As you generate and store more data in your digital systems, the need for seamless access to that data across multiple locations becomes increasingly important. This is where Network Attached Storage (NAS) comes in. NAS allows you to connect your data to the network, making it accessible anytime.
The great thing about today’s technology is that we can easily have a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device in our homes. This is thanks to these devices’ availability, portability, and affordability. With a NAS, we can easily share photos, movies, and other media files and use it as a backup storage solution.
Note: It is important to note that FreeNAS and TruNAS Core have been consolidated under the TrueNAS Open Storage brand. FreeNAS is now referred to as TrueNAS CORE, while the previous version of TrueNAS is now known as TrueNAS Enterprise. This merger of open-source NAS products allows for a unified approach to network storage solutions.
So, wherever you see the FreeNAS in this article, it applies to TrueNAS CORE.
There are several options available for creating and managing your own NAS. However, two popular choices are FreeNAS and UnRAID. Both systems offer easy installation and a range of features to help you manage your data storage. This article will look closely at these two options and compare their strengths and weaknesses.
Installation and Setup – FreeNAS Vs UnRAID
One of the key differences between FreeNAS and UnRAID is the installation process. The UnRAID installation process is relatively simple; you need to boot off a USB drive and are ready to go. It doesn’t matter what kind of hardware or disk configuration you have; UnRAID will work with it.
On the other hand, FreeNAS installs on the primary drive’s boot sector. It is not recommended to run FreeNAS from a USB drive as it’s a full-blown RAID system that requires heavy write operations, which are best handled by disks for speed and efficiency reasons. The FreeNAS installation process is a bit more involved than UnRAID, but it’s still relatively straightforward.
How about Hardware Requirements?
In terms of hardware requirements, UnRAID is more flexible as it can work with any hardware or disk configuration. But FreeNAS requires specific hardware and disk configurations to run efficiently. For example, it’s recommended that each drive added to the system be of equal size to ensure proper performance. Additionally, FreeNAS requires a minimum of 2GB of RAM and a 64-bit processor to run.
It’s also worth noting that UnRAID does not support hardware RAID controllers. So, UnRAID might not be your best choice if you use hardware RAID controllers.
Since FreeNAS and UnRAID have different hardware and disk configuration requirements, it’s important to keep these in mind when deciding which system to use at home or the workplace.
The General Hardware Requirement Comparision:
|Storage||Minimum 8GB USB Flash drive/CD-ROM drive or hard drive||Minimum 8GB USB Flash drive/CD-ROM drive or hard drive|
|Disk Configuration||Minimum 1 disk (preferably equal size disks for RAID setup)||Any disk configuration|
|Hardware RAID controllers support||Supported||Not supported|
Features and Functionality
FreeNAS is a powerful and feature-rich NAS system built on a BSD system using OpenZFS as the filesystem. This combination gives FreeNAS enterprise-grade capabilities, such as advanced data protection, integrity, and encryption. With FreeNAS, you can set up traditional RAID modes such as RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and more, which allows for striping, mirroring, and parity of data across multiple disks.
Additionally, FreeNAS provides advanced features like snapshots, replication, and plugin support.
UnRAID is a Linux-based NAS system that uses a different approach to data storage. Unlike traditional RAID systems, UnRAID treats each disk as an independent filesystem. This approach allows users to add or remove disk drives at any time without the need to rebuild the RAID array.
UnRAID also provides data protection through dedicated parity drives that can be set up with 0, 1, or 2 such drives. This system allows for data recovery without affecting the system’s performance in case of disk failure. UnRAID also provides a plugin architecture that allows for the installation of various third-party applications.
|Operating System||BSD System||Linux|
|File System||OpenZFS||Independent Filesystems|
|RAID Support||Yes (Traditional RAID modes)||No (Dedicated parity drives)|
|Hardware RAID controllers support||Yes||No|
|Snapshots & Replication||Yes||No|
|Scalability||Limited (by equal size drive requirement)||Flexible (can add any size and capacity of drives)|
|Pricing||Free||Staged pricing ($59, $89, $129)|
Pricing and Scalability
UnRAID offers a flexible pricing model that allows users to choose the number of storage devices they need. The pricing options include 6 storage devices for around $60. You can check more pricing details here.
These one-time prices include a “buy once, use for life” policy. This means that users can continue using the software without additional costs. This model is suitable for users who know the exact number of storage devices they need and is a cost-effective option for those who don’t want to pay for more storage than they need.
FreeNAS is open-source software and is free to download and use. However, expanding storage needs can be expensive, as additional hardware and disk drives need to be purchased. As FreeNAS is a traditional RAID system, each drive added to the system must be of equal size to ensure proper performance. This can be a limiting factor for users who want to add drives of different sizes or capacities. On the other hand, UnRAID allows users to add any size and capacity of drives to the system.
When it comes to scalability, FreeNAS is more limited than UnRAID. FreeNAS requires users to purchase additional hardware and disk drives of equal size to expand storage capacity. This can be a high cost for users, especially for personal or home users.
UnRAID allows users to add any size and capacity of drives to the system without the need to rebuild the RAID array. Additionally, unRAID’s pricing model allows users to pay for the exact number of storage devices they need rather than purchasing more than they need. This can be more cost-effective in the long run.
While FreeNAS offers advanced features and enterprise-grade capabilities, it comes with a high cost associated with expanding storage needs. UnRAID provides a more cost-effective and flexible option but with less advanced features. It is important to consider the specific needs, scalability, and budget when choosing between FreeNAS and unRAID for your NAS solution.
Both NAS software are available to download and install as a virtual machine on any host OS like Windows 10/11. It is better to install and see the OS features before finalizing the product.
In this article, we have compared the popular NAS systems, FreeNAS vs unRAID. We have discussed their installation process, hardware requirements, unique features, and functionality. We have also compared the pricing and scalability options of both systems.
The discussion clearly shows that both FreeNAS and unRAID have their own strengths and weaknesses. FreeNAS is an enterprise-grade system that offers advanced features. It’s built on top of OpenZFS and provides traditional RAID modes. However, it comes with a high cost associated with expanding storage needs. On the other hand, unRAID is a more cost-effective and flexible option that provides data protection through dedicated parity drives. It’s more suitable for personal or home users or small and medium businesses.
Ultimately, the best system for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. We recommend trying out FreeNAS and unRAID to see which works best for you. Both systems are easy to install and have user-friendly interfaces, making it easy to test them out and see which one you prefer.