions. But more expensive.
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Old 03-02-2012, 01:26 PM   #4
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FreeNAS is cheaper if you have extra hardware lying around.

6GB of RAM is the recommended minimum if you want to use the ZFS file system. Even then, it's 8GB required given the OS is loaded into memory at boot at a cost of 2GB.

Synology, or any commercial NAS offering for that matter, will be more appealing to most people. It's an all in one that does most everything it's asked to do. For me however, I have terabytes of data on my home network scattered among many different solutions. I want to consolidate that data onto one machine with redundancy. I cannot afford a NAS with over 2 bays in it right now so FreeNAS on existing hardware is my only option. Though I must say that Synology's new 4 and 5 bay drives are VERY sexy.

I did purchase the hardware for this build. Excluding the price of hard drives because they would need to be purchased for any build, I am currently sitting around around 315 dollars.

$50 for a Sandy Bridge Celeron CPU
$75 for an ASUS mini-ITX motherboard
$100 for a case
$50 for a PSU
$40 for 8GB of DDR3 RAM

That comes out to $315 US and offers a considerable amount of headroom should I desire to grow. I could have gone cheaper by getting a MicroATX motherboard because it would have allowed me to go even cheaper on the chassis. The board itself would have been cheaper too given the much larger selection of MicroATX hardware. I am still around the same price of the DS212 but have much more room to grow. My point is that I was able to build this device for around the same price as a stand alone NAS. I know there are cheaper NAS boxes on the market but for comparison, I am using the DS212 as it's the newest one I have to use. Power usage over the long term will be more with the FreeNAS but it's something I am willing to accept.

Older hardware is a viable option for FreeNAS but you obviously have to sacrifice a few things. Even then, the end user might not even notice.

The one thing that Synology currently offers over the latest version of FreeNAS is UPnP support. The FreeNAS group took that capability out of version 8 with the intention of adding it back in when 8.1 ships in the form of add on packages. I am fine with this but it is holding me back from rolling the FreeNAS build into full time use.

Speaking to your concerns about low income users, I don't realistically see them using NAS at all. $200 to $500 (with drives) for a solution might not be in the cards, regardless of FreeNAS or pre built. That said, that does make for a very interesting idea to write about down the road.
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Old 03-02-2012, 03:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg King View Post
$50 for a Sandy Bridge Celeron CPU
$75 for an ASUS mini-ITX motherboard
$100 for a case
$50 for a PSU
$40 for 8GB of DDR3 RAM
This is precisely why I don't like you!
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Old 03-02-2012, 03:24 PM   #6
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I don't like myself.
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Old 03-05-2012, 07:05 PM   #7
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Interesting... FreeNAS does support VPN connections although it takes a bit of work to get it going. That is something I'm very interested in for remotely accessing my NAS, yet only the newer model QNAP boxes have it baked in so I'm out of luck with my NAS box.

That's a surprisingly expensive build! Do you have any idle / disk load wattage numbers for that system out of curiosity? And what's the best file transfer speeds are you seeing with it? I'd imagine they're pretty darn high with that processor.
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Old 03-06-2012, 11:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kougar View Post
Interesting... FreeNAS does support VPN connections although it takes a bit of work to get it going. That is something I'm very interested in for remotely accessing my NAS, yet only the newer model QNAP boxes have it baked in so I'm out of luck with my NAS box.

That's a surprisingly expensive build! Do you have any idle / disk load wattage numbers for that system out of curiosity? And what's the best file transfer speeds are you seeing with it? I'd imagine they're pretty darn high with that processor.
Kougar,

First off, I need you to stop posting in the forums for a bit. You're post count is somewhat unreachable to me at this time.

Secondly, and most importantly, I do not have any numbers for the FreeNAS build as I haven't built it out how I am going to test it yet.

Concerning VPN, I know that Synology offers this option as well and I believe that it's included for all models capable of running the latest build of DSM. I will have to check on that for you though so please take my comments with a grain of salt.

Pricing isn't all that bad. As Marfig and I discussed, the price of my build is on par with the Synology DS212 that we just reviewed. While 300 is a bit on the expensive side, it isn't out of reach for most users. There are obviously cheaper ways to go about this type of project but for this one, I am using the hardware listed in my earlier comment. I will let you know what the power draw numbers are. I will be comparing it to other devices on my network, including my personal computer and hopefully a 4-bay pre-built NAS.
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Old 03-07-2012, 04:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg King View Post
Concerning VPN, I know that Synology offers this option as well and I believe that it's included for all models capable of running the latest build of DSM. I will have to check on that for you though so please take my comments with a grain of salt.
They do

Quote:
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Pricing isn't all that bad. As Marfig and I discussed, the price of my build is on par with the Synology DS212 that we just reviewed. While 300 is a bit on the expensive side, it isn't out of reach for most users. There are obviously cheaper ways to go about this type of project but for this one, I am using the hardware listed in my earlier comment. I will let you know what the power draw numbers are. I will be comparing it to other devices on my network, including my personal computer and hopefully a 4-bay pre-built NAS.
I picked up my DS410 for 350 euro, about 2 years back... that is about as much as the build, and is a 4bay model... It packs a fairly standard Linux kernel, from which I run all my scripts. To me it is a full replacement for my home server.
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:11 PM   #10
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I would just like to say that Glider's Synology took a crap and lost all his stuff...and once it fails, it fails. However, my cheap-ass linux home server has had random hardware failures including (but not limited to): Two motherboard burnouts, two hard drive failures, a CPU finally falling over and dying, a ram stick failing...all because I was using spare old hardware lying about after I'd upgrade my primary systems.

And after all of these, I was able to slap in a new part (or change out the whole board) and be back up and running in a matter of minutes.

For even this reason alone (not to mention all the cool stuff I can do with it), I'd rather use FreeNAS or a full Linux/BSD install than anything else. I don't know about you guys, but my data is precious - so open source solutions that don't depend on proprietary hardware save my bacon every time.

PS, you can make it almost as power-effective as the synology by simply using an atom/ion board or underclocking/volting your CPU.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:11 PM   #11
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The motherboard thought occurred to me, but kudos on the underclocking tip!
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:48 AM   #12
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I would just like to say that Glider's Synology took a crap and lost all his stuff...and once it fails, it fails.
I was more at fault then the Synology on that one
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:26 AM   #13
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Thanks for the reply Greg! I wasn't paying enough attention, thought ya had built it! But yes, I would be extremely interested in seeing those numbers when ya do have the time to run them. Will be looking forward to that!

Quote:
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PS, you can make it almost as power-effective as the synology by simply using an atom/ion board or underclocking/volting your CPU.
I'm not sure that's entirely possible, or better to say it at least it depends on the NAS in question? My QNAP box came with the top model Marvell SoC targeting SATA RAID arrays (at least at the time, which was... a bit over 3 year ago). It was right as QNAP began adopting Atom for its 4-drive+ lineup.

This Marvell SoC is capable of up to 28MB/s in 4-HDD RAID 5 on a good day. That's about 1/4th the throughput of a modern, high-end Atom CPU. But on the flipside, this NAS box just sips power... under the same RAID 5 with full disk load and four SATA HDDs, it uses 41 watts from the wall, and 35 watts at idle. If an Atom (or AMD equiv) based board can hit very near those figures with four drives and two fans, I'd be sold on DIY NAS boxes.

Also, I should clarify newer boxes received the firmware upgrade to allow direct private VPN support, but the TS-409 has not. QNAP did release two complete firmware reworks and easily two dozen smaller firmware updates over the years I've had this NAS, so I don't mean to detract from them any. I realize they have to break legacy support at some point! It just wasn't very convenient timing when they chose to do so...
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:12 PM   #14
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Quote:
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I'm not sure that's entirely possible, or better to say it at least it depends on the NAS in question? My QNAP box came with the top model Marvell SoC targeting SATA RAID arrays (at least at the time, which was... a bit over 3 year ago). It was right as QNAP began adopting Atom for its 4-drive+ lineup.
I'll agree here...it depends on your board and your system. Goodness knows, my current home server does NOT sip at the power straw. However, you can get a lot out of one of these setups if you know what to keep and what to shut off in your BIOS as a lot of things become unnecessary (for instance, onboard analog audio, which draws quite a bit of power, oddly). And if you're setting it up as just a NAS box, Wake-On-Lan isn't always a bad option if you use a small SSD (or even USB key) for the OS. Will it compete with the silent little NAS? Maybe not watt for watt, but there can be perks that may be worth the price of the extra power.
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Old 03-14-2012, 08:24 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett Thomas View Post
I would just like to say that Glider's Synology took a crap and lost all his stuff...and once it fails, it fails. However, my cheap-ass linux home server has had random hardware failures including (but not limited to): Two motherboard burnouts, two hard drive failures, a CPU finally falling over and dying, a ram stick failing...all because I was using spare old hardware lying about after I'd upgrade my primary systems.
Damn, man. There's no such thing as "set-it-and-forget-it" with PCs, is there?
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