NAS x3

What a day. First I had to fix the internet (props out to the Cisco crew, thanks for the help!), then reactor #3 went offline, and to top it off I had to put the kids to bed. In between all of this my Windows Home Server 120 day trial showed up.

Installing WHS is nothing like unRAID and FreeNAS. WHS is the same slow, painful install that we’re all too familiar with on Windows. Whereas with unRAID I plug in a usb flash drive and have a functional NAS within 3 minutes, WHS takes about 45 minutes to install. No surprise there I suppose. The second thing I noticed is that the documentation for WHS sort of sucked. I think it’s all there in the help file but I didn’t see any quick install guides that quickly point out the main topics/tasks required for remote control and other functions. As is typical with Windows, they force some stupid defaults on you. The default password requirements force you to have a complex password which is annoying. I’m not sure how many “home” users really need strong passwords. Isn’t everyone behind a hardware firewall these days? The other thing is that WHS doesn’t clearly tell you the need for matching logins between WHS and networked computers. You sort of find it out when you first try to connect and are denied. That’s about it for the immediate bad stuff.

As for performance, WHS seems pretty good so far. I’ve done some quick benchmarking comparing WHS to FreeNAS and unRAID using my new $15 gigabit NIC. I was able to tranfer files from the windows desktop to WHS at a speed of 22MB/s. The next closest was FreeNAS at about 19MB/s and unRAID the slowest at 18MB/s. This kind of surprised me because unRAID is touted as being a really fast NAS and FreeNAS is supposed to be slower. I wasn’t using any parity or software RAID, and I presume this would have a huge impact on performance. All bets are off if these things are to be considered.

At this point I see no reason to continue with unRAID. It’s two most attractive features to me are its speed and it’s ability to keep adding drives to the array. unRAID doesn’t appear extra fast to me, and I while I think the idea of unRAID’s unique array structure is great I really don’t think I’ll be using it. I’ll be using my two hard drives and don’t anticipate needing any more space for a few years. So now it’s down to WHS and FreeNAS. I think I’ll experiment with FreeNAS for a while. It’s big attractions are that it’s free and it’s not Microsoft. Perhaps those are actually the same thing. I can actually test these two solutions with relative ease right now. If I boot FreeNAS it doesn’t know that WHS exists. If I boot WHS it doesn’t see the FreeNAS drive. I can flip flop between them sans problemos.