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Alternatives to Drobo from Synology or QNAP – Which NAS Should You Buy?

27 juillet 2022 à 01:33

Leaving Drobo NAS and Buying a Synology or QNAP – Get it Right, First Time

For a long time, I championed the Drobo Brand of network attached storage (NAS) as a great option for users looking to have their very own no-fuss, easy to set up and content-creator-friendly system. However, I think it would be fair to say that in the last 5-6 years, whilst many of the more ambitious NAS brands such as QNAP and Synology were pushing the boundaries of what people can do with their NAS systems in software and hardware, Drobo had made little or no innovation in their either department. Indeed, although we saw the impressive and surprisingly affordable Thunderbolt RAID device, the Drobo 5D3, in the world of NAS we really saw things start to stagnate. Fast forward to 2022, and we recently found out that Drobo (and its parent company StorCentric) had sadly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing impacts on their business from the pandemic. Although the company has stated in several interviews that they intend to carry on later, with a smaller product line perhaps, I think the brand had been in trouble long before the pandemic and for a while, many users on the brink of buying their latest NAS or were in the process of upgrading an existing Drobo populated network storage environment, started considering making the switch to the bigger and more established NAS brands, Synology and QNAP. These two brands have 22 and 18 years of experience respectively in network attached storage and in that time have continued to release new and exciting innovations that challenge alot of the rather unexciting and rudimentary storage services that Drobo NAS systems arrive with.

What Do Synology and QNAP Provide that Drobo Doesn’t?

NAS has a technology that anyone (home or business) can buy has been around for around two decades now and in that time, ALOT has changed. The days of a NAS being just a simple blob of storage (1+ HDDs) that are connected to the network/internet and accessible remotely are long gone. Now modern NAS systems arrive with a full range of tailored applications (i.e. interfaces that allow you to access file types such as Photos, Music, Video, Docs, etc in a manner better suited to their output), a full graphical user interface accessible via your web browser that is more akin to a complete operating system, many client tools and apps, huge variety of business tools and all of this whilst still providing configurable storage to you, your family or your business. Below is just a handful of the thing that a Synology or QNAP NAS can do, that a Drobo either cannot do or does in a very limited capacity:

  • Bigger Range of solutions in 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12-Bay and bigger desktop NAS solutions
  • Many, many Mobile Applications
  • Incredibly user-friendly GUIs via the web browser (DSM and QTS) that give NAS devices an operating system comparable to Windows or MacOS
  • AI-Powered Photo Recognition
  • Huge variety of NAS Apps
  • Highly configurable and customizable iSCSI and Remote Targetted storage tools and Protocols supported
  • Multi-tiered and comprehensive backup tools covering NAS-to-NAS, USB, Cloud and VM Backups
  • Wide Variety of Desktop/Client Apps
  • Diverse RAID configurations and Storage Expansion Options
  • 10GbE by Default or as an Optional Extra
  • A large number of security tools and configuration tools (starting with
  • NVMe SSD Bays for caching and/or storage
  • Dedicated Premium Surveillance, Virtual Machine, Multimedia, Containers and Cloud Sync Software
  • Fully featured Plex and Emby Media Server Support
  • SaaS Sync Tools (Active Backup on Synology and BoXafe on QNAP)
  • A large variety of email hosting, web hosting and database creation tools
  • Not just supporting EXT4, but also supporting ZFS or BTRFS’ file systems

Now, it is worth remembering that Drobo DID release some innovations over the years in their NAS and DAS systems. They were the first to introduce a much more innovative LED system on the front of their system’s to denote system storage use, particular activity and more detailed warning patterns. They were one of the first to integrate m.2 SSD caching upgrade bays into their desktop systems (though using mSATA or M.2 NVMe), and they were one of the first to introduce internal battery systems in their desktop NAS that allowed the system to safely close read/write activities in the event of the system suffering a critical power failure. Then of course there was BeyondRAID, their flexible RAID configuration that allowed easy RAID expansions and mixed drive use. These innovations were all good, it’s just a shame that they all came around many years ago and the brand has not moved forward in hardware or software technology since.

Why Choose Synology NAS to Replace Your Drobo?

Synology is often considered the ‘Software Choice’, as DSM (Diskstation Manager) is by far the most user-friendly, secure, responsive and ‘OS-like’ platform available in the whole of NAS. It may seem one of the most expensive, but with it, you get some genuine boundary-breaking software with your purchase.  You still get a great level of hardware in the majority of Synology NAS solutions, but the real draw of Synology is that software. Not only does it support your own hardware environment of PCs, Macs, entertainment devices and mobiles in their own respective software, but DSM also includes MANY applications designed around keeping all your data IN-HOUSE. So, replace Skype/Whatsapp with Synology Chat, Replace Google Docs and Office365 with Synology Office. Use Synology Drive to make your storage visible and accessible the way YOU want it, and export your entire cloud/data network over to a Synology NAS and remove all the external access as and when you need! They aren’t the cheapest and they want you to do it ‘there way’, but it’s a pretty decent way. Additionally, their recent DSM 7.0 software has left many users impressed, with enhanced support of those 3rd party cloud storage and business services, AI photo recognition, their surveillance platform continuing to win awards and even an in-house cloud service in Synology C2. Stylizing themselves very much as the ‘Apple’ of this industry, they really do focus on keeping things straightforward and intuitive.

PROS of Synology NAS

  • Easily the most intuitive and Usage browser-based GUI (award-winning DSM 6.2/7.0/7.1) – FULL Review HERE
  • One of the best Surveillance NAS software solutions
  • Most popular vendor for Mac users for it’s UI
  • Incredibly feature-rich NVR software included, in Surveillance Station
  • Includes Active Backup Suite – Enterprise level and fully featured Backup Co-ordination software
  • Lowest Power Consumption vs other brands
  • A large # of their systems arrive with m.2 NVMe SSD caching upgrade bays
  • Quiet chassis compared with other brands
  • Task specialised Ranges like ‘PLAY’, ‘PLUS’ and ‘J’ make buying easier
  • The best range of first-party software, with Synology Office, Chat, Mail, Drive and more
  • SHR and SHR-2 – also BTRFS available in most solutions
  • Cloud Services and Hybrid Storage Tools available in Synology C2
  • Desktop and Rack-mount options are available
  • Best software for Home and SMB

CONS of Synology NAS

  • Often the most expensive
  • Recent Enterprise NAS Hardware has changed Compatibility in favour of Synology HDDs and SSDs
  • Generally, Synology NAS has the lowest hardware power in their systems
  • NVMe SSD Bays are for caching ONLY, they cannot be used for super-fast storage pools
  • More technically minded folk will need to dig a little to get to the nitty-gritty
  • SHR is not available on Enterprise NAS Systems
  • Network ONLY – no HDMI, Audio in/out, Thunderbolt, etc

Why Choose QNAP NAS to Replace Your Drobo?

Often considered the choice for the more hardware-aware buyer, if you are looking for a much more traditionally computer associated hardware – QNAP NAS is certainly the one that springs to mind. Generally considered the ‘innovators’ of the NAS industry, they have the largest range of solutions available Notwithstanding the fact that their hardware is by FAR the most evolved platform in NAS (thunderbolt 3, multiple HDMI, 10Gbe standard solutions, Silent NAS, AI solutions and advanced SSD caching), the platform is fantastically diverse, providing great NAS options alongside network switches, network adapters and generally reshaping your hardware environment for the better. The software has also evolved dramatically into its own beast, moving away from trying to imitate and carving its own path. It is a little more technically (and I really do mean a little) but it is far more rewarding for it. They do not feature some popular items on their portfolio, such as BTRFS or a fluid RAID system like SHR/BeyondRAID, but make up for this with their own range of alternatives and in most cases succeed. Get your reading glasses on though, as their range is quite vast and might overwhelm you a tad. In recent years the brand has shifted focus a great deal more towards software in efforts to meet the gap with their rival Synology to pretty good success. This is often achieved by releasing software that does the previously impossible before anyone else, but lacking a little of the polish of their biggest rival. Recent achievements with HybridMount, vJBOD, HyperVisor Protector, QuMagie and Multimedia Console have been received remarkably well, arriving onto the scene 1-2 years before anyone else. Alongside this, QNAP still has easily the best virtual machine and backup software for home and SMB in Virtualization Station and Hybrid Backup Sync.

PROS of QNAP NAS

  • Best Solutions for Plex Media Server in NAS
  • Enterprise/Business Solutions feature ZFS
  • 2.5Gbe, 5Gbe and 10Gbe Options
  • Best Virtual Machine and Container Solutions in NAS
  • NVMe SSD Bays can be used for Caching, Storage Pools or Tiered Storage Configurations
  • Almost all range is metal in design, or a plastic but unique chassis
  • HDMI and remote control included in most Media NAS devices
  • Thunderbolt NAS options covering TB2, TB3 and even TB4 (TS-464)
  • Two Surveillance Solutions (with 4/8 Camera Licenses included)
  • The Best Backup/Synchronization solution in ‘Hybrid Backup Sync 3’
  • Technical information far more readily available
  • Lower price compared with Synology in terms of hardware
  • Regularly updated software and Detailed GUI/APPs – FULL Review HERE
  • Desktop and Rackmount options are available
  • Much better business options and definitely the best for virtual machines

CONS of QNAP NAS

  • A more android feel towards apps and stability means some users will be put off
  • Lacking the BTRFS and SHR support of Synology
  • Higher typical Power consumption
  • Often a fraction noisier due to chiefly metal chassis
  • Much larger range of devices can lead to confusion
  • Most units arrive with 2-3 Years warranty, but longer will cost you more
  • Have been targetted by Ransomware attacks in the last 2 years

Recommended Synology Replacement for the Drobo 5N2 NAS – The DS920+ and DS1522+ NAS

Choosing to replace the Drobo 5N2 5-Bay NAS with a Synology is actually a surprisingly easy choice. Right now at the time of writing, there are two very clear Diskstaiton devices that you can choose (if you want to stay at this kind of storage sale). The Synology DS920+ 4-Bay NAS (originally released in 2020) and the Synology DS1522+ 5-Bay NAS (released in June 2022). The former has been in the market for long enough that multiple deals are available and if/when the DS923+ arrives on the scene, it will likely become increasingly affordable – in spite of this, the hardware inside is great and it’s a solid fully featured NAS. The latter choice, the DS1522+, is the latest 2022 generation release from the brand, has great default system hardware and plenty of scalabilities and upgrade options to add to the system’s utility in years to come. Find out more about them both below:

Synology DS920+ 4-Bay NAS $500+

Intel Celeron 4-Core J4125, 4/8GB Memory, 1GbE, NVMe SSD Caching, Expandable, SHR, 4x SATA Bays, 3yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 21/05/20

The DS920+ NAS is something that Synology should be proud of. It is a great entry into their already impressive range of Diskstation NAS devices. If you are looking for a brand new NAS to consolidate your home media, to support your relative as the ‘IT whizz’ of the family, or move your business away from Google Drives and DropBox’ onto something safer, more scalable and dependable – then the DS920+ has alot to offer you. It gives you a great base to start using the DSM platform, as well as a good means to upgrade your storage internally at a later date (expansions in memory, expansions in storage, expansion in NVMe). If you are an existing DS918+ or DS916+ owner, this might not seem like the jump you were waiting for. There are always areas of improvement, the USB ports, the 1Gbe, that 1 memory slot – but these are things that Synology no doubt feel should be pushed into a higher price/hardware bracket – Allowing the DS920+ Price to be as close to its predecessors it can be. Whether you agree or disagree, I think that we can agree that this NAS is still giving you alot of bang for your buck in 2020. Thank you once again to ‘Takeo from Tokyo‘ for all his assistance on this hardware review

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


Synology DS1522+ 5-Bay NAS $750+

Ryzen R1600 Dual Core, 8/32GB ECC Memory,4x1GbE, Optional 10GbE for $150, NVMe SSD Caching, Expandable, SHR, 5x SATA Bays, 3yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 29/06/22

The Synology DS1522+ is a good NAS drive and most business-focused users are going to appreciate what this newer configuration of hardware is able to provide. There was never any doubt in the extent to which this new NAS would support DSM7, and given its architecture, there is virtually nothing in the popular NAS software that this system cannot do. Likewise, having the option of 10GbE on a Diskstation of this scale will be hugely attractive to some, though the proprietary means with which you need to upgrade is arguably less desirable. The R1600 CPU is a good choice of processor for file handling and simultaneous tasks, as is the 8GB of memory that this system arrives with, plus the potential to ramp it up to 32GB. After that though, the desirability of this system to home users and multimedia users is a little less compelling and with such a large audience of users who look at NAS for their media streaming, the DS1522+ not featuring a more graphically enabled chip will leave them somewhat underwhelmed. Bottom line, the DS1522+ is a solid and full DSM7 supporting system here and you cannot fault the design, internal/external performance and ease of use of this Synology NAS. However, there will always be users wondering why this NAS never arrived with an Intel chip.

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


 

Recommended QNAP Replacement for the Drobo 5N2 NAS – The QNAP TS-464 and TS-h973ax

If you decide to move away from the Drobo 5-Bay 5N22 and towards a QNAP, then I recommend opting for either the 2022 generation TS-464 NAS (as it is really is the best hardware vs scale vs price point the brand has ever released) or the incredibly mutli-facited QNAP TS-h973ax, which as 10GbE, 3 kinds of storage media supported across 9-Bays and the choice of file system at initialization of ZFS or EXT4. Here is more information on these two NAS and what we said about them when reviewed:

QNAP TS-464 4-Bay NAS $599+

Intel Celeron 4-Core N5105, 4/16GB Memory, 2×2.5GbE, NVMe SSD Caching or for Storage, HDMI 2.0 4K 60PFS, USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb), USB RAID Expandable, PCIe Gen 3×2 Upgrade Slot, 4x SATA Bays, 3yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 18/04/22

The TS-464 comfortably arrives with the best hardware in its tier of the NAS market and that is something that QNAP has always been quite good at. Even if you rewind just 5 years, the level of hardware scalability and ease of upgradability that the TS-464 provides is frankly incredible and, fast forward to 2022, is still pretty unmatched. A Desktop 4-Bay NAS (eg Prosumer RAID 5 storage) has always been the next confident step for users who are tired of their hands being tied by subscription cloud services from Google, OneDrive and DropBox, who are looking for their own competent, flexible and fully-featured private server. In the TS-464 NAS, you find a system that is unquestionable the best hardware for your money you can possibly get right now. In software, things are a little less straightforward. QTS 5, although massively software and service-rich, arrives as a complete operating system in your web browser with multiple mobile/desktop clients and hundreds of applications and apps that can be installed at the touch of a button – which can all too often be something of a steep learning curve for many. Lacking the chewable, user-friendly nature of many of their rivals, QNAP and its software/service still have a tendency to be a bit of an information overload that can quickly intimidate the novice. However, for those that are looking for a system that is completely customizable in how/when/where you want data presented to you, as well as a wide degree of 3rd party support, QNAP and QTS 5 still manages to provide a huge degree of brand-unique service that are simply not available elsewhere. Just be prepared to invest your time wisely in its setup and more time ensuring the system is perfect for your needs.

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


QNAP TS-h973ax 5/9-Bay NAS $999+

AMD Ryzen V1500B Quad Core, 8/32GB Memory, 1x 10GbE, 2×2.5GbE, 5x SATA HDD, 2x SATA SSD, 2x U.2 NVMe SSD, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb), USB RAID Expandable, ZFS or EXT4 File System Choice, 2yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 13/11/20

I have seen a lot of network-attached storage over the years and the TS-h973AX brings a lot of colour to what was fast becoming a somewhat grey landscape. In short, QNAP has gone and done it again by proving they are the hardware innovators of this industry and have managed to provide a genuinely unique solution here. When they first revealed their new Hero ZFS operating system last year, you could not help but get the impression that only top-end enterprise businesses with £10K starting budgets were ever going to benefit. The TS-h973AX desktop NAS is solid evidence that QNAP will share the wealth and that this is the start of a whole new series of affordable ZFS solution from the brand. That isn’t to say that this system is perfect and pernickety points about a lack of HDMI or LCD may put off some users, and the compact 9 bay chassis that will attract some will no doubt deter others. Ultimately though QNAP has succeeded in creating what they sought out here and what we find is one of the best examples of hardware and software meeting in the middle, while still arriving with a price tag in 3 figures. In the current absence of a straight forward QuTS license purchase option for existing QNAP NAS systems right now, this is a solution that serves as a good alternative to a number of 4 and 6 Bay solutions in their portfolio. Though, make sure you upgrade that memory on day one! 

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


 

Recommended Synology Replacement for the Drobo B810n NAS – The DS1821+ NAS

Replacing or deciding against the Drobo B810n 8-Bay NAS system and opting for a Synology is, if anything, considerably easier than moving away from the 5N. Synology has a great history of 8-Bay NAS devices and the 2021 generation DS1821+ is a fantastic choice of NAS system. It supports the full range of DSM applications, has scalable storage, can be expanded by ten more drives, has in-built m.2 NVMe slots, a high bandwidth PCIe Upgrade slot and still manages to be very petite. Here is more information on the Synology DS1821+ and what we thought of it at review:

Synology DS1821+ 8-Bay NAS $1,100+

AMD Ryzen V1500B Quad Core, 4/32GB Memory, 4x1GbE, 8x SATA HDD, 2x NVMe SSD for Caching, PCIe Gen 3×8 Upgrade Slot, SHR or Traditional RAID, BTRFS or EXT4 File System Choice, 3yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 15/12/20

What you have here is a solid piece of hardware that very much lives up to everything Synology promises, even if some of those promises aren’t to everyone’s taste. With a hardware architecture that we have already tested to notable success in the DS1621+ previously, we already knew that this NAS would be able to do everything it promised. Many users looking to spend their annual business budgets on an improved or extended data storage solution will find the balanced position of hardware vs software found by the Synology DS1821+ to be quite desirable, as well as the scaled potential to upgrade external performance via PCIe and storage via eSATA. However, there is no ignoring that despite the fact this 2020 release excels in many things, it also arrives with a little bottlenecking in a number of others. The continued default utilisation of 1Gbe on the newest generation by Synology is somewhat perplexing and although I have continued admiration for Synology’s engagement with intelligent M2 NVMe cache utilisation and providing a solution that allows more flexible upgrade paths, I know that there are still users who just wish they could use that super fast NAND for raw storage pools and have better than gigabit connections out by default. It has never been a secret that buying a Synology NAS solution was always a largely ‘software over hardware’ purchase, and the DS1821+ is still a fine example of that balance. However, with other brands closing the gap in what they can offer the SMB (Small/Medium Business) user, while still providing superior hardware and similar warranty coverage, there is the tiniest feeling that the DS1821+ is a NAS that sits on its laurels a bit. Hugely upgradable and still with that award-winning and fantastically intuative DSM software, the DS1821+ is about buying a solution you can adapt within its lifespan and not one that will knock your socks off on day one. A solid and dependable data storage solution, if a little safe, at the end of 2020.

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


 

Recommended QNAP Replacement for the Drobo B810n NAS – The TVS-872X NAS

Unlike the previous QNAP suggestions I have made when moving away from a Drobo, when it comes to choosing a QNAP alternative to the Drobo B810n, I would currently recommend the 2020 released TVS-872X (a modified version of the also still available Thunderbolt 3 NAS, the TVS-872XT). Although this NAS has been around a while (and likely due an upgrade to a new version very soon), the QNAP TVS-872X is a 10GbE equipped 8 bay, with NVMe SSD slots, two very high bandwidth PCIe slots, USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4K HDMI, optional ZFS or EXT4 and after all of that – it has an Intel Core i3 or i5 Highly powerful CPU than can also be accompanied by up to 64GB of DDR4 memory. This is a beast of a system that arrives with a surprisingly modest price point when compared to most other NAS of the same scale or hardware – and the fact it is a little older means that the price is improved further in many shops. Again, QNAP are very likely to release a newer, more powerful and ultimately more expensive version of this product family soon, but it is STILL a great NAS that holds it’s own in 2022. Here is what we thought of it at the review:

QNAP TVS-872X 8-Bay NAS $1,999+

Intel Core 8th Gen i3/i5 4/6-Core CPU, 8-64GB DDR4 Memory, 1x 10GbE, 2x1GbE, NVMe SSD Caching or for Storage, HDMI 2.0 4K 60PFS, USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb), USB RAID Expandable, 2x PCIe Gen ([email protected] 3×16 and [email protected] 3×4) Upgrade Slot, 8x SATA Bays, Audio In/Out, 3yr Warranty

NASCompares Written Review – HERE

NASCompares YouTube Review – HERE

What we said on 24/05/21

If this was the first time I was seeing the hardware featured on the QNAP TVS-872X, with its Intel Core CPU, 64GB of potential memory, 10Gbe on-board, NVMe equipped slots and USB 10G throughout – I would have been reasonably impressed. Likewise, the scalability in PCIe, storage expansions and network connectivity down the line is also a very valid and positive aspect of this system. But for me, it will always live slighting in the shadow of its Thunderbolt 3 equipped older big brother in the TV-872XT. The software on either ZFS or EXT4 file system is still doing what it does well, finding the line between 1st party apps, 3rd party support, customization and (mostly) getting it right – if occasionally trying to be too big for its boots. The QNAP TVS-872X is undeniably still a great example of the wide-ranging features available to prosumers who want a storage system heavily geared towards high-performance transmission via high-performance media with higher tier hardware at their disposal. It would be misleading to think of this NAS as any kind of significant upgrades over the XT, and the price tag that the TVS-872X currently arrives at (£1700+ / $2400) is perhaps a tad closer to that of the thunderbolt version than can be justified, but with an increasing over-reliance by brands on Xeon based systems, the TVS-872X is one of the most graphically well-equipped systems in the market today. If you are looking for a NAS for video editing, Plex media server, AI-assisted surveillance or virtualisation in a more compact form, the TVS-872X and its hardware has a heck of a lot to offer you.

Check Amazon for this NAS via the link below in your region (results in a % going back to the site and supports us):


Why Not Use Cloud Services like Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox instead of a NAS?

Do not think that 3rd party cloud services are bad, they really aren’t! In fact, you should always consider adding a 2nd or 3rd tier into your backup strategy at home/work, and synchronization of files/folders on your NAS with the cloud is a good means to ensure you have another backup in place. Additionally, most NAS feature a variety of 256bit encryption options, password protection, 2 step verification and more to allow secure access is ensured to the NAS and the content, even via the cloud. Additionally, bg NAS brands like Synology and QNAP have been supporting Hybrid Cloud services that not only allow cloud storage to be bolted onto your NAS storage for shared usage and access, but also both brand support backup and synchronization with cloud collaborate services, such as Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365. So there is DEFINITELY still a valid and useful place for 3rd party cloud services in 2022, however, I rarely advocate the use of these cloud services as a PRIMARY storage location. They ARE convenient and you can get a limited amount of space included for free, but I generally have three core reasons that I do not recommend cloud as a first-tier storage.

 

COST – The cost of most 2-year subscriptions costs about the same as if you just purchased even a small-scale NAS on day 1. It might seem like just 5 or 10 bucks a month, but over 2 or 3 years, it all adds up and moreover, after that time you either need to keep on paying every month or still buy a NAS or DAS system for the data to live on. Might as well buy the NAS sooner rather than later as it will be inevitable eventually.

ACCESS – NAS provides more apps, file-level tailored use and can be better adapted into popular 3rd Party applications like PLEX, KODI, APPLE TIME MACHINE and DLNA supported devices. A cloud provider severely limits the kind of access you have on a regular basis.

PRIVACY – NAS provides full individual user control and access, as well as admin controls. Plus the NAS can be fully disconnected from the Internet/Network at your discretion. A cloud provider has a relative pre-set safety protocol that, when cracked on one or two occasions, opens up mass hacking

This is not to say that data on your NAS is completely inaccessible. Any NAS brand can only really stay 1 step ahead of the hackers, patching exploits as they are found (no different than any online service really), but a NAS is a means to create a secure, customizable and ultimately bespoke data storage solution.


 

What About Moving from Drobo to Asustor or Terramaster NAS?

Obviously, as NAS is such a popular and highly evolved area of the tech industry (despite it still also remaining quite niche compared with traditional computers and laptops), Synology and QNAP are not the ONLY brands in the market! Indeed, if you have been looking at moving away from Drobo and saw some affordably devices from Asustor or Terramaster, you will likely wonder why I have not covered them as much in this article (though I DO cover them and their solutions in the video embedded in this article above). Although both brands have been providing some great hardware (both for the price AND just generally) in 2022, these brands do not provide the full range of software and services (especially 1st party developed) that QNAP and Synology do. Their respective software in ADM and TOS aren’t bad, indeed they are very good and very responsive with many apps, they just are not on the same level as Synology DSM and QNAP QTS/QuTS right now. You can find out more about their software in the software review videos of each below:


 

Should I Move From Drobo to TrueNAS Core?

Many Drobo users, after using their systems for many years and (after becoming increasingly proficient) started to feel its limitations, might have heard about the free and DiY NAS server platform ‘TrueNAS’ (aka FreeNAS) and considering making the switch towards it after Drobo. It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that when it comes to TrueNAS is a fantastically capable software for managing your storage. It even manages to swerve the downfall of being ‘too enterprise’ but arriving as an open source free software platform to be enjoyed by businesses and storage enthusiasts. There is no avoiding that it IS quite a technical mountainous learning curve if you are arriving at it from a position of zero storage or network experience, but the last few big TrueNAS system updates have gone a long way to update some UI elements to be more intuitive, software wide help notes available at all times and the community support is as on-point at it has ever been. If you are a home users looking for a hurdles setup or a day-1 deployable system for your small business, then TrueNAS may be too big a jump for you and you would be better off with a traditional off-the-shelf NAS system. However, if you have the know-how, you have the willingness to get your hands dirty and already have the hardware in mind/in-house, then TrueNAS stands in a class of it’s own and thanks to some very unique architecture choices that are almost utterly unique to this platform, it’s pretty unparalleled in its scope. Just please, PLEASE remember that a Drobo NAS is a ‘turnkey’ solution (aka, ready to go out of the box) and TrueNAS Core and TrueNAS Scale involve ALOT more setup and a much higher learning curve. You can buy TrueNAS-ready systems, such as the iXsystems series of devices, but these are still rather expensive compared with the modest Drobo and still require ALOT of tech knowledge to make the most of. You can find out more about the TrueNAS software platform in my written and video review below:

TrueNAS Written Review

TrueNAS Video Review

 

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We want to keep the free advice on NASCompares FREE for as long as we can. Since this service started back in Jan '18, We have helped hundreds of users every month solve their storage woes, but we can only continue to do this with your support. So please do choose to buy at Amazon US and Amazon UK on the articles when buying to provide advert revenue support or to donate/support the site below. Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7]     Terms and Conditions Alternatively, why not ask me on the ASK NASCompares forum, by clicking the button below. This is a community hub that serves as a place that I can answer your question, chew the fat, share new release information and even get corrections posted. I will always get around to answering ALL queries, but as a one-man operation, I cannot promise speed! So by sharing your query in the ASK NASCompares section below, you can get a better range of solutions and suggestions, alongside my own.  

 

TrueNAS Core Software Review – Account Management, Alerts, Notifcations & Business Support

23 mars 2022 à 01:17

TrueNAS Core Software Review – Part II, Managing Accounts, Alerts & Business Support


If you are considering managing your own private server, want to build it yourself (investing your budget primarily into the hardware) and want to take advantage of free to download open source software, then there is a huge chance that you are aware of TrueNAS. In part two of my full review of the TrueNAS Core software, I will be looking at how business users are going to find the account management of TrueNAS, how those accounts can be adapted/changed on the fly, what authentication methods are on offer to those accounts, how detailed the alerts are, in what ways can those concerned by notified as quickly as possible and just what options are available to business users who like the flexibility of TrueNAS but want commercial-grade support. We have a lot to cover, so I won’t waste much of your time, but I should add that today’s review was made possible with help from iXsystems providing a Mini X+ TrueNAS system. iXsystems is the business arm of the open-source TrueNAS platform and they provide the means for users who like the FreeBSD platform to have more of a turnkey ‘off the shelf’ solution at their disposal. If you want to read the FULL review, you can read the (LONG) FULL Review of TrueNAS is available HERE.


Part I of the TrueNAS Review Can be found HERE


Part III of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (25/03)

Review of TrueNAS – Accounts Creation, Control & Management


Given the rather technical, bespoke and detailed nature of TrueNAS, it is easy to understand why the solution is aimed at business users who want things set up in a ‘certain way’. Although turnkey solutions are easier to deploy and are generally more user-friendly, they are more often than not too rigid and inflexible for businesses to use in their larger business models. In most cases, a TrueNAS custom-built (or iXsystem) will be deployed in the center of a business and accessible from many, many company staff for backups, email, document archives, hybrid sync storage and more. Therefore it is important to review how TrueNAS handles multiple accounts, how security is afforded to these accounts and how privileges and access to more mission-critical or confidential data are managed. TrueNAS features a quick and easy means to create multiple users and/or groups for the host user network (as well as connecting these with remote access as required). Let me talk you through what stood out for me in TrueNAS when it comes to account management.


Significant Range of Security and Account Configuration Options


Creating a user account in TrueNAS is incredibly straightforward, as well as making each account as secure as possible. Each account has the standard username and password settings you would expect, but then they delve quite a bit deeper into how you want these users to access the system, their subgroups (which then allows you to create bulk protocols/privileges for all users in that group quickly) and the nature of their account. Options such as which file directories this user can interact with can be set to rear only, write or full access are fairly standard, but I like the options for locking some user accounts easily, creating unique SSH keys, creating temporary admin powers and rotational/changeable passwords are a nice extra touch. As the system is predominantly designed to be remotely accessed via 3rd party client OS’ and 3rd party client software, the more customizable user account features of user images and bespoke desktop GUI found on NAS systems such as Synology and QNAP are absent, but this is still a very easy and detailed user creation element to TrueNAS.

Good Support of Microsoft Account Authorization


It’s a relatively small extra detail, but user account security in TrueNAS also includes an option to integrate the use of Microsoft account security when accessing the storage on the server. This is applicable to any system running Windows 8 or higher (including Windows 11) and allows the authentication methods that are used in the Windows operations system to be used to further verify the identity of a connected user. This user service is not exclusive to TrueNAS of course, but it is another neat piece of third party crossover support that the software includes in its open-source architecture.


Impressively Configurable 2-Step Authentication


The fact that TrueNAS features the support of 2 step authentication (also known as 2FA – 2 Factor authentication) is not going to be a huge surprise for many, given its ubiquitous appearance on pretty much all software clients in the last few years. For those that arent aware, in brief, two-step authentication allows you to have a 2nd degree of user authentication when logging into a service/software alongside your password, as your phone will need to provide a randomly generated code every time when you log in. You need to use one of the many authentication client tools available online (with Google Authenticator being one of the most used for mobiles), but it is surprisingly easy to set up. Where 2-Step authentication in TrueNAS differs from most is the level of configuration that is on offer within the 2FA settings.



Most systems will provide you with the option to simply synchronize with the authentication tool you are using (3D generated barcode or long passkey as best suited to the end-user). TrueNAS on the other hand allows you to change the authentication interval that the randomly generated code changes (usually 30 seconds) to longer for those that need it for accessibility support, as well as change the validity period/number of attempts before a potential lockout. Then you have the option to customize the length of the one-time password (OTP) to greater than the usual default 6 digits (something I have not seen offered by any other NAS brands in 2022). Finally, there is the choice to integrate the requirements for 2-step authentication into SSH logins (command line access with an SSH client window tool such as Putty), which given the huge degree of SSH access built into the typical TrueNAS use scenario, it definitely beneficial.

No Bulk Group or User Creation Options


One small but present absence that I noted in TrueNAS was the lack of an option to create bulk users at once or to import an existing CSV or .xlsx file. This is a very minor detail of course and only applicable to users who have larger volumes of users they wish to move over to a new server from an existing setup, but I am still surprised that it is absent in TrueNAS Core. I have contacted iXsystems to enquire about this and apparently it IS an option that is available in TrueNAS Scale, but nevertheless, I am disappointed that it is not available across the whole platform.

Review of TrueNAS – Alerts & Notifications


Most users who are looking at getting a private server, although initially heavily invested in tinkering and playing with the device, will eventually want the system to just sit in the corner, be quiet and do it’s job! It’s understandable, as interesting as the software and services are, ultimately a NAS (TrueNAS or otherwise) is a tool and as soon as you have set the device up to do the thing you specifically need it to, you want to go back to doing other things and whilst your NAS carries on. However, whilst that is true, in the event something is wrong or out of the ordinary system processes are noticed internally, you want the TrueNAS to tell you ASAP! Most NAS systems have inbuilt notifications and alerts that can be pushed to select/all end users that can be tailored to preferred client devices and methods. In the case of TrueNAS there are (as you might expect) a wide, WIDE variety of settings and choices for delivering those all-important notifications and although in the case of many apps being 3rd party (therefore having their own notification and alert schemes in place as appropriate), the greater storage system, network/internet connections and user behaviour alerts are still pretty extensive in their alert options. Here is what stood out in TrueNAS for me in this area.


VERY Customizable Alerts and Notification Customization


I really cannot stress enough how diverse the range of alert configuration options that TrueNAS allows you to adapt. The window above is just a small example of the many, many windows available although it is a long, long list of options, you cannot really suggest that TrueNAS didn’t cover all the scenarios. There are even slightly more customizable ones that you can add too. The delivery of these alerts is a little less straightforward than those found in Synology/QNAP (which have proprietary client apps for mobile and desktop that allow faster alert methods) but a large number of platforms are supported in TrueNAS for notifications that include email, Slack, AWS, InfluxDB, Mattermost, Pager Duty, SNMP Trap and more. Alongside incredibly concisely built alert parameters, each one can be scaled in priority and in turn, its urgency adjusted.



TrueNAS uses a 7 tier alert priority scale and you can adjust each alert & notification variable in the wide-ranging list to your own requirements. For example, if you were running a shared storage area with a team of 10 users and 8/10 of those users were accessing the system at once (potentially bottlenecking the network in a 1GbE network, depending on the file volume/frequency), you might want the system admin/IT to know this. It isn’t a high-level alert, more of a case of being aware of the additional network load. In that case you can setup an alert of bandwidth/zdev access above a certain level/% and suitable admin to receive a level 2 notification (NOTICE) so they are aware. Alternatively, example 2, there have been several failed login attempts under a specific user account, but eventually that user has logged in successfully. This might be a cause of concern as repeated password attempts could so easily be an unauthorized individual connecting to the greater system. You can set the # of failed login attempts before an automatic lockout OR set an alert of level 3 ‘WARNING’ to alert a system admin to look into this account behaviour to access the situation. Alerts and notifications become significantly more intricate (breaking down into encryption certificates, hardware health, critical system failure, SSH/Telnet logins. etc) and this easy 7 tier alert system can be applied to all instances.


Build In Support Lines, Business Support tiers, Direct System Messaging System and Issue Reporting Mechanism in the TrueNAS GUI


As TrueNAS is an opensource and community-driven NAS platform, you would be forgiven for wondering just how much this all means when you hit a technical wall, encounter system roadblocks, need advice on a setup or just generally looking for guidance. One of the main appeals of an off the shelf/turn-key solution from brands such as Synology and QNAP is that as a paid hardwware+software solution, you feel that there will be technical support lines via live chat, email and even phone in some cases (depending on the level of solution of course) that a homebrew/DiY solution will not be able to supply. However, the support on a TrueNAS system is a little more diverse than that. If you build your own NAS system from scratch and install TrueNAS Core onto your system, you will not have access to premium/commercial level support, but you do have links in the TrueNAS GUI to community support, details online guides and access to the Jira support system that allows your query for assistance to be submitted to the community pool. There are also provisions there to check if your issue has already been documented and resolved elsewhere. These links are immediately available from within the GUI in multiple areas.



But if you are a business user, despite the TrueNAS open-source/freely available status, you may well have opted for it for it’s customization and flexibility compared with off the shelf NAS solutions. Therefore you might still want paid/commercial/enterrpise grade support. This is where the distinction between going TrueNAS DiY and pre-built TrueNAS from iXsystems becomes a little clearer, as iXsystems are the official pre-build provider of TrueNAS and with their solutions, they offer a scaled range of support options that include numerous contact methods. In addition to all the TrueNAS CORE support options that are still available, TrueNAS Enterprise customers who purchase hardware from iXsystems can receive assistance from iXsystems if an issue occurs with the system. Silver and Gold level Support customers can also enable Proactive Support on their hardware to automatically notify iXsystems if an issue occurs. Here is how those support options scale and which systems support each tier:

Gold Silver Bronze Warranty
Software Help Desk 24×7 12×5
12×5 Limited
Hardware Support 4 Hour

On-Site Support & Repair

Next Business Day
On-Site Support & Repair
Advance Parts Replacement Return to Depot
Remote Deployment Assistance (60 days) Yes Yes Yes No
On-Site Hardware Spares Kit Included Optional Optional Optional
Proactive Support & System Monitoring Yes Yes No No
Advanced Hardware Replacement
Delivered the next business day
and/or Saturday.
Delivered the next business day. Delivered the next business day. No
After Hour Maintenance/Upgrade Assistance By appointment By appointment No No
Online Support Portal and Knowledge base Yes Yes Yes Yes
Software Updates Yes Yes Yes Yes
S1: Not serving data or severe performance
degradation, critically disrupting business.
Response within 2 hours, 24×7 Help Desk Support Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) Email support (Next business day) for S1 and S2 intermittent faults only
S2: Performance degradation in production or
intermittent faults.
Response within 4 hours, 24×7 Help Desk Support Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) Email support (Next business day) for S1 and S2 intermittent faults only
S3: Issue or defect causing minimal impact. Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) Email Response within 4 hours, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Pacific Time (M-F) No support available.
S4: Request for information or administrative
requests.
Next business day response. Next business day response. Next business day response. No support available.

The level of support afforded to each tier of the iXsystem hardware portfolio is not quite as straightforward, however, as smaller-scale systems only support upto a bronze tier. Therefore on closer examination, you can only access the highest/most-involved customer support tier when you are looking at the enterprise tier hardware systems. Now, on the face of it, that makes sense in terms of priority as it is those highest volume use systems that are going to want the fastest and most responsive support. Equally, the most modest systems will be used by smaller-scale users and have smaller scale utilities in mind. Still, I know more than enough NAS users who choose more modest NAS systems from Synology and QNAP, BUT will push for extended warranties, 5year warranty enterprise storage media, choosing to allocate their storage server budget towards lengthy support periods for peace of mind/insurance. Here is how the commercial support options spread across iXsystem hardware options:

Model Gold Silver Bronze Warranty
M-series Available Available Available 3-Year Included
X-series Available Available Available 3-Year Included
R-series Not Available Available Available 3-Year Included
FNC Not Available Available Available 3-Year Included
Mini Not Available Not Available Available 1-Year Included. SW Warranty requires registration

In the case of my review, I have been using a TrueNAS mini x+ and below is how the support prices are based on this model of the TrueNAS iXsystem mini. It is worth noting that only systems with all hardware provided by iXsystems are eligible for software support and warranty. Enterprise Bronze Support is only available for customers that have larger TrueNAS systems also under Enterprise Support Contract. Component swaps are the standard process for resolving major issues.

Model 3-Year Silver 3-Year Bronze 3-Year Warranty Warranty
Mini E, E+ Not Available $299 $149 1-Year Included. SW Warranty requires registration.
Mini X, X+ Not Available $399 $199 1-Year Included. SW Warranty requires registration.
Mini XL+ Not Available $599 $299 1-Year Included. SW Warranty requires registration.

Overall, I think TrueNAS (and iXsystems) have balanced the level of support and assistance options that are available to most kinds of NAS user. It makes sense that a free-to-download software platform would not be able to provide a commercial/enterprise-grade support level without having to financially support this behind a subscription service. And they do not leverage this against the community support, opening encouraging this as an option and facilitating multiple methods of looking up similarly submitted and solved issues, streamline the community support process as much as possible and still presenting the choice to go down the paid-support route when needed. The face this support is not available in non-iXsystem TrueNAS setup’s might be a bit of a downer for some, but as mentioned multiple times in this review, the money that some users are saving in a custom/DiY solution in TrueNAS vs a turnkey/off-the-shelf solution from Synology/QNAP needs to be paid in learning how it all works. I think TrueNAS and iXsystems found the best middle ground possible here.

Larger Range of Configuration Options Can be Overwhelming and Lacks Convenient Preset Options


When I said that there are a lot of alert and notification choices built into TrueNAS, I was not kidding. Even at a casual glance, they are in the triple figures, and that is jsut on the outset. It IS true that the bulk of them are automatically set to one of the 7 pre-set alert levels by default, but if you have a slightly more secure/closed setup in mind for your system notifications, you are going to be spending hours, not minutes adjusting them all to your unique needs. The same goes if you want to run a more open setup for testing, as the TrueNAS default settings are a pinch higher than I would class as ‘casual’ in scaled alerts (better safe than sorry). Now, other turnkey solutions on the market combat this by providing various alert/notification switches BUT also arriving with security councillors/preset configuration dropdowns. In brief, I wish TrueNAS had a range of preset notification levels, perhaps set as ‘low-medium-high-business-enterprise’ that changed these settings in bulk and THEN you can go in manually where needed and change a few, allowing you to create a custom profile which you can then save as ‘CUSTOM’. Similar tiered/scaled choices exist in other areas of TrueNAS for other services that change bulk options on the fly, as well as ‘advanced’ tabs in places when you want to get your hands a little dirtier and play with options at a deeper level in the GUI. Overall though, I prefer to have too many alert/notification options that are not enough though!


In the third and final part of my review of TrueNAS coming later this week, you can find out what I thought about Security, Network Management, how the platform handles applications & Addons and my overall verdict of TrueNAS Core 12.


Part I of the TrueNAS Review Can be found HERE


Part III of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (25/03)


Alternatively, you can read the (LONG) FULL Review of TrueNAS is available HERE.


 



 

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This description contains links to Amazon. These links will take you to some of the products mentioned in today's content. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Visit the NASCompares Deal Finder to find the best place to buy this device in your region, based on Service, Support and Reputation - Just Search for your NAS Drive in the Box Below

 

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Need Advice on Data Storage from an Expert?

We want to keep the free advice on NASCompares FREE for as long as we can. Since this service started back in Jan '18, We have helped hundreds of users every month solve their storage woes, but we can only continue to do this with your support. So please do choose to buy at Amazon US and Amazon UK on the articles when buying to provide advert revenue support or to donate/support the site below. Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] Terms and Conditions Alternatively, why not ask me on the ASK NASCompares forum, by clicking the button below. This is a community hub that serves as a place that I can answer your question, chew the fat, share new release information and even get corrections posted. I will always get around to answering ALL queries, but as a one-man operation, I cannot promise speed! So by sharing your query in the ASK NASCompares section below, you can get a better range of solutions and suggestions, alongside my own.  

TrueNAS Core Software Review – GUI, Design & Storage Management

21 mars 2022 à 01:10

TrueNAS Core Software Review – Part I, Design, the Interface & Storage Management


Have you been considering a NAS for a few years, but looked at the price tag that off the shelf featured solutions from Synology or QNAP and thought “wow, that seems rather expensive for THAT hardware”? Or are you someone that wants a NAS, but also has an old PC system or components around that could go towards building one? Or perhaps you are a user who wants a NAS, but HAS the budget, HAS the hardware, but also HAS the technical knowledge to understand EXACTLY the system setup, services and storage configuration you need? If you fall into one of those three categories, then there is a good chance that you have considered TrueNAS (formally FreeNAS). The community supported and highly customizable ZFS storage platform that is available for free and along with regular updates has adapted over recent years towards diversifying different kinds of users, their setup’s and their requirements of TrueNAS. Today I want to review the TrueNAS software. In order to do this, I have been supplied with a Mini X+ 5 HDD/2 SSD Desktop system (hardware review on that soon) by iXsystems, a company with established ties with TrueNAS and the platform’s official enterprise hardware solution partner. This review is going to be conducted a little different than my normal NAS server reviews. Unlike a review of a new piece of NAS hardware, TrueNAS is a software platform that is significantly more flexible in it’s installation (ultimately available in one form or another on a custom PC build or even much smaller shuttle case builds). Equally, unlike many who have reviewed TrueNAS and it’s previous versions or recent splinters (e.g. FreeNAS, Core, Scale, Enterprise, etc), today’s review is going to be a fresh look at this platform, what it does better than Linux NAS systems like Synology or QNAP, what is does worse and ultimately help users who are thinking of moving towards the steeper learning curve of custom-built TrueNAS. What TrueNAS lacks in the ease and simplicity of traditional NAS drives, it can more than makeup for it in its sheer scope and potential to be more powerful, efficient and flexible overall. So, let me guide you through my highlights of 30 aggregate hours of use with TrueNAS.


Part II of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (23/03)


Part III of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (25/03)


Alternatively, you can read the (LONG) FULL Review of TrueNAS is available HERE.



TrueNAS Review Disclaimer – As mentioned in my introduction, my review of TrueNAS today was made on an iXsystem Mini X+, an 8-Core Intel-based system that featured 32GB of DDR4 memory, as well as arriving with 2x 10GbE ports, PCIe Upgradability and mixed storage media support. The system arrived with 5x WD Red Drives and 2x 2.5″ SSDs. This hardware does not impact the bulk of this review as TrueNAS is available as an open-source download that can be installed onto a custom PC, flashed server etc. However, the iXsystem Mini X+ arrives with TrueNAS Core and a few smaller extra bits that are exclusive to this more complete hardware+software package. Where appropriate, I will highlight it, however, the bulk of the features, settings and stand out areas of attention below can be applied to the free, standalone version of this platform. Additionally, there are references to enterprise features and TrueNAS Command (a wider remote deployment monitoring and management portal tool) that may be exclusive to that platform. Finally, my personal background is largely focused on traditional turn-key NAS solutions and therefore I decided to present this review on how things are done differently to NAS brands such as Synology and QNAP. You can find iXsystems Pre-built TrueNAS solutions over on Amazon here.

Review of TrueNAS – GUI & Deployment


First-time deployment of TrueNAS (after the initial installation of the software on the hardware system which will vary based on whether you have opted for an iXsystem solution or a custom build) is very straightforward. Once the system is booted, connected to your network and initialized, finding the device is possible via truenas.local. or obtaining it’s address from your switch or using an IP Scanner.



So, the first thing that I want to discuss about TrueNAS is the design. Finding a very interesting middle ground between providing all the configuration options in a single screen, whilst still not overwhelming the end-user, getting it pretty close to nailing it.


Alot More Hints and Tips than I was Expecting!


The first thing I was very surprised by in the design and deployment of the TrueNAS GUI was the sheer number of hints and information ‘i’s around every single screen. As TrueNAS and FreeNAS before it are built on FreeBSD, although there I expected a GUI, I did think it would still be rather command-line heavy still. However, not only are the controls of TrueNAS almost all displayed in a clearly visible GUI, but also I struggled to find a single option or choice that didn’t have a tip or guidance suggestion. This was a particular surprise as one of the biggest hurdles for most users considering moving from a turn-key NAS solution towards TrueNAS (custom or an iXsystem) is that intimidating climb up the steeper learning curve. It was a genuine and extremely welcome surprise to see how much guidance was available to even small and insignificant choices in the storage system setup where available.


Presentation of Storage and Resource Use is VERY Clear


Another thing that I fully expected to be present, but not to this level, was how the information on your storage areas (Pools, data sets, individual drives, etc) and the monitoring of your resources were displayed both analytically AND clearly. Of course, I expected TrueNAS to have the means to assess the system hardware health and status, but like most of my early personal experience with FreeNAS, UnRAID and FreeBSD years before, I thought this information would be available less in the GUI and more in command retrieval. However, the resource monitor and storage status (both, when delving into the system deeper and just via the initial splash screen of the GUI) provide an excellent level of information and in the case of the former, can be broken into a report form. Getting the presentation of storage on a GUI that can suit both the novice and the veteran techie is a tremendously tough line to balance and although there are a few areas where TrueNAS tends to ‘info-dump’ you a little, this area was no one of them.


Sharing Tab and its Breadcrumbs (WebDav, iSCSI, SMB, etc) Are More Intuative than Most


Another part of the TrueNAS graphical user interface that sets it apart a little from off the shelf NAS hardware+software is how the menu bar is displayed. With most NAS brands having their GUI comparable to popular operating system desktops (primarily Windows, MacOS or Android for the most part), TrueNAS’ GUI is a little bit more comparable to WordPress for the most part. The bulk of the config and service options are all located on the left-hand side of the screen and although there is only a handful at first glance, each one breaks down into subcategories quite quickly. The responsiveness of this menu system is particularly impressive and it’s easy to forget that you are accessing a remote system. Although the bulk of the tabs and options are where you would hope, one particular stand out example of things being done in a different and better way than most brands in the sharing tab/menu. Although most NAS brand software and GUI have tabs dedicated to sharing files (as well as contextual menus on files and folders), once you start breaking down into different sharing protocols, things get a little distance out and you end up having to keep multiple windows open to create and manage your cross-platform sharing environment. TrueNAS on the other hand has bulked these all together into the single tab and allows navigation through and between considerably more intuitive. Equally, the customization and configuration of shares and you delve deeper (although increasing the learning curve) are significantly more diverse to allow tweaking and improvements based on your setup.


Live Reports of System & Processes are Very Detailed and Quick to Navigate


Much like the Storage Presentation and Resource Use, getting reports of historical system information and active processes are much more detailed on the TrueNAS platform than I have seen from many NAS brands. TrueNAS uses Graphite for metric gathering and visualizations. Some general settings can be found in System > Reporting. Once again, it’s a fine line to have information regarding the server be presented in a fashion that is digestible to less storage-experienced users without potentially dumbing things down a little. Luckily these do still seem to present all the information that either tier of user is going to need and is done so by the information being broken down into sections that in turn can be delved deeper into by degrees. The UX of TrueNAS has clearly been thought about a lot and although many FreeNAS veterans might have disliked the changes in some areas towards making it simplified in places, there are still options for drilling down into system heath and history quite significantly.


Lots of Theme Customizations and a Theme Maker


A very surprisingly detail of TrueNAS is how much the GUI can be customized. Most NAS brands and their software allow the end-user (i.e that current user of many that have access credentials) to change minor details. The Wallpaper, their login icon and time/date display and pretty much the full range of choices. Given the fact most off-the-shelf NAS solutions are designed with being more user-friendly and attempting to de-mystified network storage for average users, I was VERY surprised that it was TrueNAS that had a greater degree of customization available in how the GUI is displayed. Colour schemes, logo changes, scaling, icon replacements, fonts, accents and changes to the top bar. There is a comparatively large amount of choice and customization compared with turn-key NAS solutions from Synology and QNAP and leans very well into the already established idea that TrueNAS is designed around custom builds.

Click to view slideshow.

No Avoiding That it is Still Very Stat and Tech Heavy some less experienced Users


As much as I like the GUI fo TrueNAS and how it has melded the controls very well to remain accessible to the experienced and inexperienced user, it has to be said that this is not done 50/50 and although there are hints, guides and recommendations by the system through all choices, it is still a very tech-heavy product and although the basic/top-layer decisions are user friendly, it isn’t going to be long before the full pages fo customization and configuration choices presented in the TrueNAS GUI are going to be a little overwhelming for those that are more used to these tougher decisions being hidden behind presets or set up behind a scaled option of security. In a few other areas of TrueNAS, this is addressed with an ‘advanced’ tab or mode option that until pressed will hide these tougher elements of the setup unless needed. Sadly this is not a system-wide design choice in the GUI and the TrueNAS UX is something that can demand accelerated learning. Alot of this might be solved with ‘easy’ ‘intermediate’ or ‘expert’ table opens on the bulk of pages, but as it stands it can sometimes be a bit of a ‘cannot see the wood because of all the trees’ situation when looking for a specific option in a menu, as there are 10-15 choices/boxes on the screen. The TrueNAS UI in the latest version IS very good and considerably more user-friendly than I thought it would be, but I would still be reluctant to call it novice-friendly.


No Search Functionality at the Home Screen


This was something that, despite the arguably higher skill level that TrueNAS commands in it’s user base, I was still surprised was absent – A search feature from the main GUI. It would not be a commonly used feature, however, I have met plenty of less experienced users or those in a rush looking for a specific option/service/setting that would appreciate a search functionality to be available. There ARE a few services and options in the menus that feature search functionality, but they are generally always limited to that specific function and not system-wide.

Review of TrueNAS – Storage


Realistically, THIS is the thing that is going to be paramount to most users of TrueNAS, Storage! But simply storing data is not enough, it is about how well it stores it, how customizable it is to different user environments, how secure it is in terms of backups and redundancy, how robust it is and the maintenance of that storage moving forward. TrueNAS arrives with ZFS (zettabyte File System), 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 that veteran storage professionals claim are apparent in ‘EXT4’ or the much newer ‘BTRFS’ file systems from brands such as Synology and QNAP NAS devices. Alongside the widest support of ZFS currently available in the market, TrueNAS also is one of the most scalable solutions available in the world (in part thanks to that freedom in building the hardware architecture being available and the open-source design of the platform allowing migration being considerably more seamless as you change out hardware over time. ZFS also brings big advantages in deduplication and compression techniques that improve how much data is being written to the system, whilst simultaneously simplifying the internal pathways of the system to larger bulks of users. In recent years, turnkey solutions from Synology and QNAP (as well as more affordable brands such as Asustorand Terraamster) have provided a degree of duplication on their platforms (QNAP seemingly extending this more than most) but ZFS has most of the architecture for these processes natively built into it and although you WILL need to bulk up on your hardware (16GB memory recommended in most cases if you want both for example), it still allows TrueNAS to stand out. Here are the elements of TrueNAS storage that stood out for me.


Exceptionally High Level of Access Control Options and Configuration of Data Sets


If there are two areas of consistency throughout TrueNAS storage that need to be highlighted above all others, it would be control and security. At practically every tier of the system’s internal storage management, you are able to apply numerous measures of bespoke user choice protection. More than the fact that standard elements of encryption, ACL and storage segmentation are available here, but more the sheer depth of it. You are able to assign extremely rigid access controls to your storage pools, zDevs, zVols and data sets from the ground up, as well as the branch these security measures into select user and group access (which can be changed by a superuser on the fly with ease). Along with that, ACL support is extremely wide-ranging, giving you the means to create areas of storage that are completely inaccessible (in either direction) by the greater system that ensure that storage can be created quickly, but without opening doors to your mission-critical storage. This bespoke control extends quite heavily to the configuration of Access Control Levels, as access Control List (ACL) is a set of account permissions associated with a dataset and applied to directories or files within that dataset. ACLs are typically used to manage user interactions with shared datasets and are created when a dataset is added to a pool. TrueNAS seemingly allows a create degree of control on this than most NAS systems on the market right now.


Excellent level of support of SED Media and Encryption levels in General


Then with Security, TrueNAS covers this in a few key areas. First off, several methods/protocols of encryption are supported by the system (giving the end-user a choice at the setup level) and generally ‘choosing’ your encryption method is not something offered by most brands to this extent (or at all in many cases). Next, there is the fact that encryption can be applied at every level of thes storage is required. When we look at some other NAS brands that included encryption, they tend to include encryption at the shard folder or volume level (pool level is supported with the use of encrypted drive media). TrueNAS is one of the very few several software on the market that provides native and configurable encryption at every level (storage pool, volumes, data sets, etc) and along with support of key management, there are additional failsafe options available that also passphrase support too. Finally, you have the support of self-encrypted drives (SEDs) in the system that can be fully utilized and that additional encryption be afforded to the greater storage system with the others. In short, you can create a fantastically encrypted storage system to an unparalleled degree in trueNAS. Again, not too shabby for an open-source bit of software!


Unrecommended Storage Configuration Choices Need to be ‘Forced’ to be actioned


One issue that will inevitably come to providing software that is highly customizable is giving the end-user too much rope to hang themselves with! Once you make your way past the rudimentary aspects of storage, the end-user can start putting together the building blocks of their storage inefficiently (or worse still dangerously) and run the risk of creating a basis for their storage for years to come that is inherently flawed. Balancing that line of allowing complete control and customization, whilst stopping a user from doing the wrong thing is a tough line to tread (QNAP have been walking this one as best they can for years too). TrueNAS has addressed this with a (very) soft lock system. When building your storage, if you are configuring the resources in a less than optimal/safe way, the system will give you a warning on the screen that details the potential downside/detrimental effect of your action. This warning can then be closed/dismissed and in order to continue, the ‘continue’ option will be joined with a button ‘force’. This is TrueNAS’ middle ground to allow creative freedom, whilst letting the end-user know that the action they are performing has a layer of risk attacked. For example, you are configuring a RAIDZ2 (think RAID 6) and you are using 8 disks that are not all uniform in capacity, but you do not care/want to proceed anyway. This is where the system would present you with a warning to ‘force’ through. The same thing when you build pools without redundancy or use differing media interface types outside of a fusion pool or cache setup. It is by no means a perfect solution, but at least TrueNAS have clearly understood that they need to steer things a bit at times.

Copy on Write Architecture is an additional Layer of File Level Error Recovery


An interesting architectural advantage of TrueNAS utilizing ZFS is the support of CoW (Copy on Write). This is a system of checksum built data health that involves a brief period of two actions of write occurring on any data being sent to the TrueNAS serve, which are then compared for consistency and then a single final, verified version of that data resides. ZFS does not change the location of data until a write is completed and verified. This ensures that your data isn’t lost during an interrupted task such as a power outage. ZFS uses a 256-bit hash of the data in a file system block, known as a checksum. This checksum ensures data integrity during writes. The way it handles and tests writes means that each write is tested, eliminating storage degradation such as bitrot. It also eliminates the write hole which allows for silent data corruption within RAID. Similar methods of data health and verification are utilized in other storage technology (such as ECC memory and in the write actions of BTRFS) but not to this extent and in such a widespread way. Writes do not overwrite data in place; instead, a modified copy of the block is written to a new location, and metadata is updated to point at the new location.


Support of RAIDZ Means that Initial Building is Faster and Recovery More Precise


One of the long understood advantages of ZFS that TrueNAS provides immediately (perhaps to the jealousy of EXT4 and BRTFS system users) is the utility of RAIDZ. RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is the ability to combine multiple media drives into a single storage pool that provides some/all of the benefits of increased storage performance, storage performance and redundancy (eg a safety net to still access/recover your data in the event of a drive failure). RAID and RAIDZ are similar on the face of it (with support of striping and mirroring), but it is a lot of difference in the larger arrays in terms of building, writing and recovery. RAIDZ has some interesting benefits, the first and most obvious is that a RAIDZ compared with a RAID5 takes minutes, not hours to build! Additionally, RAIDZ has a better understanding of empty blocks and that becomes beneficial in the event of a RAID rebuild, as in the event a drive fails and you introduce a new HDD/SSD, RAIDZ will ONLY need to rebuild the areas onto the replacement disk that data original resided on (using parity data from the other present disks) and then just zero’ing the rest of the disk. Similar systems like this have arrived from Synology on their platform for after RAID recovery (still using TBRFS) but still not as fluid and native as in ZFS. Striped VDEV’s, Mirrored VDEV’s and Striped Mirrored VDEV’s are essentially the same as RAID0, RAID1 and RAID10 accordingly with one difference; automatic checksumming prevents silent data corruption that might be undetected by most hardware RAID cards. ZFS uses the additional checksum level to detect silent data corruption when the data block is damaged, but the hard drive does not flag it as bad.

  • RAIDZ (sometimes explicitly specified as RAIDZ1) is approximately the same as RAID5 (single parity)
  • RAIDZ2 is approximately the same as RAID6 (dual parity)
RAID5 example of parity
Disk 1 Disk 2 Disk 3 Disk 4
1 2 3 P
5 6 P 4
9 P 7 8
P 10 11 12

RAID5 places blocks in a regular pattern. You only need to know the block number (address) to determine which disk stores the block, at what address, and where the corresponding parity block is. Also, with N disks, exactly one parity block is stored for every N-1 data blocks.



In RAIDZ, ZFS first compresses each recordsize block of data. Then, it distributes compressed data across the disks, along with a parity block. So, one needs to consult filesystem metadata for each file to determine where the file records are and where the corresponding parities are. For example, if data compresses to only one sector, ZFS will store one sector of data along with one sector of parity. Therefore, there is no fixed proportion of parity to the data. Moreover, sometimes padding is inserted to better align blocks on disks (denoted by X in the above example), which may increase overhead. However, we have still not touched on two more core advantages of ZFS and it’s RAID management…

3 Disk Redundancy is Available and Should Get More Kudos!


TRIPLE DISK PARITY! Now, if you don’t know what that is, then you can be forgiven for wondering why I have put that in capital letters. However, those that know, love it. In short, RAIDZ3 is the 3 disk fault-tolerance storage pool configuration that is largely unavailable conventionally in any other RAID configuration, requiring at least 5 disks (again, HDD or SSD) it means that you can withstand 3 drives failing. Now, if that sounds like tremendous overkill, then let me share a fun fact with you! Most drive failures that I have witnessed (and I welcome commentors to contribute on this) do NOT stem from poor treatment of a single drive, dropping an enclosure or poor individual handling. No, the bulk of drive failures I have witnessed have stemmed from three causes (looking at logs and SMART info):


  • Inherent fault at the point of manufacture or in the logistics chain that has developed over time
  • Overworked system hitting RAID arrays harder than intended 24×7 etc, or just designed drive workloads being exceeded in general
  • Critical larger system failure in the middle of a widespread write action (eg power failure as all drives are engaged for writing)

Now, in THOSE three examples, the key factor to keep in mind is that in none of them is an HDD or SSD on its own. At manufacture in bulk, in transit in crates of 20x at a time or in larger setup RAID array – the things that harm the storage media is hitting several at once. Even if you ignore the degenerative factors of exceeding workloads and system critical failure damage, there is no avoiding that when you buy multiple HDD/SSD from a single e-retailer (eTailer?), they do NOT provide you with multiple drive with each drive from a different crate/carton. No, that would be spectacularly inefficient for any retailer. No, you have to accept that there is a % chance that as soon as 1 drive fails that (without identifying to cause) that another drive in the array could fail for the same reason soon. So a double disk redundancy such as RAIDZ2 or RAID 6 would give you extra time – but how much time? Who known. But if your data is mission-critical and you weigh up the cost of another HDD in a custom build design such as TrueNAS, a triple parity RAID system starts to make a lot of sense.


ZFS ReSilvering Often Overlooked Safety Net


Another wildly overlooked and misunderstood advantage of ZFS and TrueNAS’ utility of it is in the support of Re-silvering. For those unaware, resilvering is when a drive that WAS part of the RAID array is disconnected and reconnected in a brief window that allows the system to identify that the drive belongs in the original pool and re-embraces it quickly. In practical terms, imagine your system suffers a very brief SATA/Controller board malfunction and a drive is dismounted (software level). Alternatively (and something surprisingly more command than you might think) an HDD in a tray/bay of the NAS might be accidentally physically ejected. Resilvering would allow the system to KNOW that the drive is part of the set and reintroduce it. In EXT4 or BTRFS, that brief disconnection would result in the RAID pool changing to a degraded status and the end-user would be forced to 1) endure a slower system as data is being exchanged with the pool in this parity-reading state as 2) the system wipes the former HDD/SSD to re-write all the data it had already and 3) unnecessary stress is placed on the system resources throughout. In ZFS and TrueNAS, the system would SEE that the recently ejected/dismounted drive is part fo the pool, verify that it has the data in place and then re-introduce the drive. the time this takes is largely based on how long the drive was disconnected (and data written in the interim) but it can genuinely take seconds or minutes – unlike the hours to days that a RAID recovery from a degraded state would take.


USB Storage Media is Visible and Managed in the Storage Manager


It is a very small detail but one I think is worth highlighting. Namely that USB storage media in TrueNAS is handled much differently than in other turnkey NAS solutions from Synology and QNAP. In those latter examples, USB storage is treated at arms length, visible in the file manager in the GUI of course, but then only really visible for use in the backup tools (which is still great). In TrueNAS however, USB storage media is visible, configurable and manageable directly from the storage manager. Now, obviously spreading a RAID over SATA storage media and a USB drive would be ridiculously dangerous for storage, however, there are still plenty of benefits and management advantages to having external storage visible alongside the management of the rest of the storage – aside from backup management and configuring the access privileges of the drive media, it also allows the USB drive to be managed for scheduled tasks and processes alongside the rest of the system and integrated into the reports and monitoring of the TrueNAS system. It is a small detail, but one that really stood out for me when comparing TrueNAS against Synology DSM and QNAP QTS USB media management overall.


Fusion Pools of Mixed Storage Media is Great and Rarer Than You Might Think


Another (relatively) recent addition to TrueNAS and its use of ZFS is the option to create fusion pools. A comparatively streamlined process, when you think about how technical and advanced the average options of TrueNAS can be to the end-user, fusion pools allow you to introduce mixed tiers of storage of different performance and combine them into a single visible pool, but in the background the system is sending data to the drive media that is best suited to supply it – so metadata on the SSD media, larger bulkier sequential data on the HDDs etc. ZFS sends writes to individual physical disks rather than just a RAID volume. This allows for stripe writes across RAID volumes and can perform synchronous writes to speed up performance. This model also ensures there are no long waits for file system checks. ZFS incorporates algorithms to make sure your Most Recently Used (MRU) and Most Frequently Used (MSU) data are stored in your fastest system storage media. Utilizing MRU & MSU combined with flash/NVDIMM ZILs/SLOGs and ARC/L2ARC devices, you can speed up your performance astronomically. Similar systems to this exist in QNAP’s EXT4 service ‘tiered storage’ and both they and Synology offer NVMe SSD caching services in conjunction with an existing pool/volume, but again this is done to a considerably higher and more customizable degree in TrueNAS. It just takes more time and knowhow to set up though.


Smart/Intuitive Option to Define Drive Media Use


Then there is an interesting storage setup choice that TrueNAS offers that is actually quite a bit of fresh air versus the more complex elements of it’s configuration. Namey that the system also includes an option to specifically designate a soon to be created area of storage to a task/use. So, if you have introduced one or more drives to your custom build server, you can choose whether you want this to be an independent new pool as a hot spare, to factor as additional storage redundancy, dedicated deduplication storage, designate the space for metadata (SSD recommended of course) and more. It is a surprisingly user-friendly option amidst all the complexity and a welcome addition to save time and headaches!

No Native Browser GUI Based File Manager


One missing feature of TrueNAS that really surprised me was the absence of a browser-based file manager. Now, on the face of it, many will argue that the GUI of your storage system should be reserved for system management, configuration and for troubleshooting (some even erring away from browser GUIs entirely in favour of SSHing etc directly into the system as a superuser for these tasks for pace). Equally, once you have correctly created and configured your storage (along with creating shared paths and enabling the right file access protocol in TrueNAS) you will be able to mount and access your storage in a drive, folder and file level in your native OS (arguable BETTER). However, the ease and added benefits of ALSO being able to access your system storage from time to time in even a simple file/folder level in the GUI cannot be overstated. Sure, you CAN create a very based root directly breadcrumb style breakdown in a browser tab – but with most NAS brands offering the same OS-level native file/folder access AND offering a web browser GUI file management option (with copy, paste, archive, thumbnails, sharing, editing) AND mobile applications to do the same. It is really odd that this is not a native option in TrueNAS. You COULD use 3rd party tools of course to do this, but that would be a credit to those and not TrueNAS.

RAIDZ Still Takes Longer than Traditional RAID in ReBuilding Fuller Arrays


This is a small negative in the grand scheme of things and hardly something that leaves TrueNAS/ZFS reflected too badly against EXT4 and BTRFS setups, but although ZFS Raid rebuilding IS much faster if your actual capacity used is smaller (only building the data/space used and hashing/zeroing the rest), that advantage does not help in the event of your storage pool being much fuller and in testing a RAIDZ at 90% full vs a near-identical RAID5 on 4x4TB actually took a pinch longer on the ZFS pool. Again, the difference was small and largely down to the additional checksums and verification of ZFS, but still, something to note.


Potential Defragmentation in Copy On Write Methodology


Earlier, we discussed that ZFS utilizes copy on write (CoW) in order to create a 2nd copy of the data for ensuring the integrity of the write action. Unfortunately, this can mean that TrueNAS can suffer from data fragmentation as time wears on. There are direct performance implications that stem from that fact. This can be avoided with scheduled/periodic de-fragmentation, but this can be time and resource-consuming depending on the volume of your storage. So potentially, the fuller your storage pool is with actual data, the slower it will ultimately get. Write speeds in ZFS are directly tied to the amount of adjacent free blocks there are to write to in order to maintain the CoW process. As your pool fills up, and as data fragments, there are fewer and fewer blocks that are directly adjacent to one another. A single large file may span blocks scattered all over the surface of your hard drive. Even though you would expect that file to be a sequential write, it no longer can be if your drive is full. This can be an often overlooked and direct reason for long term performance drops in some systems over time if left unchecked. I have personally not experienced this, but it has been discussed online (forums, reddit, etc) and therefore I still thought I should address this.

Still Not Especially Novice or even soft IT knowledge Friendly User


Despite the big efforts by TrueNAS to demystify the complexity of storage management in several areas of its storage area (fusion pools being partially automated mixed media pools, the suggested vDev drive drop-down, USB management in that same area and ‘force’ warning options to name but a few), there is still no avoiding that TrueNAS is CONSIDERABLY more complicated to setup your storage and is a large jump from the frank simplicity of Synology and QNAP. Some would argue that the simplicity offered by turnkey/off-the-shelf NAS solutions are incredibly restrictive and inherently limiting, but there is still a substantial learning curve to setting up your storage in TrueNAS that needs to be appreciated and understood at the outset.


In the next part of this review of TrueNAS later this week we will be looking at Account Management, as well as how Business Users who are considering TrueNAS for their enterprise storage can get support and how far that support extends.


Part II of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (23/03)


Part III of the TrueNAS Review is HERE (25/03)


Alternatively, you can read the (LONG) FULL Review of TrueNAS is available HERE.


 


 

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TrueNAS/iXsystems NAS Q&A – Your Question’s Answered

11 mars 2022 à 01:43

A TrueNAS and iXsystems Questions & Answers Interview



If you have been on the fence about moving into the world of using the open-source platform TrueNAS for your private server, there is a good chance that the rather elite level server software is leaving you a pinch intrigued. The big ZFS optimized software that is available to download completely for free OR as part of a business targeted solution from iXsystems seemingly promises significantly more freedom and flexibility than off-the-shelf commercial NAS solutions, but there is no denying that regardless of whether you are an existing NAS user that is thinking of going down the ‘custom build’ route OR someone who thinks they are I.T verses enough to DiY it on day 1, that TrueNAS can be fantastically intimidating. Later in 2022, I will be exploring TrueNAS in huge detail, looking at what the platform offers to new users, how it compares with popular NAS brands like Synology & QNAP and hopefully helping to demystify this more community-supported platform. In this first Q&A, in what I hope will be many in 2022/2023, I have canvased YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and directly here on NASCompares for traditional NAS users burning questions about TrueNAS. I spoke with Morgan Littlewood, SVP for Product Management over at iXsystems, and put your questions to him. Below are those questions and his responses. If you have any further questions that are not covered in today’s Q&A, or have follow-ups to those that were asked, then fire them in the comments. We will have our full review of TrueNAS coming very soon here on NASCompares, along with a hardware review of the iXsystems Truenas Mini X+, so don’t forget to subscribe for that. But, let’s crack on with the Q&A.


Note – Today’s Questions come from you, the viewer/reader via the site or social media platforms. Where possible I have kept the questions in their original verbatim form. Where changes have been made, it has been for the sake of clarity in the question for structure.

Why are the hardware requirements for TrueNAS higher than EXT4 based Systems that also run on Linux?


TrueNAS is optimised for reliability and performance. Less RAM can be used, but it is not recommended. We don’t recommend anything that may result in a poor experience. ZFS is more robust and resource-intensive than EXT4 on account of its much safer Copy-on-Write architecture. Snapshots and clones are much simpler, and data safety during hardware and power failures is much higher.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  04:18

Why are the RAM and CPU requirements so high compared to other systems (from Synology or QNAP for example) that can arrive with Intel Celeron’s and even ARM processors?


TrueNAS is a fully Open Source system based on FreeBSD (TrueNAS CORE) or Linux (TrueNAS SCALE) with OpenZFS. The software is professional-grade and is not optimised for minimum personal electronics cost. The software can run on virtually any hardware, including all drivers, even QNAP hardware. Less CPU and RAM will result in lower performance.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  06:08 


In light of a recent spate of off-the-shelf NAS Ransomware Attacks on the likes of Asustor, Terramaster and QNAP, is there any reason that I should think that a TrueNAS build system is less susceptible?


Yes, QNAP (and Synology) have a consumer-grade architecture with poor isolations between apps and the Operating System. Hackers can break into these systems through the complex apps and get access to the underlying OS as a root user.  TrueNAS is professionally architected to avoid these and other issues. Complex apps are isolated to Plugins, Apps, and VMs with no host access. Unlike QNAP and Synology, all software is Open Source and visible to security experts for inspection. It is still important that users follow the best practices our software and documentation encourage.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  08:25

If TrueNAS (aka FreeNAS) is free and can be used on a custom build server, why should I spend more on hardware to buy an iXsystems system?


TrueNAS is Open Source and customers have a choice. Running TrueNAS on used equipment is the lowest-cost approach. TrueNAS on Minis or new server hardware will be similar in cost. TrueNAS Minis have the advantage of being thoroughly tested and supported by iXsystems. There is additional software for managing enclosures which are themselves optimised for storage (e.g., whisper-quiet fans). Any revenues from TrueNAS Mini contribute back our support of the TrueNAS Open Source project.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 10:32


Does TrueNAS have Mobile Applications?


TrueNAS is an Open System. There are many mobile apps that use the SMB, NFS, and WebDav interfaces into TrueNAS. Mobile browsers can access the TrueNAS or TrueCommand UIs.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 13:57 

Does TrueNAS have any preset minimums in place regarding that, if left unaddressed, inhibit the system in any way (remote access, application support, etc)?


If there is insufficient boot drive space, the software updates will be inhibited. Insufficient RAM will inhibit VMs from performing well.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 15:09

Aside from S.M.A.R.T and single drive benchmarks, does TrueNAS have more/better self-testing and benchmarking tools? e.g in an internal means to measure the performance of a RAID configuration?


We recommend FIO for performance testing of the ZFS pool, which is built into TrueNAS. Any other testing can be performed remotely on the system via its various protocols.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  17:40


What is the hardware entry point for a home user to start using TrueNAS?


TrueNAS is not targeted at small home users with one or two drives. Rather, it is for home users with many Terabytes of data, typically video or photo enthusiasts and/or users with a background in IT. We recommend either a used server or a TrueNAS Mini for home use. The TrueNAS Mini-E is the lowest cost, and the TrueNAS Mini-X has more power and flexibility. 


Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 19:22

What are the benefits of running a smaller 4 Disk NAS on TrueNAS compared to Synology DS920+?



The Synology 920+ is a 4-Bay, 4 core Celeron processor with 4-8GB RAM. It uses a combination of BTRFS and RAID to store its data. It is a nice little hardware package with a non-production file system that is less reliable. Synology then mates BTRFS with RAID-5 which is also less reliable in the presence of power outages and bit rot. This combination makes the data storage less resilient, scalable, and portable. The TrueNAS Mini-X system is a step up from the Synology 920+ in reliability and flexibility. It has 7-Bays, 4 Cores, and 16-32GB of ECC protected RAM. It uses OpenZFS 2.0 which is more reliable by design and enables open, efficient replication to any OpenZFS system, plus the normal Rsync tools. ECC RAM is used to avoid any corrupted data or files and provide rapid detection of any faulty hardware. Without ECC, silent errors that are very difficult to troubleshoot and fix can occur.


TrueNAS has recommended drives, but does not make it difficult to use third-party drives, used or new. We’ve seen Synology move to branded drives with poor support of other drives. TrueNAS supports a ZFS Write Log function which makes the system very reliable even during power failures. Data that is written and acknowledged is always safe. The use of RAID-5 and BTRFS does not provide this level of protection


Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 21:07

Which Drives do you use in your pre-populated systems and is the warranty on these inclusive with that of the system?


TrueNAS Minis use WD Red Plus HDDs and a variety of different SSDs. The system warranty includes all pre-populated drives for a single throat to choke experience. We have found the WD Red Plus drives to be very reliable in conjunction with OpenZFS.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  23:16


With TrueNAS Scale, will RDMA/RoCEv2 be supported? 


RDMA is a very useful technology for accessing data in RAM on another system. For accessing data on HDDs and Flash, there is only a minor benefit. TrueNAS SCALE will support RDMA in a future release based on customer/community demand.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  25:05

Do iXsystems and/or TrueNAS adequately support flash server use and if so, does it have intelligent wear monitoring?


SSD wear monitoring is available, but it’s really a band-aid for systems with poor flash characteristics. OpenZFS does two things that ensure a much longer flash life:

  1. Writes to flash are distributed evenly over the drives in the system through the use of ZFS VDEVs
  2. Small writes (e.g., 4K) are aggregated into larger writes (e.g., 64K) as part of the writing process. This reduces the stress on the flash media enormously. Even QLC drives can sustain heavy workloads with OpenZFS.

Find the answer in the video Q&A here: 26:04

How migratable is a TrueNAS RAID array between systems? I.e If my Intel i5/16GB DDR4 6 Drive RAID6 Drive configuration based system suffers a motherboard failure, how smooth/easy/possible is installing these 6 drives in another system? And does the hardware configuration need to match?


Great question. This is the beauty of OpenZFS. There are two ways to migrate data efficiently:


ZFS replication: this is incremental, very efficient, and can be done between two systems with different sizes and even different OSes. You can replicate the entire pool or specific data sets within it. Replication is efficient, making it feasible to do every ten minutes or every night.


Drive Transfer: A ZFS pool can be exported to its set of drives. The drives can then be removed and placed in another system, server, or JBOD and imported as a new ZFS pool with all data intact. The new system does not need to use any similar motherboard, RAID card, OSes, and it can even be a VM with access to the drives. If there are any drive errors, these can be repaired by the ZFS checksum and scrubbing processes. 


You can ZFS replicate or transfer a TrueNAS pool to an Ubuntu VM running on VMware. This is the difference provided by an Open Software model with a professional-grade architecture. The software is designed to give users the flexibility they want and not lock them into a proprietary ecosystem. TrueNAS enables data to be maintained well through several generations of hardware using these techniques. This is critical for long-lived data like family photos, videos, and professional work product. For businesses, it is very important that TrueNAS enables scalability from a few drives to over 1,000 drives in a single system. Large archive/backup systems can support many workgroup systems with the same software and tools. Synology is particularly limited in the scalability of its systems.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  28:16

Does TrueNAS have an active homebrew scene?


Yes, there is a very active community of users doing three things:

  1. Building their own hardware platforms with new and second-hand parts. We have a few users that have re-used QNAP systems.
  2. Assisting with software development. Some users will find a bug and then resolve it themselves. The software is largely in Python and C. Most users will just report the bug via our Community.
  3. Developing or building Apps that run well on TrueNAS. Most of these Apps are now docker containers or combinations of containers.

Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  31:32


What are the benefits of an Open Source NAS over an off-the-shelf NAS system?


The role of a NAS is the long term retention and sharing of data.  Videos, photos, financial, and medical records all need to be retained for tens of years…even multiple lifetimes.  This can’t be done with a single box and will require an evolving family of platforms and backup strategies. Open Source provides the benefits of long term evolution and migration options.  Data can be replicated and migrated easily between systems. New systems can be built with second-hand hardware and free Open Source software.  The user has control of their own destiny. That is Open Source economics. TrueNAS embraces Open Source economics and allows you to choose the hardware platform that best suits your applications and your budgets.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  33:35

How does the TrueNAS Community help a new user?


The TrueNAS Community is a fantastic resource for the average user. Because TrueNAS is Open Source, there are thousands of users that both have operating experience, but extremely good knowledge of how the software works and how to resolve systems integration issues, recover data, and troubleshoot hardware.  When you are trying to do something new with your system, it’s common to find that hundreds of people have already worked out how to set something up, or have the experience to tell you that you can’t get it to work. Community members can save themselves many hours of work and have a fun conversation. The TrueNAS forum is moderated to make sure forum posts are polite and welcoming.


Find the answer in the video Q&A here:  35:48


 


You can watch the original Q&A with Morgan Littlewood of iXsystems below:


 



If you have any further questions about TrueNAS that were not addressed in this Q&A, fire them below in the comments and we will have them featured in a follow-up interview this spring/summer. Thanks for reading.


 


 

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