Complete guide: FreeNAS & How to host your offsite backups in S3 storage on FreeNAS

Storing your backup data in a S3 bucket on FreeNAS is a great, cost effective option for offsite backups. Installing it is simple enough, but knowing what hardware to run it on based on your requirements can be hit or miss.

Our goal in this special series of feature blogs is to remove the guesswork from setting up and running FreeNAS, so you’ll know what hardware to use, what to expect from FreeNAS running on physical or virtual hardware, what disks to use, how much RAM to install, and so on.

Over the next few months, I’ll be running a series of experiments – hundreds of backups and restores, transferring over 1PB of data, to answer these and many other questions:

  1. Should I run FreeNAS on physical hardware or as a virtual machine?
  2. Does the choice of disks make a difference? SSD vs HDD? NVMe vs SATA?
  3. How powerful does the CPU need to be? How many cores?
  4. What is the effect of RAM size – do you need 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, or more?

I anticipate the results we obtain here will be generalized to other NAS platforms, and also help as a buyer’s guide for off-the-shelf NAS devices.

Why choose FreeNAS?

If the answer isn’t clear from its name, it’s free! But that’s not all…

  1. Over time, it can save you thousands of dollars in cloud storage fees
  2. It is stable and very popular
  3. It can be set up very securely
  4. Recovery can be faster than downloading data from a public cloud
  5. You know exactly where your data is stored

We think that FreeNAS can be very cost effective, especially if you have 20 TB of data or more.

As a comparison of estimated prices:

Hardware for a FreeNAS, with RAID and 20TB disks 20TB of S3 storage in AWS 20TB of hot storage in Wasabi
~$2,000 once-off $7,864 per year $1,437 per year

(Cloud storage prices quoted are from the Wasabi price comparison, 20TB and 10% downloaded per month.)

Most businesses already have the other infrastructure in place (such as Internet connection and office space) so the incremental cost of a NAS is just the hardware, and electricity.

Are there downsides?

Yes, like any system there are some downsides:

  1. Maintaining on-premise infrastructure
  2. FreeNAS is BSD based, not Windows, so there’s a slight learning curve for Windows administrators

Let’s get into it!

Over the next few months, I’ll be writing these blog posts:

Chapter 1 – Minimal HOWTO: install and configuration instructions for FreeNAS / S3

Chapter 2 – Choice of disks – does it matter?

Chapter 3 – Virtual or Physical machine?

Chapter 4 – CPU cores and threads

Chapter 5 – RAM requirements

Chapter 6 – FreeNAS disk configuration, ZFS options

Chapter 7 – Securing your FreeNAS

Chapter 8 – Configuration for multi-tenant operation

Chapter 9 – Putting it together – conclusions and recommendations for MSPs and end-users

Do you have questions or suggestions for topics in this series?

We’d love to hear from you. Simply drop us a chat message, a phone call or an email, and we’ll be happy to talk.

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