What Can I Get Away With Wednesday? NAS (Network Attached Storage) For Free?

By | January 20, 2016

For many game developers, their developing game is the most precious thing they own. But the game itself is ones and zeros. It is electrical signals and magnetic polarizations, fleeting, etheral, at times volatile; ownership of such things is tenuous at best. How do you ensure that the precious ones and zeros stay put? Stay safe? On a start-up’s budget? You’ll need some sort of Network Attached Storage. For free.

Enter NAS4Free. NAS4Free is not a fork! More to the point, NAS4Free allows you to back-up files onto a networked attached PC with the only expenses being those of the hardware and your time.

The good:

  • NAS4Free is open source and non-gratis
  • ZFS allows for the double redundancy of your data, protecting against HD failure
  • It has a simple browser interface
  • The entire OS can be stored on, and boot from, USB
  • It is typically pairable with legacy/left over hardware (excluding HDs)

The bad:

  • Double redundancy means you’ll have to purchase double the storage space
  • It’s doubly redundant but it’s not
  • NAS4Free is a hobby unto itself

Let me explain.

First of all, double redundancy is not enough. I once had Norton Ghost fail during a back-up process. Ghost didn’t just fail to save the data, somehow the original data was corrupted as well. Years and years of carefully crafted ones and zeros simply seemingly disappeared. It was bad. Take a tip from NASA; accept nothing less than triple redundancy. This means having, at the very least:

  1. a work-a-day computer on which you can put all of your files onto a (hopefully physical) partition
  2. a NAS4Free server (which offers “double” redundancy)

I say “at least” because NAS4Free is doubly redundant, but again, it’s not. What I mean by this is that the double redundancy is only doubly redundant in the event of hard drive failure (ie if one of the HDs breaks, you can recover data and “resilver” from the remaining HD clone). Since your data is still being stored in a single physical location, it represents a single point of failure in the event of say, theft or fire or security compromise.

And of course, double redundancy means double the price. Because you’ll need at least two identically sized HDs, this often means purchasing two new HDs. Reusing leftover mis-matched hard drives will not work.

Finally, NAS4Free is a hobby unto itself. As you peruse the NAS4Free forums and tutorials it will often seem like NAS4Free’s purpose isn’t free Network Attached Storage at all. It will seem like NAS4Free’s purpose is NAS4Free; some sort of weird hacker hobby where NAS4Free exists for no other reason than to be tinkered with. The upshot is a relatively steep learning curve.

Is NAS4Free viable? Can you get away with “free” networked attached storage? The answer is a reserved “yes.” For those with a working knowledge of BSD or the time to learn it, NAS4Free can be worthwhile. For others, the monetary expense of an off-the-shelf commercial NAS solution may be cheaper.

I plan on completing a tutorial in the future. Until then, this will have to suffice;

On this upcoming Freebie Friday I’ll link to software that will allow you to back-up from your work-a-day computer to NAS.

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