Recently I lost access to my Amazon Drive for approximately 72 hours. There was no data loss, merely interrupted access, but it highlighted the fact that cloud-based storage can disappear on me just like any other kind of storage. This experience moved a back-burner project up to the front burner: adding NAS (Network Attached Storage) to my home network to supplement the (relatively) small SSDs in my computers.
I used to have a Windows Home Server on my home network, which presented network storage as part of its feature set. Sadly for me Microsoft had abandoned that product line, so I decommissioned my machine with no network-based replacement. I moved back to straightforward USB hard drives at home to supplement my cloud-based storage.
Since I’m not entirely sure a 24×7 network-accessible storage would be useful enough for me to justify the electric bill, I didn’t want to go out and spend several hundreds of dollars on a Drobo or similar commercially-available NAS. I also wanted to learn more about this part of the computing world. Drobo (& friends) are designed to be super easy to use, set-and-forget computing appliances. I wanted to see a little bit more under the hood and get a better feel of the nuts-and-bolts.
A desire for lower up-front cost and an interest in seeing the guts… sounds like time for an open source software solution! And like most open source solutions, there are several different projects, some with multiple forks, all proclaiming to be the best solution to the problem.
I decided to try FreeNAS as a starting point. The code base has been around a while (though supposedly extensively rewritten recently) and it is currently funded by iXsystems who makes money by selling storage solution for businesses. (Basically hardware specifically built to run FreeNAS.) So the product has some history, and has a funding source to help make sure it has a future. Both are good things.
Sounds promising, so let’s build a FreeNAS Box!