Small Business FreeNAS Build, Ideas, Advice, Recommendations all welcomed.

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AlexKo

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Hello all and all,

happy for posting my first post. As you can understand I am a noobie when it comes to FreeNAS, but I would like to change that. So any comment/corrections (both negative and positive) on what I am writing will be very very appreciated :).

I am starting a project, while learning about FreeNAS. My project is a FreeNAS Server file for my father's small business, which I can build, manage, operate and support.

So about the build.

A] Space needs:
  1. Small size files will be saved (excel-word documents, pictures, and occasionally some sketchup files)
  2. I am not yet aware of the total capacity needs, but I assume it won't need any more that 4TB in total raw space (Space after any RAID setup).

B] Network Setup and use:
  1. It will be accessed directly by about 10 computers at a time, opening-using files at the same time.
  2. The clients will be connected by Cat5e cables, running through a 24 port (at least, for upgradability purpose) Gigabit switch and all devices will support gigabit LANspeeds.
  3. The FreeNAS Box will be connected to the network with a quadruple port gigabit NIC, hopefully running LACP, so that I can have decent write and read speeds across all the clients.

C] Drives Setup need:
  1. Thinking about using WD red drives as well as any SSD for caching (if that's possibly/recommended).
  2. I would like to use a kind of RAID for redundancy as well as speed (although the total space needs aren't specified yet, i would like to hear any recommendations).

D] Build Hardware:
  1. I haven't set a budget for the build, but I don't think that will be an issue. So here are some basic thoughts of mine, without specifying exact models (would love to hear an exact system build):
  2. A low powered Xeon (at least 4 physical cores) and a nice motherboard (of any form factor).
  3. ECC memory, i know size depends on total drive capacity.
  4. WD red drives and some ssd for caching.
  5. Quadruple port Gigabit NIC.
Any specific hardware recommendations?

E] Thing i would like to have/do:
  1. Having a cloud setup, so the files can be accessed through the internet.
  2. Having an offsite backup server.
I've tried to categorize the whole thing, so that anyone answering/recommending/commenting on anything can do it, by referring to the category by letter (A,B,C etc.) and the number (1,2,3 etc.) of the of exact line, for yours/mine ease.
I would love to hear all your comments and any feedback would be much appreciated.

THANK YOU so much in advance for your time reading/answering on this thread, hopefully i can get some help :)
 
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tvsjr

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To be perfectly direct... it's clear you've not done any reading. You've basically said "here's my use case, please build me a system". There are several good sticky posts on here discussing hardware choices. Read them. If you don't want to do that level of work or that's beyond you, I would suggest a FreeNAS Mini or Mini XL:
https://www.ixsystems.com/freenas-mini/

Point, click, and a fully working device shows up on your doorstep.
 

AlexKo

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To be perfectly direct... it's clear you've not done any reading. You've basically said "here's my use case, please build me a system". There are several good sticky posts on here discussing hardware choices. Read them. If you don't want to do that level of work or that's beyond you, I would suggest a FreeNAS Mini or Mini XL:
https://www.ixsystems.com/freenas-mini/

Point, click, and a fully working device shows up on your doorstep.

Hello and thank you for your answer, here is a little disclaimer.

To make things clear, i am not asking anyone to "build" a system for me. I have researched many threads and quiet many guides etc. and the whole point is to form it and build it myself. Anyways its not the hardware that i am most concerned about.

The main reason i am posting this thread is just to get an opinion, if i am missing anything major thing about it.

Being a starter, i am searching for any advice or any red flags that i am unaware of. Surely hardware recommendations are very welcomed, but the whole point of this thread is to understand whether or not my whole "concept" is in any lines possibly, or if any of the staff that i wrote don't make any sense at all.

So my major question is: "Am i missing anything? Is there something to be aware of in any category of this whole build, any flaws?"

In the end the only thing i am searching for is whether or not this thing is going to work, if so i will just proceed myself.
 

tvsjr

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You have the basic idea, but things like this concern me:
  1. I would like to use a kind of Raid for redundancy as well as speed ( although the total space needs aren't specified yet, i would like to hear any recommendations).
RAID/redundancy is kinda the point of FreeNAS. It would be odd that you consider it to be an option.

You've got the basic idea, and nothing you want to do is at all exotic for FN. Now, you need to figure out how much you want to store, how paranoid you want to be, and start laying out your hardware. I would suggest not straying too far from the norm... there are some "common" system builds that come up (Supermicro hardware, Seasonic PSUs, etc.) for a reason. Go with what works.
 

AlexKo

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Glad to hear that,

I am currently just figuring out the space needs and the construction of the files/folders, so i can come up with a more specified plan.

I am gonna start with an existing pc just to "play" and learn some basic stuff and how FN works, before proceeding on buying/building a purpose machine.

General tips are the things i am most concerned at. Someone could say just buy a ready FN machine, or someone else could just say play with it, or that i am gonna need something to do this thing or another.
 

LTCM

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You have the basic idea, but things like this concern me:
  1. I would like to use a kind of Raid for redundancy as well as speed ( although the total space needs aren't specified yet, i would like to hear any recommendations).
RAID/redundancy is kinda the point of FreeNAS. It would be odd that you consider it to be an option.

Redundancy is a point, but I'm not sure I'd call it THE point of FreeNAS. There's a perfectly acceptable use for FreeNAS of nothing but raid stripes, which obviously provide no redundancy.
 
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gpsguy

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Guys, calm down.

My guess, is that the OP knows he needs RAID, but is trying to figure out whether to use some form of RAIDzX or mirrors.

Redundancy is a point, but I'm not sure I'd call it THE point of freenass.
 

AlexKo

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Guys, calm down.

My guess, is that the OP knows he needs RAID, but is trying to figure out whether to use some form of RAIDzX or mirrors.

Thank you for your answer,

that's also a big point, in my use case if a drive fails i would like to just swap it with another drive and be good to go. We are talking about office use, in which you have don;t have the option to be one day without your files.

In this case i think mirroring maybe a better solution, especially if the space needs aren't that big.
Correct me if i'm wrong.
 

gpsguy

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That's a great idea.

Does your existing machine have at least 8GB of RAM? If not, you might run into issues and not realize that insufficient RAM is causing a problem.

Are you familiar with hypervisors, like VMware? If so, you might be able to install ESXi or VMware Workstation Player on the pc for testing FreeNAS. Create a 16GB virtual disk for the FreeNAS install and some 50GB virtual disks to represent physical hard disks. Play with the volume manager. Try RAIDZ2 with 4 or more disks or create some mirrors and stripe them.

I am gonna start with an existing pc just to "play" and learn some basic stuff and how FN works, before proceeding on buying/building a purpose machine.

Should you decide to move forward with FreeNAS and build your own server, my reocmmendation would be to stay away from the mini-ITX form factor. There's a limited selection of ECC capable motherboards and cooling can be a challenge in a small case. A microATX board is a much better choice.
 

garm

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Okey, I’ll bite..

Buy a server from Dell, HP etc. this will make your TCO way lower for your use case.
To select a machine you need to do the math; how big is your initial storage need? How much will it grow per year? What is the expected data life time? What is your legal obligations?

When you have those numbers you lay out your landscape. Do individual clients write direct to your NAS or locally with backups being taken to the NAS? This will influence your pool layout, Network schema and hardware choices.

You will need an expansion strategy, vdevs cannot be expanded with other then cycling through all drives replacing them with bigger once. For critical data like financials obligated by law or the like you would need high redundancy and offsite encrypted backups. Maybe even in use encryption.

What is your backup strategy?

When this is all figured out you need to weigh it against buying a finished solution like MS SharePoint, hosted Nextcloud etc.

What will your expected response time be in case of failure? What will the maximum accepted downtime be? Etc. include those in the business case with the outsourced alternatives.


Developing, running and maintaining a business service is not a trivial matter, this is what I do for a living.

If you intend to host Nextcloud on the machine as well your task grows exponentially. Firewall, secure network zones etc will be important. Domain and DNS management together with securing any internet facing resource will keep you up at night.
 

AlexKo

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Dec 9, 2017
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That's a great idea.

Does your existing machine have at least 8GB of RAM? If not, you might run into issues and not realize that insufficient RAM is causing a problem.

Are you familiar with hypervisors, like VMware? If so, you might be able to install ESXi or VMware Workstation Player on the pc for testing FreeNAS. Create a 16GB virtual disk for the FreeNAS install and some 50GB virtual disks to represent physical hard disks. Play with the volume manager. Try RAIDZ2 with 4 or more disks or create some mirrors and stripe them.



Should you decide to move forward with FreeNAS and build your own server, my reocmmendation would be to stay away from the mini-ITX form factor. There's a limited selection of ECC capable motherboards and cooling can be a challenge in a small case. A microATX board is a much better choice.

I am building a machine from scratch anyways, right now i am in the process of picking the hardware of the machine i will be firstly experiencing FN (PC1).

I will firstly get FN up and running in this machine (PC1) which is going to be also my personal NAS/HTPC. When i figure some things out, then i am going to have the build that i am gonna setup to the office (PC2).

When both pc's are up an running, i am going to set the office one (PC2) to do nightly backups to the one i have home (PC1).

Thanks :) i hope i won't be too bothering.
 

gpsguy

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btw, if you'd like an offline copy of the docs, you can download them, via the links in my signature. I'll make the 11.1-Release version available real soon now.

i hope i won't be too bothering
 

AlexKo

Dabbler
Joined
Dec 9, 2017
Messages
16
Okey, I’ll bite..

Buy a server from Dell, HP etc. this will make your TCO way lower for your use case.
To select a machine you need to do the math; how big is your initial storage need? How much will it grow per year? What is the expected data life time? What is your legal obligations?

When you have those numbers you lay out your landscape. Do individual clients write direct to your NAS or locally with backups being taken to the NAS? This will influence your pool layout, Network schema and hardware choices.

You will need an expansion strategy, vdevs cannot be expanded with other then cycling through all drives replacing them with bigger once. For critical data like financials obligated by law or the like you would need high redundancy and offsite encrypted backups. Maybe even in use encryption.

What is your backup strategy?

When this is all figured out you need to weigh it against buying a finished solution like MS SharePoint, hosted Nextcloud etc.

What will your expected response time be in case of failure? What will the maximum accepted downtime be? Etc. include those in the business case with the outsourced alternatives.


Developing, running and maintaining a business service is not a trivial matter, this is what I do for a living.

If you intend to host Nextcloud on the machine as well your task grows exponentially. Firewall, secure network zones etc will be important. Domain and DNS management together with securing any internet facing resource will keep you up at night.

Thank you for your answer and all your tips,

because the files i am gonna be storing need to be shared simultaneously and the size of them won't be that big, i am thinking of having one big pool that stores all of the data.

Due to the kind of business, i don't see storage needs going up anytime soon. The only case where i would like to have more pools and generally save data separately in different pools, would be if the number of the computers increased dramatically, which again i don't see happening any time soon.

About my backup strategy, i was thinking of having the smallest number of HDD's, if possible having two in the office pc, mirroring one to the other and be able to swap them if anything goes wrong.

Other than that i would also configure an offsite backup to my personal Nas.
 

AlexKo

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btw, if you'd like an offline copy of the docs, you can download them, via the links in my signature. I'll make the 11.1-Release version available real soon now.

Much appreciated, the manuals seem quite useful. I was using the "original" FreeNAS guide.
 
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gpsguy

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Not sure what you mean. This is the same content that's in the HTML files from iXsystems. I build them from their source files.

I was using the "original" FreeNas guide
 

AlexKo

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Not sure what you mean. This is the same content that's in the HTML files from iXsystems. I build them from their source files.
I was using a web based manual, can't find it right now thought
 

wblock

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Personally, I'd go with a Supermicro motherboard, four 4TB WD Red drives as RAIDZ2, 16 or 32G of RAM, and one or two SSDs for a boot device. I might go with an X10SLL motherboard, just because of current DDR4 RAM prices. Add to this a quality power supply and a decent UPS. Processor is not critical, a Pentium or i3 is probably fine.

I know that 4TB of capacity was stated, but this should provide room to grow.
 

gpsguy

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Most of us use one pool. It's easier to manage the storage.

One use case for several pools, would be if you had both SSD and spinning rust in your server. Create a "fast" pool with SSD's and a "slow" one with SATA drives.

i am thinking of having one big pool that stores all of the data.

This is not a backup, but rather redundancy in your server.

Look into "snapshots" and consider doing replications between the office server and your offsite server.

About my backup strategy, i was thinking of having the smallest number of HDD's, if possible having two in the office pc, mirroring one to the other and be able to swap them if anything goes wrong.
 

gpsguy

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