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Building a NAS Box - My DIY Hassle Free Experience

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by , 12th January 2011 at 11:36 AM (13065 Views)
A while back we realised that our tape backup system was not going to last forever so we decided to look into alternatives.

A NAS box is one solution and can be put together fairly cheaply if required so I decided to see if I could build a simple unit and perform a backup using symantec backup exec. We also wanted to snapshot our Xen server for safety.

Here is the documentation of a hassle free experience with NAS and FreeNAS:

Server Specification
• Dell 210L:
o Pentium 4 3.20GHz
o 2Gb RAM
o 2 x 1Tb HDDs in RAID 1.
• OS: FreeNAS 7.3 Sabanda (Rev 199506) Running from USB Flash drive

Setup Information
Installing FreeNAS
• Latest FreeNAS ISO:
o Download the appropriate “Live CD” (i386 for Intel processors)
• USB Stick (FreeNAS doesn’t need much so anything over 512mb will suffice)
Firstly you'll need the ISO and a CD Burner.
Burn the disk, format the USB key as FAT and then boot from the CD with only the USB drive plugged in and the SATA controller set to IDE mode rather than ACHI. If all goes well with the boot, select option 9 to install FreeNAS onto the USB stick and follow the prompts.
After it’s installed, plug in both hard drives and fire up the system, making sure to change the boot option to the USB stick. Once FreeNAS has booted, assign a specific Ethernet address with option 2 (make sure the network cable is plugged in).
Network Settings:
• IP Address:
• Default Gateway:
• Subnet Mask:
• DNS:
Once these have been set you can use another machine to setup FreeNAS via a web browser.
It is recommend that Firefox is used as the management system does not display correctly under IE.
Point Firefox to <IP ADDRESS YOU SET> and log on using the default credentials of “admin” for the username and “freenas” for the password.
The first thing that should be done is to change the password. Navigate to System > General > Password and change the password to the web management console. Ensure other technicians are aware of what the password is.

Disk / RAID Setup:
Select Disks -> Management, and then add the each drive successively with the plus button to the right. Finally hit 'Apply Changes' and they should all read 'ONLINE'.
Next Select 'Disks -> Format' and format each disk successively with the Software RAID option. This preps each drive, allowing them to be bundled together into a RAID array.
Next 'Select Disks -> Software RAID', then click the RAID 1 tab and under the management tab below hit the plus button and add both drives to the array. Remember to check the box 'create and initialise the array' otherwise it won't work. Select ‘Apply’ and the array will be created.
Next go back to 'Disks -> Format' and select the newly formed array from the list. This time Format it in UFS. It may take a while because of the size of the drives.
Finally, mount the array from 'Disks -> Mount Point'. Hit the plus button, select the array from the drop down list and give it a mount name. Add that and Apply Changes and you're done.
You have to enable the services to start transferring data on to it. Next - go to 'Services -> CIFS/SMB' and check enable on the right hand side. Save and restart at the bottom before going into the 'Shares' tab and setting up a directory other PCs can find.
Note: When setting up the share, you must create it after the /mnt/ directory otherwise you won’t be using the array.
Share Setup:
Under Services >CIFS/SMB > Settings:
Set the NetBIOS name: <Enter a Name here>
Workgroup: <Domain name>
Description: FreeNAS Server
Under Services > CIFS/SMB > Share > Edit button the access list can be set up.
Name: NAS_Share
Hosts allow: <IP addresses you want to be able to access NAS Box>
Hosts deny: ALL
Even though deny is set to ‘ALL’, any values in “allow” will override this.
Once the shares have been set up, log in to one of the machines you gave access to and try and navigate to the share:
\\"Net-bios name"\NAS_Share

Active Directory integration seems to be very fiddly to successfully configure and may not even be necessary for the function of this server.

It took me almost no time at all to get that set up and working. There are lots of websites around that are very helpful and quite a few will even give good advice in terms of suitable hardware.

Obviously costs can be an issue but because we had the hardware lying around (even though it was basic) we managed to get a good system set up that can cope with some backup operations without issues.
Tags: backup, budget, nas


  1. Gibbo's Avatar
    Good advice, but shouldn't be considered a substitute for off-site backups.
  2. Fatmas's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Gibbo
    Good advice, but shouldn't be considered a substitute for off-site backups.
    No of course not, this is something we will also maybe look at sooner rather than later.
  3. csmith2's Avatar
    This is a fantastic guide. Thank you so much for posting Fatmas, really helpful!
  4. kzaidi's Avatar
    Was the Processor (P4) powerful enough to handle the data transfers? FreeNAS also has other features, such has the uPNP, DLNA stuff, where you able to play with those or other features?
  5. Gibbo's Avatar
    I would have thought it would be. The "crunch points" would be good HDDs and NICs.
  6. Fatmas's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by kzaidi
    Was the Processor (P4) powerful enough to handle the data transfers? FreeNAS also has other features, such has the uPNP, DLNA stuff, where you able to play with those or other features?
    I found it to be ok at transferring data. We copied all the teacher's user areas to it and it was slightly quicker than the tape backup. I don't know whether it's being used anymore as I left the school back in April, but it was a great proof of concept and worked very well.

    I didn't have too much of a play with those features as initially, I just wanted to get it working.

    Yes if you have a good HDD and a decent NIC / network infrastructure, that would make more of a difference than a quick CPU.


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