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[Discuss] FreeNAS

I have long had a media server based on some variety of Linux, most
recently Ubuntu. Version 1 had five 200-250GB drives in RAID 5 in a
mini-tower and ran SuSE. That was replaced a few years back by the
current box: a MiniITX motherboard with an AMD E-350 (chosen for low
power consumption in a 24/7 box, not performance) and a pair of 1.5TB
drives, originally running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and upgraded to 12.04 and
14.04. But it was getting cramped so it was time for its next upgrade.
I wanted to try something a bit more packaged, so I decided to give
FreeNAS a try. The file security features of ZFS were also a draw.
(ZFS is available in Linux now - Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and various other
distros have it as an option- but the implementation in FreeBSD is
more mature.)

I stuck with the same box but upgraded the RAM. It had 4GB RAM which
won't cut it for FreeNAS (8GB is the minimum) so I decided to max out
the platform with 16GB (2x8GB). The new DDR3 2400 sticks ($5 more than
DDR3 1600) actually went in my gaming/development box (which can take
advantage of the higher memory speed) and the DDR3 1600 sticks in that
system went into the NAS. (Memory support on the E-350 actually maxes
out at DDR3-1066 so even the 1600 is overkill, though it does have
6-6-6 timing at that speed which is nice.) The storage: two new 4TB
drives that I got a few months ago and are finally getting around to
using. (For now the 1.5TB drives are on the shelf; they will either
get added back as a second volume or used elsewhere.) A pair of 32GB
USB flash drives round out the hardware - FreeNAS requires that you
boot from something other than the storage drives, and it will mirror
the boot drives if you use two. 8GB boot drives are the minimum, but
with 32GB at $9 each at Micro Center there didn't seem to be any point
to scrimping.

So far so good. The hardware is way below the usual recommended
platform for FreeNAS, but it does meet the minimum requirements
(dual-core or more x86-64 CPU) and my needs are modest. It was easy to
set up and it feels like it serves up files more responsively than
Ubuntu did. (The additional RAM doesn't hurt!) Specifically, it seems
to handle seeking to a different part of a file much better than
either Ubuntu or shares from my Windows Media Center box (used
primarily as a DVR) - dragging the time slider forward in a video file
to skip past things or backward for replays is just about instant,
while the other sharing solutions often lagged.

All in all, I can recommend FreeNAS based on my experience. If anybody
else here has used it, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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