FreeNAS as Media Server

by on 01/29/2009 in Computers, Software, Tech

free nasWe all have a lot of media on our computers, music, movies and even Ebooks. What you need is to put all of the media in one place so everyone in the house can access the media easily. Network Attached Storage or NAS is the perfect solution. There are many NAS solutions out there but many carry a large price tag. I have found a great solution called FreeNAS. FreeNAS is just the way it sounds – FREE Network Attached Storage. You just need some old hardware and away you go.

FreeNAS is packaged with basic file transfer services such as CIFS (SMB), NFS, AFP, FTP, SFTP, and SCP. In addition, FreeNAS sports some more advanced backup and file synchronization services, namely rsync for *NIX users and Unison for cross-platform file synchronization. Also included is a UPnP media server with a built-in web based control page. This is great for sharing your media with your PS3, Xbox360 or even your Windows Media Center computers. FreeNAS also comes with a iTunes compatible server built in. You can now serve all of your music to multiple computers on your network.

FreeNAS also supports iSCSI as both an initiator (client) and target (server). iSCSI is an alternative to Fibre Channel, common in large storage networks. To round things out, FreeNAS also supports Dynamic DNS which periodically updates DNS servers with the NAS’ IP address, a great feature for small home office users who use normal residential internet service which usually has a dynamic IP address.

FreeNAS’s hardware configuration features are as complete as its software features. FreeNAS supports software RAID in basic configurations RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and JBOD and also supports complex arrays such as RAID 1+0. FreeNAS also supports encrypted volumes using the Geom Eli module. This allows you to encrypt the entire hard drive (or RAID array) for extra security.

Since FreeNAS can be run on anything that FreeBSD runs on, the developers included some interesting and useful “Miscellaneous” features. Those include a SMART Daemon, which monitors the health of SMART enabled hard drives and a Power Daemon, which monitors system loads and adjusts power states accordingly. Also accessible via web configuration are advanced kernel tuning variables which allow advanced BSD users to tune certain kernel parameters to squeeze the maximum performance out of the hardware.

FreeNAS was easy to install, download and burn the current ISO of FreeNAS; pop it in the CD drive; set your BIOS to boot from CD; and install. The text-based install was fairly intuitive, even though the documentation wasn’t 100% clear on what the different install types were and was written for an older version of FreeNAS. I made it through the install without problems. The 32 MB OS didn’t take more than about 2 minutes to install on my test machine. Once the OS is installed you can unhook that monitor and keyboard and put the FreeNAS box in a corner somewhere.

Now you grab your other computer and point your browser to the IP address of your FreeNAS box. The web based user interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Go through the basic setup and your network server is up and running. There are so many configurations that you can change and setup, and it would be a lot for me to cover all of the options. Poke around and check out the system.

FreeNAS is a cheap and easy solution for any home or small business. It is great to house all of  your MP3s and your Movies in one place.

Enjoy FreeNas and let us know if your using it today.

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