Building a Home FreeNAS Server - Requirements

Submitted by nigel on Sunday 5th August 2012

With a disparate collection of old IDE drives ripped out of old servers and PCs, my personal data is well and truly fragmented and a complete dog's dinner. I have a stack of these IDE drives on a shelf underneath my coffee table in the living room, and every time I need to access some data I would connect a drive to my laptop through the USB port using this IDE/SATA switch. This was distinctly trial and error when trying to locate the file I wanted, but worse the unit actually burnt out last week anyway after some hefty usage. So, the time has come to set up my own NAS box upon which I can have a centralised and accessible location for all my music, movies, spreadsheets, documents and photos.


Here's what I need:
1. Hard disk redundancy so should a disk die I'm not totally kiboshed. Ideally I'd like RAID6 but for budgeting reasons, I feel I'm going to have to go RAID5;
2. 4TB would be more than adequate and give me sufficient headroom for growth. I have an extensive music collection I would like on the NAS, in both mp3 (entire collection) and flac (when I have the original CD). This will mean 3x2TB drives with RAID5;
3. Aside from the hard disks which I know I will have to buy, I have zero budget for this project. It must be built from the miscellany of hardware I've used in previous projects over the years and is currently cluttering my flat. So let me repeat (apart from HD requirements) the budget is £0;
4. The project should be fun and I should get something out of it - such as learning a new skill.

There are of course hardware solutions in the marketplace already, and should I wish to spend money, I could be up and running in no time. There are problems with this approach:
1. As I've already said, I don't intend spending any money apart from the drives themselves;
2. Buying an off-the-shelf solution may offer limited capabilities and I wouldn't have the satisfaction of building something from scratch;
3. Even if I had a small budget, it certainly wouldn't stretch to the very expensive RAID5 boxes in the marketplace.

Cloud Computing - an Alternative?

One of the main drivers for this project is to avoid using cloud technology. I am vehemently against it.

Firstly, there is the cost associated with it. Whilst there are many products in a busy marketplace, all would charge for the amount of disk space I would use.

Secondly, all the companies providing these cloud services have terms and conditions I am far from comfortable with. They can use any images stored on line for their own purpose; they can index your documents on line to provide contextual advertisements.

Thirdly, there have been way too many hacked sites for my liking. The larger the company, the more likely they will become the target of hackers.

Fourthly, all the cloud providers currently support storage only and not streaming - therefore any music would have to be downloaded and stored locally before playing!

And finally, I really don't like the idea of a high court judge issuing a subpoena to the cloud provider should I fall foul of the law. So in essence, this is a complete non-starter.


The solution is simple - because the server software is already in existence, and it's called FreeNAS. To directly cut and paste from the FreeNAS website, FreeNAS™ is an Open Source Storage Platform based on FreeBSD and supports sharing across Windows, Apple, and UNIX-like systems. FreeNAS™ 8 includes ZFS, which supports high storage capacities and integrates file systems and volume management into a single piece of software.

Furthermore, since I have a veritable junk yard of PC components from previous projects, I should be able to build a server capable of running such software.

And, the icing on the cake is I should be able to set up port forwarding on my firewall/hub to enable me to access my data wherever I am on the Internet. Who needs Cloud Computing?

So let the adventure begin

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