Here's the position I'm slowing moving to regarding NAS / home servers.
1. FreeNAS, despite its name, doesn't really turn any PC into a NAS like the relatively user friendly ones from QNAP, Synology or... Instead, its ZFS file system demands enormous amounts of RAM to work properly, preferably ECC (which requires a board that supports it), which then implies at least a HP Microserver type hardware, and at 1gb RAM per TB, would need 16gb ECC for a bank of 4 4TB drives. The hardware costs pre-HDDs end up being higher than a high end 4-5 drive bay NAS (say $750 at least with that much ECC RAM and a HP Microserver gen 8... and you're doing all the work of OS setup. The software RAID which ZFS most closely resembles appears to be at least as good as hardware RAID5, but it's not a substitute for a backup system, which anyone who values their data, should still have. We know rebuilding a failed drive in RAID can be an excruciatingly long process during which the data is simply not accessible. And then there's all the horror stories about failed RAID rebuilds -- not sure about ZFS yet in this regard. In contrast, a 1-to-1 backup (RAID 1, 10 or other mirror backup of folders) gives you instant access to the data that was in the failed drive. So if you have a backup system, is ZFS and all its attendant complexity & cost really needed?
2. An alternative is any recent Windows desktop OS (and we all know about the Daz activator which makes it completely free) with StableBit DrivePool
, a $20 addon which... "Combines multiple physical hard drives into one large virtual drive, Stores everything in standard NTFS files, and if you want, Lets you designate any shared folder as a duplicated folder; in case one drive fails, your duplicated files remain safe." (SB DP looks like a way better implementation of MS's flawed drive extender in WHS.) Now you can stay with as little as 4GB standard RAM for a 4x4GB HDD array, which for the HP hardware example above, drops cost down to a little over $500, and since there's no need for ECC RAM support, you can move to cheaper hardware -- like $90 bitfenix mitx 6-drive case, $100 mitx board + $50 CPU, $50 PSU, $40 RAM: $330 total) use Remote Desktop from any Windows PC to control your fileserver, run any Windows applications for specialized functions, use mobile apps for android access -- and use the saved $ (and time) to add a USB 3.0 or eSATA external drive array for 1-to-1 backup of important folders in your server.
Aside from the geek attraction of freenas & zfs, is there any advantage of 1 over 2 for the average somewhat techy home user?
Good points Mike.
On no 2, there are good and bads, as there are with any solution, there is not perfect, just that fits better what some end users might be looking. Stabble bit and Drive bender have been out since the release of WHS2011, to me atm they are both solid enough for use, and they have exapanded their support to more windows versions, so its a very economical way. But as with WHSv1, Windows systems have issues, specially with the file system. Stablebitt will give you the ease of uniting all drives into one logical one, but as it was with WHSv1, its only failback is duplication, and this doesn't counter silent file corruption nor accidental deletion and so on, even dual hdd fails will have a chance of losing your data. I do agree that if you value your data you should backup externally or to cloud, but this will also increase the cost.
Personally im still deciding on what to do when i migrate my server, between
1) unRaid 5.0
2) WHS2011 + Flexraid RaidF 2.0
3) WHS2011 + Stablebitt pool and scanner
4) WHS2011 + Snapraid