Tyler Voll

Writer - System Admin

Whole Lot to Do About FreeNAS

Not too long ago I had a Plex server running off of my Manjaro Linux desktop, an Owncloud server off of a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian Linux, a file share off of my router, and last but not least, a long forgotten minecraft server -- untouched for years. After having to deal with each server separately, I was hoping to find a way to consolidate all of these services to one machine, hopefully making each of those services easier to manage at home. For years i've heard of a solution for this sort of dilemma, and that solution is FreeNAS. FreeNAS is an open-source operating system running FreeBSD and ZFS to create a centralized, easily accessible, and extensible place for your data. It has a web interface that allows you to manage all administrative tasks, and allows for easy creation of file shares, snapshots, replication, and servers through plugins or jails.

After hearing praises about how well FreeNAS is able to manage these types of services, I figured it was a good time to give it a go. This article gives an overview of information that should be known before starting out with FreeNAS 11, all in order to better leverage a lot of its features. FreeNAS has a lot to it, but in general, it's very easy to utilize and work with, even if you aren't very used to working with Linux or FreeBSD systems. Further in this article, we will go through the installation process, how to manage/access information on your FreeNAS server, and how Plugins, Jails, and Snapshots work on FreeNAS 11. FreeNAS isn't light on it's requirements, not just because of all the services that it can run at once, but also because of its use of ZFS, which is the file system of choice for FreeNAS. For those not used to ZFS, it is an enterprise-ready open-source filesystem, RAID Controller, and volume manager with a focus on flexibility and data integrity. When looking at the recommendations for a basic Home Media Server or a Small Office File Share running FreeNAS, we are looking at these specs to be present on the server:

    Multicore 64-bit processor
    16 GB boot drive
    16 GB RAM
    One Ethernet network port
    At least two hard disks for storage

While FreeNAS has lower basic requirements, it's safe to follow the recommendations to ensure a smooth experience. For more information on their requirements, visit their website by clicking here.
iXsystems, a large maintainer of the FreeNAS project, is known largely for their server solutions. Their cheap FreeNAS solution for the home, the FreeNAS Mini, has perfect specs for the job, but it will run you at least $999. I didn't want to buy anything new, so I looked inward to my current hardware.

A couple years back I created a gaming desktop with an overclocked i7-4790k, 16GB of RAM, and a GTX 980. Over the years, i've become less and less of a gamer, only really playing games here and there with my wife on our PS4 or the Nintendo Switch. Since I was only using the desktop to mess around with Manjaro, and occasionally start up the plexmediaserver service, I felt that my current desktop could definitely house FreeNAS, utilizing more of it's hardware for a new dedicated purpose.

Installing FreeNAS 11, by iXsystems:

Installation is a pretty straight forward process, all done through a CLI setup. The most important part of the process is making sure that the FreeNAS server can properly communicate on the network so that you, as the user, can access the Web Based Interface, which is where all management and maintenance is performed. Once you have booted up your server, you can discover the IP address that can be used to access the web portal. If you ever forget the IP, you can always see the IP by connecting a monitor to your FreeNAS server. After entering in the IP into your web browser, you'll be greeted with a login prompt.

FreeNAS Classic Login Screen:

FreeNAS Classic Login


FreeNAS Beta Login Screen:
FreeNAS Beta Login


FreeNAS Beta Dashboard:

FreeNAS Beta Dashboard

There is a classic view and a new sleeker view that is currently in beta. I have been using the classic view since it has been operating better overall (been receiving random errors here and there within the beta view).

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