Build Your Own Home/SOHO NAS
If you're like me, you're probably got more than one computer at home. In fact, if you're like me, you've probably got a half-dozen or so. Wait, that's still not quite right, let me try one more time... If you're like me, you've got a half-dozen computers at home, running a few different operating systems, and you use them all. Yeah, that one's right.
If so, you will, no doubt, have run into the nasty little problem of keeping your files synchronized. If you keep a copy of everything on every machine then that's a huge waste of space. If you don't, you no doubt will need something from a machine that you can't easily access. You've probably thought about setting up a file server but the thought of dishing out $200 (plus hardware) for a copy of Windows isn't really appealing, nor is the thought of taking an old box lying around and installing Linux on it. Luckily, there is a solution that lies half-way in the middle. Its name is OpenFiler.
OpenFiler is a linux-based software appliance that aims to bring connectivity to everyone. With the ability to connect via SMB/CIFS (Windows File Sharing), FTP, HTTP(S) WebDAV, NFS, and even iSCSI, it's sure to allow you to connect all your systems together. The hardware requirements are low, just 256MB of RAM for x86 systems, so it should install on just about any old hardware you've got lying around, as long as it's a 686-class CPU or higher (no Pentium Pro or Via C3 chips, sorry). Keep in mind though that if you're planning on having multiple people connecting, or if you're going to use iSCSI over Gig-E, that better hardware is going to provide better performance.
The install is relatively simple. Just burn the install image to a CD-R, toss it in the CD-ROM drive of the computer you want to convert to a file server, and walk through the options. The installer doesn't let you choose what packages you want (as it is a fixed set) so all you really need to do is tell it what timezone you're in, what kind of network settings you want, etc. The only thing you may want to change is the partition scheme. I'd recommend a 100MB partition for /boot, a 2GB partition for /, and a 1-2GB partition for swap. You should leave the remainder of your drive blank as that will be configured for use as storage from within the OpenFiler web GUI. Unless you're using a REALLY old computer, the install shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.
Once you've got the machine up and running you'll need to finish the configuration through the web GUI (at this point you can also remove your CD-ROM drive if you'd like as it won't be used again). The web GUI runs at https://ipaddress:446. The default username is "openfiler" and the password is "password". However, before you start creating shares you'll need to set the time, tell the system which networks will be connecting to the system, and setup an access account back-end (if any). As of now, OpenFiler supports several authentication methods including LDAP (external or using the built-in server), Active Directory, Kerberos, Hesiod, and NIS. All those, of course, are WAY overkill for a home network and if all you want is guest access (where any user/machine can do anything), all are unnecessary and can be ignored.
Once you're ready to configure your storage, navigate over to the "Physical Storage Management" section and create a new partition (or multiple, if you should feel the need) to fill out your remaining disk space. Keep in mind that you can have multiple shares on a single volume, so most users will just want to fill out the remainder of their disk with a single physical partition. if you plan to use software RAID, here would be your chance (create "raid partitions" instead of "physical"). From there (assuming that you didn't choose RAID partitions), you can move over to create a volume group. Again, there are quite a few reasons why you would want multiple volume groups, none of which are really applicable to home/soho use. As such, you can just create a single volume group to fill out your partition.
Now's where it gets interesting. Here's where you get to create the actual volumes on your disk(s). If you want to use this system as a simple NAS, I'd recommend a single volume with the ext3 file system. OpenFiler supports several other file systems (such as ReiserFS, XFS, and JFS) but none are as mature as ext3. If you were planning on using iSCSI then you could also create a volume of that type. Keep in mind that you grow a volume (except iSCSI) but you can't shrink one. If you plan to have multiple volumes, you've got to make up your mind now (or leave part of your disk empty).
That said and done, all that's left is to create your shares using the "Shares" tab. When configuring them, make sure that you enable access for your local network and that you set them to guest access (assuming that you didn't configure LDAP or something like that).
For those of you who aren't convinced, the distro comes with the option of several pre-built virtual machines (available for VMWare, Xen, and Qemu/Parallels) for you to try out. I'd recommend the VMWare version since VMWare now offers VMWare Server for free (you'll need this instead of the Player version as you'll need to add a virtual hard drive to the image if you want to really test the package). Once you're ready to install, you can have your choice of x86 and x86-64 install CDs.
So far I've rolled out two OpenFiler systems. The first one at home on a Dual Opteron box w/ Hardware RAID 5 and the second one at work in a branch office with a spare box I had lying around. Given the success I've had with both installations, OpenFiler is now my first choice for any future storage needs.
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