If you’ve been looking for a way to keep your data safe and secure you’ve most likely come across NAS. Let’s take a look at 3 best in our opinion free NAS software solutions for home users and businesses.
Table of contents
- What is NAS
- TrueNAS CORE: Best Enterprise-grade NAS Software
- OpenMediaVault: Best NAS Software for Home Users and Small Businesses
- Rockstor: Linux-based NAS Software + Btrfs File System
Nowadays, NAS is used by everyday families who simply want to share photos and enjoy access to a digital library of entertainment, no matter where they’re at. So whether you’re looking to build your own private network, gather movies, music, and TV shows, or just to take data backup to the next level, NAS might be what you’re looking for.
What is NAS
NAS (Network Attached Storage) is a term used to refer to storage devices that connect to a network and provide file access services to computer systems. The simplest way to think of NAS is as a type of specialized file server. It allows data storage and retrieval from a central location for authorized network users and various clients.
In other words, NAS is similar to having your own private cloud in home or in the office. It is faster, less expensive, and offers all of the benefits of a public cloud on-premises, giving you complete control.
NAS software solutions come in all sorts of flavors. Finding the right one for your needs is the real challenge. There are many of NAS servers and options available today but how to find the best NAS software for your home or business needs? With that being said, lets look at 3 best in our opinion free NAS software solutions.
TrueNAS CORE: Best Enterprise-grade NAS Software
TrueNAS CORE (previously known as FreeNAS) is a FreeBSD-based operating system which provides free NAS services. It is community-supported, open source branch of the TrueNAS project, sponsored by iXsystems.
TrueNAS CORE is probably the best known NAS software out there. It’s been in development since 2005 and has over 10 million downloads. It is more focused on power users, so this may not be recommended for people who are making a NAS server for the first time.
OpenZFS is the heart of TrueNAS CORE. It is an enterprise-ready open source file system, RAID controller, and volume manager with unprecedented flexibility and an uncompromising commitment to data integrity. It eliminates most, if not all of the shortcomings found in legacy file systems and hardware RAID devices. Once you go OpenZFS, you will never want to go back.
RAID-Z, the software RAID that is part of OpenZFS, offers single parity redundancy equivalent to RAID 5. The additional levels RAID-Z2 and RAID-Z3 offer double and triple parity protection respectively. If you want to eliminate almost entirely any possibility of data loss and stability is the name of the game, OpenZFS is what you’re looking for.
TrueNAS CORE has some of the best features that you can find in NAS software, such as data snapshots, a self-repair file system, encryption on their data volumes, and so on. Almost every file sharing is supported via TrueNAS CORE, which includes major file systems like SMB/CIFS (Windows file shares), NFS (Linux/UNIX files), AFP (Apple file shares), FTP, iSCSI, and WebDAV. It also supports integration with cloud storage providers like Amazon S3 and Google Cloud out of the box.
If TrueNAS CORE has one goal, it is simplifying complex administrative tasks for users. Every aspect of a system can be managed from the web-based management interface. Administrative tasks ranging from storage configuration to share and user management to software updating can all be performed with confidence without missing a critical step or experiencing a silent failure.
Even though storage is its primary feature, there is much more that really makes this product shine. TrueNAS CORE supports plugins to extend its functionally such as Plex Media Server, Nextcloud, BitTorrent, OpenVPN, MadSonic, GitLab, Jenkins, etc. This means that it is capable of more than just storage. For example, TrueNAS CORE can be used as part of your home entertainment setup, serving your media to your Home Theater PC, PSP, iPod, or other network devices.
TrueNAS CORE is recommended if you are making an enterprise-grade server for your home, office or large businesses where data is stored centrally and share from there. In addition to, TrueNAS CORE is the best choice when you are looking to find some storage network which is reasonable.
On the other hand, TrueNAS CORE is not perfect for low-RAM users. It is a highly advanced level and feature-rich NAS software solution that recommends at least 8GB of RAM, a multi-core processor as well as a reliable storage drive to keep your data safe.
TrueNAS CORE pros and cons
- OpenZFS support.
- Encryption support.
- Can be extended with its plugin and jails systems.
- Gorgeous web-based management interface.
- Very popular with a large following and frequent updates.
- Incredible enterprise storage features.
- Many of the features are overkill for home users, especially those looking to build something simple.
- It’s not the greatest choice for old, low-spec hardware. It wants loads of RAM, particularly if you plan to use OpenZFS. This is more a OpenZFS thing than a FreeNAS thing, though.
Download TrueNAS CORE
One thing should be noticed before installing TrueNAS CORE on some old specs system is that it needs a good amount of RAM (you need minimum 8GB RAM) to work, especially when you planning to install a OpenZFS file system. In addition to, for every terabyte of storage, TrueNAS CORE requires 1 GB of RAM. Because of this, you will need newer hardware to make a server.
OpenMediaVault: Best NAS Software for Home Users and Small Businesses
OpenMediaVault (OMV) is a Debian based Linux distribution for NAS software and best well-known for home users and small businesses. It supports all major protocols such as SSH, (S)FTP, SMB, CIFS, and RSync and offers a straightforward way to set up NAS servers for home users. In addition, the server is modular and can be extended with a variety of official and third-party plugins. For example, you can turn your NAS into a torrent client to download data directly into the NAS storage. You can use it also to stream stored music and videos across the network via Plex Media Server plugin.
OpenMediaVault is straightforward to rollout and simple to manage, thanks to its well designed web-based user interface, which makes it suitable for even non-technical users. The user interface can further be enhanced by using its plugin directories.
OpenMediaVault supports all the popular deployment mechanisms, including several levels of software RAID, each of which necessitates a different number of disks. The project shares some features with TrueNAS CORE like storage monitoring, file sharing, and disk management and supports multiple file systems like ext4, Btrfs, JFS, and XFS. However, it doesn’t have some of the more advanced features that TrueNAS CORE has, like hot-swapping or the OpenZFS file system.
One of OpenMediaVault’s best NAS features compared to TrueNAS CORE is it’s low system requirements. You can run OMV on low-powered devices like the Raspberry Pi.
The project is complimented with an extensive support infrastructure with plenty of documentation to handhold first time users.
OpenMediaVault is a very capable and one of the best NAS software deployment distro right out of the box. However, it can be made more advanced with tons of features using plugins integrated into the base system, and even with third party plugins using the OMV-Extras repository.
OpenMediaVault pros and cons
- Based on Debian, thus easy maintenance of updates using the apt command.
- Easy to install.
- Simple and easy to use web-based management interface.
- Supports multiple filesystems.
- Multi services.
- Lots of plugins.
- Dated interface.
- File sharing options are limited.
Download OpenMediaVault NAS Software
OpenMediaVault installable media is available for 64-bit machines. The installation images can be found here. OMV even supports a number of ARM architectures, including the one used by the Raspberry Pi. The ISO image can also be used to create an USB stick in addition to hard drives and SSDs, which is especially useful if you plan to use a single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi.
Rockstor: Linux-based NAS Software + Btrfs File System
Rockstor is a free NAS software management system and probably the best alternative to TrueNAS CORE. It is Linux-based NAS server distro that’s based on a rock-solid openSUSE Leap and focuses solely on the Btrfs file system. The previous Rockstor’s releases were based on CentOS, however CentOS development considerations have now been deprecated.
In addition to standard NAS features like file sharing via NFS, Samba, SFTP and AFP, advanced features such as online volume management, CoW Snapshots, asynchronous replication, compression, and Bitrot protection are also supported.
The biggest difference between TrueNAS CORE and Rockstor is it uses the Btrfs file system, which is very similar to ZFS used by TrueNAS CORE. Btrfs’ big draw is its Copy-on-Write (CoW) nature of the filesystem. Btrfs is the new player among file systems. It knew how to capture many looks in the community because it comes to compete directly with advanced functions of ZFS.
Rockstor lets you arrange the available space into different RAID configurations and give you control over how you want to store your data. You also get the ability to resize a pool by adding or removing disks and even change its RAID profile without losing your data and without disrupting access.
Rockstor supports two update channels. There’s the freely available Testing Updates channel that gets updates that haven’t been thoroughly tested. Conversely, the updates in the Stable Updates channel have been tested for use in a production environment but are only available at a yearly subscription fee of £20.
One of the best things that Rocktor’s NAS software provides to its users is its plugin system, which has a variety of different plugins, more well-known by the name Rock-ons. The plugins are available as containers, which Docker virtualizes on the host system. These Rock-ons, combined with advanced NAS features, turn Rockstor into a private cloud storage solution accessible from anywhere, giving users complete control of cost, ownership, privacy and data security.
If you need a reliable NAS server with no frills, the Rockstor NAS Server is the way to go.
Rockstor pros and cons
- Linux, uses the Btrfs file system, which like BSD’s ZFS includes splendid data integrity and security features like snapshots, pools, checksums, encryption, etc.
- More reasonable hardware requirements than TrueNAS CORE, especially when it comes to RAM.
- Intuitive interface.
- Multiple protocols.
- Some components are paid.
- Btrfs is still considered experimental by some.
Download Rockstor NAS Software
You can download the Rockstor ISO file from Sourceforge. The ISO image can be used to install Rockstor into a virtual machine like VMWare or Virtualbox directly. To install the software on real hardware, you need a boot media like a bootable USB stick. Just burn the downloaded ISO image onto USB drive.
With these NAS solutions on hand we have added choices for not only businesses and small offices, but home users as well. Considering the significance of data in this day and age, you would be wise to take one of these solutions to manage your NAS efficiently.
- TrueNAS CORE: Superb enterprise-grade NAS distro. Suitable for experienced Linux admins as well as for power users with BSD’s knowledge, lots of storage, and powerful hardware.
- OpenMediaVault: Best NAS software for home users and small businesses, especially with low powered equipment. If you don’t need enterprise features like ZFS or you prefer a Debian-based distro, OpenMediaVault is the way to go.
- Rockstor: The best of both worlds – Linux OS + the strength of the Btrfs file system. Rockstor is a great NAS software solution for businesses and home users alike.
Whether you choose TrueNAS CORE, OpenMediaVault or Rockstor, you’ll have software that’s in active development, well supported and with plenty of available features. When these storage solutions are implemented and maintained properly, they provide the required safety to data.