Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is FreeNAS?
FreeNAS is a Free and Open Source Network Attached Storage (NAS) software appliance. This means that you can use FreeNAS to share data over file-based sharing protocols, including CIFS for Windows users, NFS for Unix-like operating systems, and AFP for Mac OS X users. FreeNAS uses the ZFS file system to store, manage, and protect data. ZFS provides advanced features like snapshots to keep old versions of files, incremental remote backups to keep your data safe on another device without huge file transfers, and intelligent compression, which reduces the size of files so quickly and efficiently that it actually helps transfers happen faster.
2. Why would I use FreeNAS?
The benefit of using a NAS is that all your important files can be stored in a central location, allowing you to access them from multiple devices simultaneously, while also keeping your backup and redundancy resources in one place. FreeNAS lets you install programs for other purposes, such as bittorrent clients, media streaming servers, and cloud backup services, so it can fulfill many roles of a home server as well.
3. What do I need to get started with FreeNAS?
To use FreeNAS, you'll need standard PC hardware with a 64-bit processor and at least 8GB of RAM, a 4GB USB Flash drive, and a FreeNAS installation file. Either write FreeNAS directly to the flash drive or boot the CD installer to have it done for you. Point your web browser at the IP address of the FreeNAS system and you're good to go! Read the FreeNAS Documentation for more information.
4. Is FreeNAS Safe and Secure?
FreeNAS is based on the highly secure FreeBSD operating system and follows security best practices in development. However, FreeNAS is not designed as security software and it depends on being protected from hostile traffic by a properly configured firewall. FreeNAS supports 256-bit encryption to prevent drives from being read if they're physically removed from the system, but this doesn't protect against data being read in transit over the network or via compromised user credentials. Like all software, FreeNAS depends on good security practices to keep data safe.
5. What else can I do with FreeNAS?
FreeNAS supports a number of third-party plugins, including Transmission for bittorrent, btsync to sync with a wide variety of devices without exposing your data to others, and OwnCloud to host your own cloud services server.
6. Can FreeNAS be used as a Media Server?
It sure can! FreeNAS includes support for a wide variety of third-party software plugins, including Plex Media Server. Plex Media Server allows FreeNAS to stream television shows, movies, and music to a wide variety of devices. If you're concerned about system requirements, the FreeNAS Mini Storage Device from iXsystems has enough power to support 1080p HD video and still run normal FreeNAS operations.
7. Which filesystem should I use with FreeNAS: UFS or ZFS?
FreeNAS is designed around the ZFS filesystem, which provides many of the advanced features of FreeNAS. Many ZFS operations require sufficient RAM, which is why the FreeNAS system requirements recommend a minimum of 8GB of RAM. If you have less than 8GB of RAM (especially 4GB and below), UFS is a viable alternative. UFS provides basic functionality to allow you to use the sharing features of FreeNAS, but provides none of the advanced data protection features of ZFS. Other filesystems including NTFS, FAT, EXT2 and EXT3 are supported for import only, in order to transfer data onto a ZFS or UFS volume.
8. How do I upgrade FreeNAS?
To upgrade FreeNAS, download the upgrade file for the new version and its associated SHA256 checksum file. Read the documentation or watch this video tutorial for exact instructions.
9. Where can I get help with FreeNAS?
There are many resources for FreeNAS troubleshooting, including the Community Forums and IRC channel. However, if you require hardware support or software support with a Service Level Agreement, iXsystems offers Professional Support for FreeNAS Certified Servers and the TrueNAS Unified Storage Appliance, both available at iXsystems.com/storage.
10. What if I don't want to build my own hardware for FreeNAS?
Many commercially available home servers work well as FreeNAS devices. If you want a device that's designed specifically for FreeNAS, consider a FreeNAS Mini or FreeNAS Certified server from iXsystems, the developers of FreeNAS. If you want to use FreeNAS in a scenario that requires high availability or very high performance, consider a TrueNAS Unified Storage Appliance. For more information, visit iXsystems.com/storage.
FreeNAS Recommended Minimum Hardware:
- 64-bit x86 Processor
- 8GB RAM
- 2GB Flash Drive for installation (use 4GB to be sure it's big enough)
- At least one additional disk for storage.
- Wired network port (wireless not supported)
- Computer on the same network with a modern web browser (for management)