FreeNAS Mini NAS with ZFS – Advantages & Limitations


FreeNAS Mini is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) unit targeted at small & medium businesses and high-end homes. This NAS is built on ZFS file system that provides exceptional reliability and many enterprise-grade features like compression, snapshots, encryption, RAID-Z, etc. It protects against data corruption and disk failures.

ixsystems, the creator of the popular FreeNAS open source NAS software, is the manufacturer of this unit. Since the manufacturer has identified the appropriate hardware and configuration to run their software, you can be assured the system will work well on FreeNAS OS. 
A NAS Connectivity Architecture Diagram:

A-Simple-NAS-Connectivity-Architecture

It is optimum to connect a NAS to the main/central switch that connects to the modem+router. But a NAS can also be connected anywhere on the network — it just needs a network port on a network-connected switch.

Main Specifications:

  • Model: FreeNAS Mini
  • Type: 4-Bay NAS (Network Attached Storage)
  • 8 Core 2.4 GHz Intel CPU
  • Max storage capacity: 24 TB
  • 4 x SATA 3.5” HDD Drive bays
  • 2 x SATA 2.5” Internal Drive bays
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR3 with ECC Standard (Can be upgraded to 32 GB – optional)
  • 2 x RJ45 Gigabit Ports for connectivity; 1 x RJ-45 port for management
  • 3 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x VGA port, 1 x Serial port
  • RAID Engine: ZFS; RAID Levels: RAID Z1 (5), RAID Z2 (6), ZFS Mirror (10), ZFS Stripe
  • Warranty: 1-year

Advantages of FreeNAS Mini NAS:

  • FreeNAS is a popular Open Source NAS software run on millions of computers worldwide. The FreeNAS Mini unit is a custom hardware designed by the creators of FreeNAS.
  • This unit is for both novices and experts. For beginners, there is a simple Graphical User Interface for installation and maintenance.
  • 8-Core 2.4 GHz CPU: One of the most powerful CPUs in this range. It can transcode multiple media streams simultaneously. Great if you plan to stream multiple 1080p HD movies across your network.
  • This NAS OS is based on ZFS file system, which excels at protecting against data corruption & disk failures; ZFS also supports compression, snapshots, encryption, replication, RAID-Z, etc.
  • Data corruption in ZFS is rare as the file system keeps checking for correctness and rebuilds from parity data consistently.
  • Manual and automatic snapshots to recover data as it was at a point of time in the past, in case you accidentally delete/change important data.
  • 16 GB RAM is higher than many competing solutions. This helps the NAS serve files faster.
  • ECC Memory is a premium feature that provides better performance and protection from in-flight data corruption. This feature is generally available only in enterprise grade NAS units.
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports can be upgraded to Dual 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports, for even more speed. The two LAN ports support link aggregation.
  • Hot-swap feature ensures you can pull a drive out of the unit even when it is switched on.
  • Toolless front loading drive bays ensure easy and quick drive installation.
  • Optional dedicated Read/Write Flash hardware cache to improve read/write performance.
  • Two case door keys are provided to lock the case and keep it safe.
  • There is a GUI management interface, sufficient for most users. But there is also CLI management available for advanced users.
  • There is some sound while operation, but it’s not loud.
  • The FreeNAS Mini works with Plex and other media servers.
  • The unit can run multiple applications via jails. It supports Virtual Machines (VMs).
  • The build quality and support is good, comparable with major NAS vendors.
  • Enterprise-class OS and file system for small business and homes.
  • Cross-platform file sharing with all major operating systems in the market.
  • There is a dedicated RJ-45 network port for IPMI management with it’s own IP address.
  • The OS (based on FreeBSD) is highly customizable, and you can edit configuration files through the CLI interface. Unlike other home-grade NAS units, an OS upgrade does not reset all your custom settings.
  • Replication, the process of sending only incremental data that has changed to remote backup systems, saves a lot of bandwidth.
  • ZFS supports variable block sizes. Writing as large blocks of data can significantly increase write performance.
  • LZ4 compression, a high-performance compression algorithm for multi-core CPUs, saves space.

Limitations/Tips:

  • The FreeNAS Mini is more expensive than many equivalent home desktop NAS appliances in the market, but it is less expensive than enterprise-grade rack mounted units.
  • Although the unit comes with a GUI, configuring this unit takes some time and effort. If you are new to NAS you might find it a bit difficult, but you can easily learn it if you invest some time. Besides, there is abundant documentation online and the makers even provide a FreeNAS admin training course.
  • USB 2.0 ports are provided, instead of the recent/faster USB 3.0 ports.
  • Knowledge of FreeBSD is required to work with the Command Line interface (for advanced functions) as the OS is based on FreeBSD.
  • The company provides only hardware warranty. The warranty for the software is community-based. But there is a vibrant and supportive community behind the development of the open source FreeNAS software for NAS.
  • FreeNAS is based on NAS4Free open source project, which many think provides more features than FreeNAS.
  • It is possible to buy an entry-level server or buy individual components separately, load your preferred NAS OS, and build your own NAS. However, this process is time-consuming and there might not be much of a saving.
  • Tip: Buy the diskless NAS model and WD Red hard drives separately to save some money.
  • Tip: Try to use it behind a UPS.
  • Tip: One 2.5” internal drive is for the operating system and the other is for the optional ZFS L2ARC SSD.
  • Tip: Setup a monthly ZFS scrub to detect corrupt data or drive failures.
  • Tip: An approximate calculation to decide whether to upgrade RAM – The base unit requires 8 GB and for every additional 1 TB, consider adding 1 GB of RAM.
  • Tip: The OS Module is a 16 GB SATA DOM (Disk on Module) connected via 6 Gb/s SATA interfaces. You can load another OS, if you wish.

Further Information/Manufacturer’s web page: FreeNAS Mini.

Price (USD)/Buy From (USA): Amazon webpage for,

Optional Accessories:

Disclaimer: The links to Amazon.com from this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy the product, I may get a small commission. Be assured that I select the best products, and your price will remain the same. 

You can follow the latest Computer Networking/IT Products released for homes/small businesses & reviews by subscribing to this blog with your email address in the top right-hand sidebar box: ‘Follow by E-mail’. You can expect one mail per week (max).