s2. FreeBSD vs FreeNAS, which one suits us better

Summary: FreeNAS is not the best solution when one needs custom setups.

For the past few weeks we have been testing FreeNAS (both 9.10 and 10 BETA2), and comparing it with a standard FreeBSD 11 setup.

After experiencing a few bugs on FreeNAS 10, I switched to version 9.10.

FreeNAS has shown serious limits for Vasudeva Server intended use.

FreeNAS is a FreeBSD with a GUI interface to some services: samba, sharing services, directory services, etc.

  • The main benefit seems to be the relatively easy-to-use web interface for initial configuration of the hardware.
  • The negative side of «easy to use»: in order to make it simple to some users, FreeNAS imposes additional layers on top of the OS, making it difficult to customise and tailor more sophisticated needs, like the ones we have.

Also, a file-server is usually configured just once. If done properly, the configuration will hardly change. So, the additional GUI overlay seems taking an excessive toll for what it offers.

/If one already has some FreeBSD experience, it will be more fruitful and more stable to just employ FreeBSD and install samba, and any other services, as needed./

They are not hard to configure, all settings can be in version control, and the set-up will be fully customisable.

So, ultimately FreeNAS has shown to be less useful than FreeBSD, in respect to our use-case.

  • FreeNAS ships with an integrated GUI management tool that covers everything, but locks you in a preset environment, appealing to a minimum-common-denominator prospective user.
  • On the other side, FreeBSD can be configured and used for really anything. It is just up to the user to figure out what to install, how to configure it, how to use it, etc. But once that is done, FreeBSD is the simpler, more robust, more wholesome solution.

That first step may be difficult for a home user that just needs a box from which he watches videos or listen to music.

But to our use case, to our standard and to our class of users, FreeNAS compromises too much in exchange to a false simplicity, that, in reality, belies superficiality and inflexibility.

Conclusion: /It seems clear that a simple FreeBSD install is the better solution, not only on server side, but also as specialised local file-server./

[s2. FreeBSD vs FreeNAS, which one suits us better, last update 2017-12-08]