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Build Your Own Network-Attached Storage System

Nate Ralph | Oct. 18, 2011
With cheap storage readily available, the temptation to build vast libraries of music, movies, photos, and documents is ever present. But when each PC in your home is packed to its aluminum gills with gigabytes upon gigabytes of digital goods, managing all of that data can be a hassle.

If you ever forget your password, resetting it is fairly easy. You need to head over to the NAS, and type the following command:

Python /usr/local/www/freenasUI/ changepassword admin

FreeNAS will then prompt you to enter a new password.

The Setup: Building Volumes

Once you’re logged in, the first thing you’ll want to do is create the file system. Click Storage at the top of the menu bar, and then select Create volume. In the window that pops up, select all the drives you want to include, and give the volume a name.

You’ll have two options to choose from: UFS (Unix File System) and ZFS. We’re going with ZFS, as it offers support for numerous features designed for file servers, such as RAID support, snapshots, and file compression.

Depending on the number of drives in your machine, you’ll see a few new options. With three drives, I get a choice between mirror, stripe, and RAID-Z. Mirror duplicates data from one disc across the others, as RAID 1 would. Stripe splits files among the discs in the array, as RAID 0 would. RAID-Z is essentially a software implementation of RAID 5.

So what does all of that mean? With my three 1TB drives, selecting the mirror type gives me 1TB of total storage capacity, but preserves my data across all drives; if one drive fails, I can replace it and keep moving. Stripe gives me 3TB and a very fast response time; lose one drive, though, and all of that data is gone. RAID-Z is a sort of amalgam of the two: It gives me 2TB of space, and if one of the three drives fails, my data can be rebuilt from the remaining pair while I find a replacement.

Because I like to live on the edge, I’m going with the striped option. It isn’t the safest alternative, but I’ll squeeze out every bit of space, and I can always implement a safer, redundant backup solution later on.

Whatever you choose, be aware that any data on the discs will be wiped. Click Add volume, and moments later your file server is almost ready to go.

Sharing Your Files

You have your storage volume in place, so now you can fill it with photos of pets, as well as your legally acquired media.

FreeNAS makes it easy to share files with Linux, Apple, and Windows computers. You can create as many shared folders as you’d like--say, a Windows/Unix/Apple share for your movies and music collection, and an Apple-specific share for your Time Machine backups.

The first step is to enable the CIFS (Common Internet File System) service. Click Services on the left, and then click the button for CIFS. Click the wrench next to the CIFS line to set your workgroup, assign other network and user permissions, or just give your NAS a readily identifiable name. You’ll be typing this name in to access your file server from Windows machines.On the navigation bar at the left, click the tab conveniently labeled Sharing. I’ll set up a Windows share as an example here, but the instructions for Linux and Apple are fairly similar.


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