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DIY Open Source NAS: How to Configure FreeNAS

Here are some of the more essential configuration options to get you going with FreeNAS.

In the previous blog post in this series, I showed you how to install FreeNAS. Now, I want to wrap up the series by showing you some of the more essential configuration options.

When you boot your FreeNAS server, you will see a screen that looks like the one shown in Figure 1. This isn’t the main management console, but rather just an interface used to configure the FreeNAS server’s network interface so that the Web frontend will be accessible.

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Figure 1
This is what the FreeNAS console looks like.

The main thing that you will have to do on this screen is to configure the network interface. As you can see in Figure 2, this typically involves choosing option No. 2 and providing an IP address. Keep in mind that in production there will typically be other required steps, such as configuring a DNS address.

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Figure 2
You will need to provide your FreeNAS server with an IP address.

To access the FreeNAS console, open a Web browser and enter the IP address that you assigned to your FreeNAS Server. Upon logging into the console, you are taken to a dashboard interface, which you can see in Figure 3.

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Figure 3
This is the FreeNAS dashboard.

As you can see in the figure above, there are a huge number of options available. The first thing that you will probably want to do, however, is to create a storage pool. To do so, click on Storage, followed by Pools, and then click the option to create a storage pool. Now, just enter a name for your storage pool, select the disks that you wish to include, and click Create, as shown in Figure 4.

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Figure 4
Give your storage pool a name, and assign disks to the pool.

One thing that you should definitely pay attention to when creating a pool is the drop-down list just beneath the Data VDevs section. This drop-down list lets you choose the pool’s architecture (striped, mirrored, etc.). The choices that will be available to you vary depending on the number of disks in the pool. FreeNAS automatically tries to strike the best balance between performance and redundancy based on the number of disks in the pool.

Once the pool is in place, you will need to create a dataset. A dataset allows a portion of the pool to be shared. It also lets you configure the deduplication and compression settings separately from the pool. To create a dataset, just click on the pool’s menu icon, and choose the Add Dataset option. When prompted, choose a name for your dataset and specify the share type (Unix, Windows or Mac). Configure any other desired settings, and click Save.

The next step is to add one or more volumes to your dataset. Click on the menu icon next to the dataset and choose the Add Zvol option, as shown in Figure 5.

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Figure 5
You can create a volume by choosing the Add Zvol option.

Creating a volume is a relatively simple process. At minimum, you will need to provide a name and a size for the volume. It’s also a good idea to enter a comment pertaining to the volume’s purpose. FreeNAS also gives you the option of configuring deduplication and compression settings for the volume, as shown in Figure 6. When you are done, click Save to create the volume.

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Figure 6
Enter a volume name and size, and click Save.

You can see what the pool, dataset and volume hierarchy look like in Figure 7.

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Figure 7
A volume has been created within the dataset.

Once you create a volume, you will probably want to share it. If you look at Figure 8, you can see that I have expanded the Sharing tab. This tab contains options for creating Apple, Unix, WebDAV, Windows and Block (iSCSI) shares. The configuration process works differently depending on the share type that you choose, but you can see what is involved in creating a Windows share in Figure 8.

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Figure 8
This is how you create an SMB share for access by Windows machines.

In case you are wondering, FreeNAS has a very rich system for defining access permissions. You can also use the Services section to customize the behavior of the SMB service and other services.

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