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Media Server “How-to” | The FreeNAS Server


FreeNAS Server

FreeNAS 6-Disc Cube

Here’s a little background information regarding my home NAS (Network Attached Storage) server. I have built so many different variations of this storage server using different platforms and components, as well as using prebuilt, consumer units.  Other than FreeNAS, I have evaluated Windows Home Server, Windows Server 2000, OpenFiler, Ubuntu, CentOS.   This is the third time that I have gone back to FreeNAS, and I can finally say I am happy with my setup (for now). Why FreeNAS?  Number one, because it’s free!  Also, it has a very intuitive web-based GUI to do most of the administration and setup tasks.  You can also access the shell, where you can perform more advanced tasks and run custom scripts.  A couple of other key features that differentiates FreeNAS from the others are iSCSI and ZFS.  To put it simply, iSCSI allows two or more hosts to send/receive SCSI commands using the existing Ethernet network.  ZFS, a relatively new filesystem introduces RAID-Z.  A big plus that RAID-Z has over RAID-5 is live error checking and the ability to add discs to your array without having to destroy and then rebuild it all over.

This is the third reincarnation of this server, and I can finally say that I am satisfied with my build… at least for now.   My goals for this build was to build something compact since I live in a small condo. Another was that it was quiet and physically unobtrusive. Lastly and probably most important was that it was energy efficient. I can transfer files at speeds over 70 MB/s (CIFS) and at idle with the disks spun down it uses about 40-41 watts. When it is working serving files, uPNP, itunes, and Rsync, it uses about 70-80 watts. To allow the disks to go to sleep and I chose not use RAID, but adhere to a strict backup policy. I’m hoping that with the picoPSU, I will get the idle power consumption down to < 30 watts.

Here’s the breakdown:

CPU: AMD Ahtlon BE-2300
CASE: Ultra Microfly
PSU: Antec Earthwatts 380w (soon to be replaced with a picoPSU-150)
MEMORY: 2 x 2GB DDR2 ECC Kingston
SYSTEM DISK: 8GB Kingston Elite Pro CF Flash w/ CF-to-IDE converter
PRODUCTION DISKS: 3 x 1.5TB Samsung EcoGreen 5900RPM
BACKUP DISKS: 3 x 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM, one set of  hard drives kept in the backplane, the other set rotated offsite
HARD DRIVE BACKPLANE: Kingwin KF-3000BK 3-bay hot-swappable

Top View with motherboard tray removed, notice that this case can only accommodate microATX mobos

Quarter view with motherboard tray removed

Side view with cover off , notice the CF Flash card that contains the OS. The full OS is less than 500MB.

Quarter-Front view with side panels on

Side view with the panel on

Here it is in its home, an Ikea Besta Shelf. What's not visible is the cables in the back are anchored to the shelf and the retaining tab on the LAN cable is broken off in case quick removal (house fire) is necessary ;)

About the Author

John ReyesJohn, a seasoned IT professional working in the field since the Dot-Com Era, currently works as a system engineer for a large health care organization. In addition to his full time job, John also specializes in small business consulting, data recovery, forensics and freelance writing. He is also very active in the open-source community. When he’s not in front of a computer, you’ll usually find him mountain biking on a hill somewhere.View all posts by John Reyes

  1. Tom

    Hey John, thanks for sharing your knowledge and how you built your FreeNAS box with us! Nice work! Looking forward to future postings! -Tom

  2. Jack

    Great stuff on the FreeNAS John! <30watts just GReeeen!

  3. cccutbert

    it was very interesting to read.

    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?

    And you et an account on Twitter?

  4. 3dyuriki

    I would like to exchange links with your site
    Is this possible?

  5. ultrasound technicia
    ultrasound technicia08-01-2010

    found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

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