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| p.1 #14 · FreeNAS, take a look if you need a high-end storage server. |
I do everything i want with a standard Ubuntu box. Setting up RAID and LVM for disk management is a bit of a pain admittedly, but there is plenty of documentation online (howtos etc). Samba sorts out file sharing and rsync can do incremented backups (snapshots). I don't get the snazzy web interface (which is most likely just a pretty front end to LVM, samba, rsync etc anyway), but i can use the machine as a media PC /workstation/firewall etc at the same time as it is doing its' NAS duties.
Cost? Well, whenever i upgrade my main workstation i shuffle the hardware down to the Ubuntu machine, so not a lot. I could probably get a few Kroner for the old hardware, but nothing like what a NAS box costs, so its a big saving in my view. Additionally, if the hardware goes belly up, i can just plug all the drives into another Linux box and the array will be readable.
Linux, I think gives better performance on low-end NAS systems but..
1) Linux will not run ZFS. Rsync is absolutely NOT a "snapshot". It is a way to copy files that takes some time. A snapshot is truly a "zero time" and "atomic" operation ("Atomic means it cannot be divided into smaller operations and happens "all at once".)
Try a real example. You are editing your photo library, moving files and the software is updating the index and thumbnails. If you do this while an rsync backup is on going some files get copied at one time and some at some other time and you are making changes. It is possible you backup the "old" copy of the meta-data and the edited copy of the image and who-knows-when copy of the database index. With ZFS you can literally "snapshot" the entire system in one "atomic" instant so all the files are saved at the same exact nanosecond. Also because this snapshot takes zero space, you can afford to do it very frequently, every 15 minutes if you like.
Then when you do the backup you copy the "snap shoot" and not the live data so your backup is an exact point in time. "ZFS Replication" takes this one step further. It in effect does a snap shot followed by an Rsync and keeps a second (or third or fourth) NAS exactly up to date with the last snapshot. So the replication can run continuously 24x7. If the building burds down you loose only the last 15 (or whatever) minutes of work, assuming your second NAS is in some other building.
These problems are not so important if the NAS is small and has only one user. Do your backup at night when you are not making changes and so what if it takes hours? And I think you get better performance on lower cost hardware using Linux although I still need to finish some testing. It's likely that Linux can run a NAS even on something like an Intel Atom CPU while FreeNAS needs at least an i3 and 8GB of RAM.
I think more people need a small NAS then a big one. But onthe other hand there is little money to be saved on a small NAS and not much reason to build your own small NAS. But there is the potential to save thousands on the larger system.