This is basically part two of my previous post about troubles in NAS-land. That experience got me thinking about switching up my NAS solution. Here’s why:
- FreeNAS v0.7.x is based on FreeBSD which is a fairly foreign OS to me. Everything, I mean everything, that I do in that OS is a complete and total learning experience. While it’s easy to setup initially, debugging is a chore. I’m much more comfortable in either a Windows or Linux environment.
- FreeNAS v0.7.x has basically been EOL’d and is now in “legacy” support. That leaves me wondering about security and stability issues when upgrading to new hardware (see my previous post).
- FreeNAS v0.7.x transfer speeds have been shown to be a bit slower than (reference needed) other solutions for SAMBA or NFS.
- FreeNAS v0.7.x uses UFS (Unix File System). Yeah… I don’t know either. Mounting EXT4 or NTFS is not an option, but would be extremely handy when swapping data around.
- FreeNAS v0.7.x has questionable USB drivers which seemed to hang on my system when doing large RSYNC or file copy sessions. Bad. Also… slooow.
- FreeNAS v0.7.x has PHP4 and Lighttp instead of PHP5 and Apache2. There were a bunch of cool web applications that I wanted to install on FreeNAS but didn’t because I didn’t want to hassle with installing PHP5 and Apache and screwing up the Web UI. It looks messy and difficult.
Given that I’m comfortable with Linux (Ubuntu specifically), I was eager to see if I could make the switch to something more Linux’y, and still have the nice features and flexibility of FreeNAS. Here was what I wanted:
- I want to run the OS from a USB flash drive. Well ideally it would be nice to run it from an SSD, but I’m not made of money.
- I want a comparable Web UI to FreeNAS (huge selling point). Needs to have the ability to manage shares, services, show me uptime, transfer rate, etc.
- RAID 1 mirror capability is a must. I have data that I want protected from a drive failure. Redundancy is key to my strategy.
- Services like SMB/CIFS, SSH, NFS, FTP, etc. are important to access the data.
- File system flexibility. I’d like the capability to attach new storage in different formats. Linux gives me that flexibility. EXT4 gives me the performance and the protection from issues like power-outages that killed my previous NAS solution dead.
- Remote Bittorrent. Gotta have it.
- Subsonic (hell yes)
- Exandability. I want to install my own web apps, servers like Plex Server, Tonido, OwnCloud, and a host others that would have just been a pain in FreeNAS.
- Good hardware support and regular security updates.
- Good support community.
Here was my final verdict:
- Yes, you can run Ubuntu Server from a USB flash drive. Some folks have pointed out that USB flash drives may run the risk of wear-out and warn to not install an OS on a USB flash drive. You can minimize the amount of writes that are targeted at the flash device by removing the swap partition (make sure you have enough system memory for this). Others say that you should probably never run into a problem with a good quality USB device.
- I started to look for alternative Web UI’s for server administration and I stumbled across a few. I was most impressed by Ajenti (http://ajenti.org), however it’s still in an very early stage of development. I’ll probably go with this, but Webmin appears to be pretty widely used UI and I may fall back on this to get more functionality.
- Yup, I’ve done a lot with RAID Mirroring on Ubuntu in the past. I’ll just dig up this old post (raiding the archives) and implement a mirror as I did before with MDADM. Easy.
- Check. SMB/CIFS, SSH, NFS, FTP are all a snap to install on ubuntu. Just pull from the repositories, configure and off we go. Ajenti has some capability to manage these services from the Web UI as well.
- Yes again. Flexibility abounds. I will choose EXT4 thank you very much.
- Same as FreeNAS, I’ll pull in the latest Transmission Deamon.
- Yup – and easier to install, upgrade and manage on Ubuntu. It’s a deb package so I won’t have to much other than configure it once it’s installed.
- Resounding yes. I will have full flexibility to install the latest PHP, Apache, MySQL, etc… this means I can go crazy installing other fun projects on the NAS in the future.
- Yes and yes.
- Yes – while FreeNAS has a great community, Ubuntu has a bigger user base and a bigger support community.
So that’s it. I’ve made up my mind. Ubuntu Server here we come. It’s going to be quite a project to get this initially setup, but I think it will be an enriching and useful project. It’ll open my home server up to new capabilities and hopefully enhanced performance. FreeNAS is great, but it’s sort of like riding a bike with the training wheels on. It’s time to ride on two wheels now.
P.S. I should also mention that during my research, I ran across OpenMediaVault (http://openmediavault.org/). The original FreeNAS project forked into two projects. The first fork was FreeNAS 8.0 based on FreeBSD8, which is aimed at higher-end server equipment. I avoided this version because it is still in it’s infancy, requires a kind of ridiculous amount of power and it’s still based on FreeBSD. I recently discovered that the second fork is actually a Debian Linux based fork aimed more at the home NAS market. Now they have me second guessing things. Since it’s based on debian, perhaps this would be the easier route… naw.