Your data is invaluable and strictly confidential. But which company should you entrust your sensitive data to? Which payment tier should you surrender your hard earned cash? Maybe you want to access your media across all your devices anywhere in the world?
People are quite outspoken on this subject, and with the choices out there, some, if not all of them could be confusing.
Operating systems like unRAID have similar functional flexibility, and unRAID is excellent for personal and small business use. However, there is a cost attached to how many drives you can install. Even the file system that unRAID chooses is vastly different to that of FreeNAS.
The least flexible of the options will be a store bought one. Alternative network storage solutions like QNAP and Synology might be easier to setup. However the cost attached to them, along with limited flexibility, isn’t the same as FreeNAS. Here’s why.
1. FreeNAS Is Free
The absolute best price to pay for anything. Although it’s name is derived from the base operating system it’s powered by (FreeBSD), the current stable version, which is FreeNAS 11, is fully featured and free! Both for people in a home or corporate environment setting. Your wallet will love you for this.
2. Mature Operating System
While being a subjective word, software needs to to meet certain criteria in order for it to be deemed mature. FreeNAS traces its roots back to 2005 and has since been downloaded over nine million times! The evolution of FreeNAS has transformed it into one of the most secure, reliable, actively maintained and globally field-proven NAS operating systems you can get your hands on.
3. Re-Purpose Old Hardware
Do you know that old PC that is in your garage which you’ve promised to get rid of for as long as you can remember? Why not breathe some new life into it. FreeNAS will run on just about anything. Granted you may not be able to simultaneously stream 4K content to your entire neighborhood. But if you wanted a simple, secure file server and or backup server.
With some elbow grease and determination, you could save yourself from the woeful scorn of your unloved old PC. The only items you should definitely buy brand new are the drives. Relative to other components hard drives degrade much quicker.
4. Enterprise Grade Storage
At this point you may ask: “But obviously I need an expensive RAID controller for this level of storage?” Absolutely, positively not!
FreeNAS uses the ZFS file system, which doesn’t suffer from most, if not all of the issues or limitations that legacy file systems and hardware RAID controllers have. Even in the event that your motherboard dies, you should be able to plug in your drives to another machine running FreeNAS and import your volumes.
There are ZFS options for creating striped drives, mirrored drives and even a disk array with two parity drives. Which means your array will have to suffer three drives failing outright before you have a catastrophic failure. The flexibility that FreeNAS offers combined with the ZFS implementation makes setups from home all the way up to corporate a possibility. Did I mention that there is no restriction on how much storage you could add?
5. Secure and Private Personal Cloud Store
You will never have to pay for a cloud storage subscription again or run the risk of your data leaking because some malicious, hoodie-wearing millennial has hacked your cloud storage provider and now has a copy of your passport and social security details.
ownCloud will allow you to share your files, contacts, calendars and more on any device. Your data will be stored only on your FreeNAS box and any device you, and only you give access to.
6. The Ultimate Backup and Media Server
Loss of data can be a catastrophic experience, especially if you formatted your five-year-old USB stick with your precious family photos and the only copy of that hysterical video where you dressed up your dog as your minion for Halloween. Even in the unfortunate events like theft or natural disasters, your data is invaluable.
FreeNAS has native support for replication, snapshots and rsync as well as extended support for services such as CrashPlan and even Amazon S3. Got a Mac? You could use your FreeNAS box as a time machine natively! Rest assured your backup needs be they local or cloud, on all operating systems are more than covered.
If you’re storing all your media on your NAS it makes sense for your NAS to serve up that media to your network. Plex is one of those applications that you can’t imagine life without. After adding Plex to your FreeNAS box it now transforms your enterprise grade storage solution into a bad ass media server. With support for pretty much any smart device with a screen or HDMI port. PLEX takes care of all your media: movies, TV shows, home videos, photos, and audio collections.
With the current version of FreeNAS (FreeNAS 11) comes a hypervisor. This means that you can spin up as many instances of Windows or Linux right on your FreeNAS server as your hardware permits. This makes cases like testing out a new operating system or creating tiny virtual machines that have a specific purpose a cinch!
The boffins over at FreeNAS have also announced that Docker will be supported in the next release, which opens up your FreeNAS box to the world’s leading software container platform. Be sure to check that your hardware supports virtualisation to take advantage of these features.
8. Who Needs Off-the-Shelf? Make It Your Own!
Everything from which components you use, to how you implement is completely up to you. This makes the upgrade and maintenance path for your appliance more supported than buying an off the shelf solution like what Synology or QNAP offer.
The sense of accomplishment you get for building your own device, that is more cost effective, reliable and feature rich is addictive!
9. Rock Solid, Set and Forget
Once you have your FreeNAS box setup, it will only need attention from you in the event of a hardware fault or necessary update. The dashboard does have telemetry built in so you have the option of keeping a watchful eye on your disk, network or CPU usage.
Alternatively you could use the built-in notifications to email you in the event that one of your drives has failed, and if you don’t replace it soon, your entire GIF collection of cats is going to be lost!
10. Community Is Awesome
Another indication of software maturity, is in the activeness of it’s community. The FreeNAS forum is a plethora of knowledge, not just on FreeNAS, but many experts in the fields of security, software development, analysis, and even people that are brand new to the Linux community take part in the conversations.
You will rarely, if not ever, come across an instance where someone hasn’t asked the question you need an answer for, or someone will not be able to answer. The FreeNAS community over and above all the bells and whistles of the operating system make its adoption as smooth as swimming in a pool filled with double cream.
Are you in the market for a cost effective NAS? How do you currently store your data? Do you use another NAS operating system? Let us know in the comments below! Head to freenas.org to grab your copy.
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