Buy or Build a NAS

Posted on 2014-04-28
Last Modified: 2014-04-30
I am contemplating building my own NAS with FreeNAS or Ubuntu with Samba.

Is there any reason I should spend a lot of money on a NAS box when I can build one with an old pc? For a fraction of the cost I can have a box that performs as good as a pre-built one? Am I missing something here?
Question by:hoodun12
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 40027567

I've used FreeNAS and done the 'roll your own' with Linux and Samba as well.  You can get the same performance or better than you get with the 'entry level' NAS devices like the low-end WD and Seagate NAS devices.  When using those I've flashed them to get the same performance as FreeNAS.  The only issues you'll face are increased power consumption and space.  But you can manage the home-built without an attached keyboard or monitor.

I say go for it.

- gurutc
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Gerwin Jansen, EE MVE
ID: 40027670
>> old pc
I would not take a PC that it too old, you probably won't have SATA connectors and probably a slow CPU, maybe just a 100Mb NIC.

I'd suggest starting with a low power (mini) ITX CPU board with at least 2 drives, putting FreeNAS on a thumb drive for example.
LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 40027672
Definitely missing something. Without know the specs of the 'vendor pre-built' verus ' old pc', any comments made will be not accurate or will be open-ended.

I came across to the same situation of using the cheapest component to build a FreeNAS few years ago. At the end I end up replacing everything (motherboard, memory and hard drive) to the 'supported hardware list' because It is slow other issues I never though of. keep in mind that you get what you paid for. Using old components could bring you to "unsupported hardware" path should you face any issue.

A good starter is find out the specs of a 'vendor pre-built'. Buy the exact same parts and do in the install yourself, you should able to save some money.
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 40027686
Agree with above comment.  When I've built my own I've used new components.  You don't want to chase down driver support for older components either.

- gurutc

Author Comment

ID: 40027706
I have a dual core ma hine that is brand new. old stock. it has sata ports... :) I am trying to learn the advantage of having many network cards  I plan on a 10gbe card. Will I benefit from two of these? I notice some boxes have multiple cards.

I will be using this for sharing video files for editing between 5 editing stations  I need the fastest possible solution.

Im even contemplating using thunderbolt. This may be a different discussion though.
LVL 16

Accepted Solution

gurutc earned 500 total points
ID: 40027716
For the speed you are shooting for you should go the Linux/SAMBA route instead of the FreeNAS route.  Linux drivers and modules are going to be available for File Services Optimization.

- gurutc
LVL 10

Expert Comment

ID: 40027977
I would go with the Samba Share on Linux as it's faster. However, I've done all three and these last several months I've been slammed at home and work. So thought should be given to see if you have the free time to keep it patched and up to date versus a prebuilt NAS.  I too personally, like The FreeNAS Mini.
LVL 62

Expert Comment

ID: 40028851
Depends on how old is your PC
Basically anything of 2005+ can be upgraded to do what you want.
Make sure you have enough hard drive slots. Install SATA controller if no SATA onboard, as much RAM as possible, at least two gigabit cards (not realtek)
You can mash together multiple workstations
100-150$ per piece i mentioned.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:Daniel Helgenberger
ID: 40029248

to add my 2cent as well as I was faced with the same thing recently (

This means, there is a way in the middle (I do not say it is 'golden' ;):
Using a commercial software appliance with an 'old pc'.

Basically you have to ask yourself some questions in advance:
- What is the main application? In general, do you have only samba / Windows clients?
In this case, I would go for a classic file server build running Debian or RHEL/Cent with SAMBA 4 or 3.6 at least.

- Do you want ease of use and are fine with an older Samba version (Eg. Samba 2; aka Windows 2003 / WinXP mode) and do want flexibility for your filesystem and need other things like iSCSI target ect?
In this case go for a NAS appliance like FreeNAS or I suggest: NexentraStor.

After comparing a lot of things I choose Nexenta over FreeNAS because FreeNAS is BSD based and therefore has the two core components like ZFS and COMSTAR (for iSCSI) ported instead of native from Solaris.
This may seem a little bit picky at first glance but IMHO saves you a lot of trouble in the long run.

As for the money:
If you read a bit into ZFS and have already an 'old' server at your disposal, it drills down to buying a cheaper (100$) SAS card and a JBOD enclosure (I recommend the HP StorageWorks MSA70; you can get it here in Germany used for about 200 Euros) and RAM (the amount depends on how much the total storage will be; rule of thumb is 1GB per 1TB gross storage +1GB for the OS, two if you plan on using DeDup).
Also, I recommend to only use new hard disk drives.

The beauty of this setup is you can use some slower / cheaper disks if you combine it  with a larger L2ARC SSD's (read cache, can also be consumer grade SSD) and fast ZIL's . Because ZFS does all the things much better than any hardware RAID controller and you basically building one, you can go for cheaper HBA's with no build in RAID controller (in fact, you have to disable it).
You get all those fancy features like thin provision, dedup, COW and so on.

The NexentaStor Community Edition is free of charge (you have to register it though) for up to 18TB of gross storage. You can convert it any time to the enterprise version (which is licensed by gross storage). There you can use more than 18TB and features like HA, FC target mode and some EXi integration in disk provisioning.

I am very happy with my decision, I use it mainly with 10GbE NAS for oVirt VM - Images, Also, some iSCSI targets and a Windows share; using Windows ACLs.
LVL 10

Expert Comment

ID: 40033091
hoodun12, Hmm seems like I said "I would go with the Samba Share on Linux as it's faster." and even mentioned lack of time to managed it. But you didn't give the "Ack" on my comment. :(

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