Which NAS is the best NAS, get all up in by BizNass....
December 4, 2014 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Home NAS software shoot-out December 2014 edition. Given the specs inside, what should I choose?

I recently shut down my home IT business to take a juicy corporate gig. As a result, I've got a LOT of hardware sitting around. I've already got one server box running, but I kinda want a dedicated NAS and I have the hardware for it. Hoping someone can give me some pointers about what direction to run.

The box: an HP N40L Proliant server with 8Gb of RAM. (cruddy little Sempron)
The drives: an assortment of NOT-ALIKE drives of different sizes, all SATA
Proficiencies: Windows Server, Arch/Manjaro, Ubuntu/Mint

The real challenge here, I think, is that all the drives are different sizes and capacities, which may limit me to unRaid. Advice there is recommended too.

Do I unRaid, FreeNAS, FlexRaid, something else? Do I ZFS with that weak processor? Your input is much appreciated.
posted by TomMelee to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is your aim to learn something or to get a very reliable store for your data?

btrfs is fun to play with and it's pretty stable in recent versions, but I wouldn't trust anything non-backed up to it yet: the developers consider it unstable. It would handle different disk sizes with no problems. cpu won't be an issue, the bottleneck will be elsewhere, and you could test it right now.

I doubt cpu will be an issue unless you are using zfs dedupe. Different sized drives might be a pain with zfs.
Obligatory note about ecc ram goes here.
posted by devnull at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2014

Not sure what the power consumption of your server box is, but a modern dedicated NAS typically uses a tiny fraction of the power of a full PC, which is a big consideration for a lot of people, especially considering that it's likely to be powered up all the time.
posted by pipeski at 7:16 AM on December 4, 2014

What do you want to do with it? What kind of server software would you want running? Streaming media, backup processes, other stuff?

Having NOT-ALIKE drives becomes a bit problematic for any kind of next-gen RAID-ish stuff if some of them have firmware that's not really designed for NAS-like activity and builds that aren't suited for 24/7 operation. (Less of an issue in the well-cooled HP microserver chassis than a smaller box like a Synology, but still worth considering.)

ZFS doesn't require massive CPU power as long as you're not doing , but it does eat RAM: the rule of thumb is 1GB RAM per 1TB of storage, and though I don't know whether it's circulated as folk wisdom, that feels about right to me.

I like FreeNAS, because it's a mature implementation of ZFS with a fairly intuitive GUI, but its strengths are more as a pure storage server (backups and network shares) than a Swiss Army NAS. There are Plex and MiniDLNA plugins, but installing custom stuff is trickier than a standard server build.
posted by holgate at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2014

I like ZFS but I agree with holgate that your small amount of RAM is likely to limit you more than CPU. Ignoring that issue, I'd recommend either FreeNAS or bare FreeBSD depending on your skill level and how much you feel like tinkering.
posted by primethyme at 7:44 AM on December 4, 2014

And I meant to say "not doing intensive read-write operations or on-the-fly media transcoding or stuff like iSCSI block mapping".

The HP microserver has 4 HD slots so you could get past 8TB physical storage if you have drives over 2TB.
posted by holgate at 8:11 AM on December 4, 2014

I'm running FreeNAS on an HP Microserver with 2Gb of RAM, Plex and a Java app, and I'm not hitting any issues. I don't think you'll have any problems.

FreeBSD jails aren't as scary as I thought they were, I'm happily creating them and installing command-line tools in them. Haven't tried to roll my own media plugin, but the published ones cover everything I need.

BTW, that ZFS 1Tb to 1Gb rule is for ZFS with dedupe turned on, and it's only useful in circumstances you're not likely to hit on a home server. Just turn it off.
posted by Leon at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2014

Oh, FreeBSD didn't play happily with the NIC in the HP Microserver (worked, but at 10Mb). I ended up buying a supported Intel NIC.
posted by Leon at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2014

You have experience with Ubuntu/Mint; why not just do a minimal Ubuntu server install with openssh-server and netatalk, and use AFP and SFTP? That, plus a wake-on-LAN system, could do the job easily.
posted by fifthrider at 10:27 AM on December 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. Good questions too. Like I think I said, I have another dedicated Arch box acting as a server, doing plex and all that kinda fun crud. Probably dumb to have two boxes, but I have the hardware, so why not. I don't think the N40 has the guts to transcode HD video, either. I'm also debating switchign to XBMC from plex anyway, so that may not matter, but whatever. My current server isn't RAID'd at all, but it just stores media, nothing that couldn't be easily replaced.

You're talking about not having enough RAM...I have 8Gb of ECC/NonParity ram in the thing. I realize it's not a massive amount, but seems fine for what shouldn't wind up being more than a 4-5Tb NAS.

I'm also not super concerned about the power usage. Power's cheap and it's a small PSU. Probably not to ecofriendly of me...but I use the spare heat to keep that bedroom warm too, heh.

Fwiw, with a bay, the N40 can actually handle 7-8 drives relatively easily if you add a controller card, and several of mine are laptop drives, so I'll run out of SATA headers way before I run out of space.

I don't store critical data on the LAN, it's just a big fat dump for now, I guess mostly an educational experience more than a critical appliance.
posted by TomMelee at 11:20 AM on December 4, 2014

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