A better, Economical, Expandable NAS

Storage space is key in business. More and more data, more and more backups. When it’s time to pool all that data into one location for main storage or backup, you need a NAS.

My original goal was to take advantage of storage on local client drives and pool it into one network level raid system. Those options are available. Went a less intense route. The options were between NAS4Free and FreeNAS. Both run on FreeBSD Linux and both offer all the options needed: Samba, zfs, web controls, simple installation.


I went with NAS4Free only for it’s user interface and the ability to quickly see the device stats from the web GUI (of course ssh is much easier to work with).

Zfs was needed for drive pools. I started with two(2) 3TB drives in a raid-1 zdev (a software mirror using zfs). Zfs allows for expanding the pool (and the space) by adding additional zdevs. You just want to keep the similar (all mirrors or all raid-z devices).

Back story: I scoured the net for research on what a zpool can do. Tried making zdevs of various configuration and adding them to a zpool. They work, but maintenance is a pain. Also, you CANNOT remove a zdev entirely from a zpool. You can remove a device or upgrade a drive in a zdev but you cannot remove the entire zdev from a pool. After realizing this, I settled on a mirror with the expectation to add additional mirrors as needed.

Alternatives based on need: GlusterFS was a very viable option. I liked it’s flexibility and multiple server storage options. However, it was a little more time consuming to setup. GlusterFS will be my upgrade from Nas4Free when the time comes.

Tips: Pickup a drive cage. ICY Dock makes a nice 5 x 3.5-drive cage that takes up 3 x 5.25 bays. Or if space is more of a concern you can always get a 4 or 6 bay 2.5-drive cage (just pay attention to the drive height limitations). 2.5 is more for less in terms of storage but less for more in terms of power consumption and heat.

Nas4Free offers rsync, SMB, ftp, and many other service options for file storage. I did not see a cloud service at the time of this post. Not that you couldn’t install a cloud service and use the share for storage!!