Free NAS – The Open Source and Free NAS Server

A NAS (Network Attached Storage) system is quite useful to share files/ data with multiple users in a home/ office environment. There are commercial NAS appliances in the market, but FreeNAS is an open source based software alternative to such appliances which can be run on any commonly available computer/ server (that is supported by FreeBSD – The operating system that FreeNAS runs on).

When you install FreeNAS on a dedicated computer/ server (which is free to download from their website) , it becomes a NAS system which you can connect to a network (Wired LAN or Wireless LAN) and any users connected to the same network can access the files stored in them. So, this is basically for sharing files with multiple users over the network. Its even possible to create different user ID and passwords for each user and let them see and access only their files.

Its possible to install FreeNAS directly on the hard disk (full version) or on a USB/CF external drive/ LiveCD (embedded version) that loads the OS to the RAM and runs it from there.

FreeNAS is basically a stand-alone operating system which can be directly installed on to a machine. There is a web-based GUI which can guide the settings of most of the operations but as with Unix based operating systems, the CLI mode is more comprehensive. FreeNAS supports multi-core processors.

FreeBSD & hence FreeNAS are relatively secure from viruses, and other malware – So, the chances of NAS server being attacked by a hacker is very less. Its possible to even encrypt the stored data to provide additional security.

Its possible (and recommended) to automatically backup data stored in FreeNAS system on to external drives. It is also recommended to use a UPS with the FreeNAS system so that there may not be any data loss/ corruption due to abrupt loss in power. FreeNAS also supports RAID configurations for disk redundancy (either the whole disk/ disk partition).

A Webserver (lighttpd) can be configured along with FreeNAS – And a small website can be hosted in it. UFS is the native FreeNAS file system and it is recommended to use this file format. The support for NTFS, FAT, EXT formatted drives is limited. FreeNAS does not check the format of the files stored in it, and they can be accessed from any computer running windows, linux, mac or freebsd.

There is another similar open source project going on for quite some time called OpenMediaVault, which promises to give similar NAS functionalities in Linux. The software has not been released yet because the developer is perfecting it, but lets hope it will be released soon 🙂

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