Jun 17, 2008

Need Storage? Got an Old Junkie System? Why Not Make a NAS?

One of the perks of being in the IT business is that you have to constantly upgrade systems as the technology gets better to keep up with the latest software. What happens to the old systems after an upgrade? Well, if you lease your systems then the oldies most likely go back to the leasing company, but if you buy your systems like my company (and many others) those systems go off to be donated or recycled. Well, sometimes there are some decent machines that are getting ready to go out, and if you are in IT you get first dibs. That is exactly what happened recently at my company.

We had about, oh I don't know, 20 or so systems getting ready to go off to the recycling company. My boss okayed us taking home some of the better machines so we could work on certs or whatever. I of course grabbed one, and turned it into my home Ubuntu VMWare GSX server, but that is neither here nor there. I also grabbed another one and decided to turn it into a NAS.

You see, when I first started, my team had our very own "music" server where we stored all of our music files so we could listen to them at work, and share them. It was just a plain old file server running on an old beaten down box. It finally crashed, and we never brought it up again. I figured, why not bring it back? Plus I wanted to play with a free NAS server OS based on FreeBSD called FreeNAS. That is exactly what I did!

If you have never heard of FreeNAS, here is what the About page at FreeNAS.org has to say:

freenasFreeNAS is a free NAS (Network-Attached Storage) server, supporting: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, AFP, RSYNC, iSCSI protocols, S.M.A.R.T., local user authentication, Software RAID (0,1,5) with a Full WEB configuration interface. FreeNAS takes less than 32MB once installed on Compact Flash, hard drive or USB key.

I took the machine, and threw in two more hard drives to max out my IDE connections (one was reserved for the CD Rom). I grabbed an old 512MB flash drive to install FreeNAS on, and I was off. I configured the three drives into a software RAID 5 array using the FreeNAS GUI, then shared it out using CIFS.

FreeNAS was actually pretty easy to setup and configure with one minor exception. When I tried to mount my new RAID array, I kept getting a error - retry message. I searched all over Google and couldn't really find a fix for it. Luckily I know enough Unix commands to get myself into trouble, so I dropped to a shell on the server and started poking around. I was finally able to get my share to mount by going into /mnt and creating my mount point manually. I wanted the mount point to be called "music" so naturally I typed the following in the shell:

mkdir music

After that I was able to mount my RAID array in with no problem. I guess the webGUI is having problems creating new directories. Another issue I saw was that the Active Directory settings didn't seem to work. So I wasn't able to allow Windows authentication. Not that big of a concern for a cheesy music file server, but it does count it out of the running for production file sharing.

All in all, not a bad OS. Also not a bad way to take advantage of an old system, and some spare drives. Have you used FreeNAS? What about a different NAS OS? Got any tips you want to share for a FreeNAS n00b? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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