FreeNAS or Openfiler? Which one should you use for your free open source network attached storage? Openfiler has a lot more features and is based on Linux so should work on a lot of computers. FreeNAS is simpler but is based on FreeBSD, a Unix that is slow to get support for new hardware. how do they match up in a live test?
Network attached storage, NAS, is always slow and requires a fast network for decent access speed. When you use NAS, you really want NAS and very little else. If you also have some older computers sitting around unused, you can convert them to NAS. FreeNAS and Openfiler are two popular ways to create a NAS machine. A Linux distribution would be the next choice.
FreeNAS has a very small download compared to Openfiler and Openfiler is smaller than the typical Linux download. FreeNAS requires very little memory or disk space. Openfiler requires a little bit more of both but less than Linux, unless you switch on all the Openfiler feature, in which case you end up with something similar to a minimal Linux installation.
If you already use Linux, you could look at Linux with something like eBox or Webmin because you use Linux and can test eBox/Webmin on your existing computer. eBox or Webmin might destroy the way your computer is set up. The safest choice would be to experiment on your old Linux computer after you buy your new Linux computer. If the Linux eBox/Webmin does not do what you want then test FreeNAS and Openfiler. Ubuntu recommends eBox and has eBox as a standard download option.
Your favourite Linux distribution would have the smallest download requirement because you have already downloaded it for one of your other computers and do not have to download it for your NAS. FreeNAS, at 70MB, beats Openfiler, at 250MB, on download size.
FreeNAS 1 Openfiler 0
FreeNAS is described in more detail in the article FreeNAS. I use it for simple online storage within my local network. I share the data using Samba for Windows based computers and have experimented with NFS. Two years ago every installation of FreeNAS failed due to no hardware support. Today the latest FreeNAS has installed on two computers about a year old. The latest Openfiler 2.3 has failed to install on two different computers. Ubuntu Linux installs on both computers but not the Linux based Openfiler. Openfiler must have much older hardware support.
FreeNAS 2 Openfiler 0
The test machines all have 8GB of memory. FreeNAS says it can use only 4GB. I guess FreeNAS is 32 bit code instead of 64 bit code. Openfiler does not say what it uses and never installed to the point where I could look through its resource usage. No points to either side.
Openfiler jumps straight to a menu where you can decide what you want to do. FreeNAS sits there forever loading stuff then blinks up a menu then automatically goes back to booting up. That mystery menu has some boot options and defaults to a normal boot but you rarely see it during the 10 minute boot from CD. Openfiler gains the point here.
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FreeNAS displays some weird error messages during the boot process then lets you type in your selection. Openfiler does not recognise keyboard input. It would probably recognise a keyboard attached direct using the old PS/2 connections. I am using USB mouse and keyboard. FreeNAS wins from here on because I could not proceed with Openfiler.
FreeNAS 3 Openfiler 1
For pure network attached storage, I choose FreeNAS. For something more complex, I would look at Ubuntu with eBox because I already use Ubuntu elsewhere and future NAS machines are likely to be old Ubuntu machines. Trying a later release of Openfiler would be choice three. The last choice would be a NAS appliance.