NAS Picture

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A Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a network appliance that contains one or more hard drives.

There are several things to take into account before building a NAS. For example, if you are going to build a NAS using parts from old computers or if you want to build a NAS with brand new parts. Another option is to buy an off the shelf NAS, but none of them, as far as I know, was using ZFS as their filesystem.

Building a NAS

There is plenty of documentation, guides and tutorials about how to build a NAS. In my case I followed this guide DIY NAS: 2016 Edition. The author of the blog has more recent builds, but the hardware he used in this one was closer to what I wanted.

The hardware I used for my NAS is the following:

  • Motherboard + CPU: ASRock C2750D4
  • RAM: Kingston 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3 ECC
  • PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA 650W 80+ Gold
  • HDD: 8 x Western Digital Red 3TB
  • Flash Drive: USB Sandisk 8GB
  • Case: Fractal Design - Define R5

The software I used for my NAS is FreeNAS. It is based on FreeBSD and it provides a simple but powerful UI. Another great characteristic is its native support for the ZFS filesystem.

In this case I am using ZFS with raidz2. That means 2 HDD can fail at the same time and the system will still be able to recover.

Buying the hardware

In order to avoid a bad batch of HDD I ordered all 8 hard drives at different times during the year and from different dealers. All other parts were purcheased at the same time.

The reason to avoid a bad batch of HDD is because if more than 2 HDDs fail in my configuration, I would lose all the data stored in it.

Testing the hardware

I always do some testing on the hardware that I buy. In this case, the testing was harder because I wanted to make sure that everything was in good state before storing real data in it.

The main two things I focused on the testing were the RAM and the HDDs. I could have tested other parts such as the CPU or the Motherboard, but they are not as relevant for the data integrity.

The RAM testing was just running memtest. After running for 24 hours and doing more than 2 passes without errors I thought it was good enough.

The HDDs testing involved performing writes of zeros into the drives for 36 hours and then writes of random data for another 36 hours. The health of the HDDs was checked using S.M.A.R.T..

The result of the test was that both the RAM and the HDDs were in perfect working order.

Final thoughts

I have been using the NAS for about 2 months. I have to say that I am certainly impressed with the quality and stability of the FreeNAS software and the resilience of the ZFS filesystem, I strongly recommend both. FreeNAS had two updates since I installed it, both of them went fine and there was no need for me to do anything else besides giving it permission to install them.