Over the last few months I’ve been a very happy user of FreeNAS for home media use. I had previously considered some off the shelf offerings from Iomega, Drobo and the like, but these certainly would have worked out too expensive.
My setup is quite simple. I’ve installed it on a 2GB USB memory stick which it boots from inside my trust HP N40L Microserver. It has 4GB of RAM which I’m looking at doubling at some point in the near future. The Microserver is the perfect little box for this: small footprint, four SATA disk bays, lowe power cosumption and very, very quiet – so quiet in fact, I have it in my living room.
The FreeNAS install process is really quick and easy too. It comes with two methods of installation. One could make use of the option to install from CD or use the Disk Imagine (the choice I went with). Upgrades can be done in the same way and there is a GUI upgrade option as well.
I should have mentioned earlier that FreeNAS is based on BSD. It also makes use of ZFS (or UFS if you so choose, or have limited resources on your FreeNAS server). What this means for users, is that it supports both NFS for Linux users and CIFS for the Windows users. The deal clincher here is that it also supports AFP for Apple Fan-boys and girls. You’ll be able to share all you media across you Mac, Ubuntu or Windows machines and use it as a destination for you Apple TimeMachine backups.
At this point I think that it worth mentioning the flexibility that ZFS allows. You’re able to grow and shrink volumes on the fly. For instance, if you have 10GB allocated for your series but need more, you can extend it and immediately see the resulting storage space. I’m drastically oversimplifying it, but I’ll dig a little deeper in the future.
For those wanting to use a block protocol instead of file, you could also use the inbuilt iSCSI functionality to create iSCSI LUNS. More on this in a future update.
Another fantastic feature is the ability to install plugins. There are many options available, including a DLNA server, a bit torrent client and more.
For now though, I encourage you to check FreeNAS out and give it a try. If you are considering a NAS box of some sort and fancy yourself a bit of a hands-on type of person, it will most be very gratifying. Also, you will save a bit of $cash$…