make a freeNAS file server with old parts: I

 when my lab departed for the John Innes Centre about a year ago, there was a large quantity of raw computer parts left behind for the salvage heap.  I wanted a dedicated place to back up my laptop and home computers remotely, and had heard about freely-available network attached storage (NAS) systems, but that was where my knowledge ended.  Our lab had been using the somewhat pricey synology NAS system, and I wanted to learn if there was an open source alternative. 

FreeBSD-based FreeNAS fit the bill.  There is a TON of info and support for how FreeNAS works and how to get it going.  What I envisioned was taking some old HDDs laying around, reformatting them, and using them as the storage core of the system.  I would boot to a usb drive on which I’ve installed FreeNAS, and format things from there.   The amazing thing is… it basically worked and now I have a server for a lot of previously unsecure stuff.  Booting off of a USB loaded with the OS is actually the recommended way to go: see this simple instructional video from FreeNAS 

One detail that is worth noting is that FreeNAS storage is memory intensive.  I am not 100% clear on why, but I believe it has to do with the ZFS-based architecture (NB: zfs does not stand for anything!).  For each TB of hard drive, they recommend 1GB of RAM, starting with at least 4GB RAM as a base.  Luckily I had a bunch of DDR3 RAM laying around and a capable Asus X99 motherboard with an i7 cpu.  Once I got the thing running, it had 64GB RAM supporting 8TB of hard storage; I’ve gone about 2TB into this thing after about a year. 

the web interface for FreeNAS with some basic system specs.

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