If you’ve been looking for a way to keep your data safe and secure – regardless of the device you use or your location – you’ve most likely come across Network Attached Storage (NAS).
NAS is a great way of safeguarding and securing your data. It attaches to your office or home network so that multiple users on the network can store their data in one place, safely.
A NAS can be used to back up computers and serve files to devices on your local network. It usually includes two or more hard-drive bays, enough CPU power, RAM, and a Linux-based operating system optimized for network storage.
All these components work together so that the NAS can do its work while using less power. Unlike an external hard drive or USB drive, the NAS can offer data redundancy with two or more hard drives, and copy the contents of one drive automatically over to the other.
NAS is also great for big media libraries, as it allows you to store your files in a single location and stream them locally to other devices or media centers in your location.
All these features and benefits won’t be useful without a NAS operating system.
One of the most popular NAS OSes is FreeNAS. This guide compares some of the top FreeNAS alternatives and concludes with the overall best option you can use.
What Is FreeNAS?
FreeNAS is an open-source operating system that you can virtually install on any hardware platform for purposes of sharing files and data over a network.
The NAS solution offers a simple way of creating an easily accessible, centralized place for your data. You can use FreeNAS at home, in your small business, or large enterprise.
Since 2005, FreeNAS has grown and today boasts the biggest development team, millions of downloads, and users globally.
FreeNAS has features like unlimited storage, data snapshots, and support for hot-swapping, RAID, and disk stripping. Together with ZFS, FreeNAS also offers encryption, replication, data protection, and file sharing.
The NAS operating system covers almost every data sharing protocol including NFS and Samba, meaning it can work with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Plus, FreeNAS supports integration with Google Cloud and Amazon S3 among other cloud storage providers out of the box. It also supports third-party plugins so you can expand the NAS features further, control Docker containers and virtual machines to turn FreeNAS into a server.
Some of the benefits of FreeNAS include a simple web user interface, clear cutting-edge features, good support, and regular updates. The main drawback is that it’s not built for low-powered systems.
FreeNAS is a popular operating system for NAS devices. Depending on your requirements, you could go with FreeNAS for your own NAS device, or opt for any of the 10 FreeNAS alternatives we discuss next.
Best FreeNAS Alternatives
FreeNAS is best for home users with lots of storage and for enterprise users. However, there are other NAS operating system solutions with more features or better setups such as the ten picks we’ve listed below.
OpenMediaVault is a strong, open-source, next-generation NAS solution that was created in 2009 to succeed FreeNAS.
Unlike FreeNAS, the OpenMediaVault is based on Debian Linux and contains services such as BitTorrent client, DAAP media server, RSync, SMB/CIFS, SSH, (S) FTP and more.
OpenMediaVault offers an easy and simple solution you can use in your home or small office, to install and administer the solution without much knowledge.
The NAS software is free to use and distribute. You can be sure of its stability because of the active development that comes with monthly updates each month.
Some crossover features you’ll find in OpenMediaVault that you’ll find in FreeNAS include NFS/Samba file sharing, storage monitoring, and RAID disk management. However, FreeNAS has more advanced features like the ZFS file system and hot-swapping, which you won’t get in OpenMediaVault, which is based on the ext4 file system.
Plus, you can leverage the large number of Debian packages available on OpenMediaVault. Although it doesn’t offer cloud integration, you can add OpenMediaVault through relevant Debian packages or plugins.
These same plugins also let you set up a web server: Plex media server or BitTorrent client. Compared to FreeNAS that is not built for low-powered systems, OpenMediaVault offers low system requirements so you can run it on Raspberry Pi and other low-powered devices in order to combine it with media software like Plex.
Other features you get with OpenMediaVault include email notifications, IPv6 support, web-based administration, Debian package management for easy system updates, volume management, and Wake On LAN, among others.
Rockstor is another good FreeNAS alternative that’s simple and free to use.
The private cloud server framework is based on CentOS, and makes it easy for clients to store records effortlessly in their own NAS distributed storage framework. This way, they have easy access from any location in the world.
This distributed framework not only ensures easy access to your files, but it also ensures the information is in a secure and sheltered condition. You can easily build and manage your own Linux and Btrfs-powered advanced cloud and NAS storage.
Rockstor also offers a cloud server for Small and Midsize businesses with hundreds of terabytes of capacity requirements. If you have your own cloud storage, you can still store lots of data while switching between the two storage options. However, this also translates to a loss of productivity and inefficiency for your business.
With Rockstor’s cloud server, you can build your own private cloud storage, leverage public, and private storage, and integrate with public cloud storage for lower operating costs and efficiency. You can also scale storage needs with low incremental costs and you don’t need any IT experience to manage the storage.
Rockstor has a user-friendly web user interface, online pool and online disk management, and directory services such as snapshot and online share management.
Like FreeNAS, Rockstor also offers file sharing, instant and efficient clones of shares and snapshots, fast and online vertical capacity scaling, Bitrot protection, file backup with Rsync, Windows Backup, and Apple Time Machine and a REST API for app developers.
XigmaNAS is an open-source operating system based on FreeBSD. You can install it virtually as you would with FreeNAS on any hardware platform. This helps with file and data sharing over a computer network.
The NAS OS is simple, fast, and allows you to create an easily-accessible and centralized server for a wide range of data. Such data can easily be accessed with all kinds of network protocols regardless of the network you use.
XigmaNAS supports file and data sharing across Apple, Windows, and systems like UNIX. It also offers the ZFS file system that you’ll find in FreeNAS, disk encryption, software RAID, email reports, and S.M.A.R.T among others.
Other similar features that XigmaNAS offers include CIFS/Samba, FTP, AFP, RSync, NFS, CARP, Active Directory Domain Controller, and more. You can install it on a USB or SSD key, or boot it from a Live CD/Live USB.
XigmaNAS is regularly updated with bug fixes, new features, and version upgrades. It also gets regular development that’s focused on simplicity and stability.
All these updates allow you to keep your NAS updated with the best working versions and latest standards.
PetaSAN is another open-source FreeNAS alternative that uses cloud-based innovations to give the flexibility and ability for you to scale capacity groups by adding more nodes. The scale-out SAN arrangement offers massive adaptability, execution, scalability, and performance.
The solution relies on the Ceph storage engine and is designed to offer clustered iSCSI disks. These highly available disks with multiple access paths can be identified using virtual IP addresses clustered across several storage hubs.
Like FreeNAS, the PetaSAN can work from non-Linux systems or graphical user interfaces using the browser, and there’s a constant SSH available whenever you need a command line.
Amahi is somewhat different from FreeNAS, which is NAS-focused as it tries to be more than a NAS system. It wants to be the only Linux media server operating system for your needs.
The NAS OS is based around a well-known Linux distro called Fedora, and thanks to its developers that keep the software up-to-date with new features, Amahi offers stable releases based on Fedora’s releases.
Amahi makes the administration of home systems straightforward and easy to use. You can use Amahi as a VPN server for your network, turn it into a backup server for your computers, and set up a local wiki or calendar for your family.
The OS isn’t technical, and like FreeNAS, it also lets you install apps that extend it from media server software to game servers. Amahi also supports all standard file sharing protocols such as NFS and Samba, which you can configure easily in the web interface.
While FreeNAS uses the ZFS file system, Amahi uses ext4 and XFS, which are typical Fedora file systems. Other features include dynamic DNS, easy backups, one-click apps, and disk monitoring.
You can use Amahi to build your home server thanks to its easy set up and management. It also supports multiple apps like OpenVPN, Plex, Couch Potato, and more.
Openfiler is an enterprise-level NAS/SAN solution that converts industry-standard architecture systems into fully-fledged IP storage gateway and NAS/SAN appliances.
Not only that, but Openfiler also provides storage admins with a tool they can use to cope with the demand for storage in their organizations. This way, administrators can utilize storage capacity and system performance in the best way possible when they allocate and manage storage in networks with multiple platforms.
Openfiler offers features such as fiber channel target support, block-level replication, which you’ll find with FreeNAS, and more. All these support the key storage issues such as performance, reliability, availability, and scalability.
Like FreeNAS, Openfiler has a range of storage networking protocols making it a great option for different deployment scenarios such as storage area networking and NAS. Openfiler can be downloaded and installed on industry-standard server hardware and used to redeploy or breathe new life into previously ancillary hardware resources.
Openfiler is also useful for building storage gateways for already existing SAN/DAS storage systems. This way, Openfiler creates new channels through which you can share existing storage capacity.
Plus, Openfiler offers fast Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet controllers from Broadcom and Intel, which can be integrated for high bandwidth access to data via TCP/IP network.
Like FreeNAS, Openfiler supports RAID, fiber channel controllers, and disk technologies. Other features include CIFS, HTTP, NFS, and FTP protocols, iSCSI target functionality, point in time copy (snapshots), journaled file systems, block-level remote replication, and more.
Nexenta’s Community Edition offers a free NAS solution with ZFS support, like what FreeNAS provides, but it’s based on Illumos, an open Solaris. This stripped version of Nexenta’s commercial product is available for you and you won’t need to worry about stability, updates, or support.
You can use it with small businesses or your home office though with fewer features. This means that if you have a large enterprise, you’ll have to get the commercial Nexenta product to access more features.
Nexenta allows you to keep your storage future-proof. You can choose the storage you want from its trusted portfolio, and scale up or out, file, block, and object to support all your applications.
With Nexenta, you can eliminate storage silos, lower your Opex and Capex while decreasing future costs, and leverage all-flash, hybrid, and all-HDD options.
In your environment, Nexenta can use software-defined container-converged solutions so that you can rethink your application infrastructure, and move more workloads to flash using SDS. You can also backup and archive your data with rich data integrity to protect critical information from tens of terabytes to multi-PB deployments.
SnapRAID is a FreeNAS alternative and backup program that stores parity information of your data, and recovers it from disk failures. The NAS operating system solution is suitable for home media centers with lots of big files that hardly change.
Some of the features you get from SnapRAID include:
- Hashing all your data to ensure integrity and prevent silent corruption
- Recovery of accidentally deleted files in a disk
- Adding disks any time
- Keeping data in other disks safe.
SnapRAID was created through the Unix philosophy with the first design being principled on reliability. This resulted in an easy to understand implementation of the solution. SnapRAID is verified with Clang Static Analyzers, Coverity Scan, and the American Fuzzy Lop fuzzy tester.
The solution is also designed based on robustness, which means it can support any kind of problem including power downs or kernel panics, and any other hard failure at runtime to keep your redundancy data safe.
SnapRAID uses a RAID library that supports six parity levels to deliver top-notch performance. The library design uses the TommyDS library of data structures and is compatible with the Linux Kernel RAID library. For integrity checks, SnapRAID uses SpookyHash and murmur3.
Compared to other backup options, SnapRAID only needs one more parity disk to recover the common disk failure cases. A full backup allows recovery from a complete failure of the disk array, but this would be ideal only if it’s an affordable option for your needs.
Among SnapRAID’s strongest benefits is its integrity. It also offers silent error management that’s better than the Btrfs file systems, or the ZFS systems that FreeNAS offers.
Enterprise Storage Operating System (ESOS) was designed for a fully functioning Linux/SCST system that can be deployed easily to new servers. It was also designed to be optimized fully for SCST and include necessary RAID controller utilities or tools so that new volumes can be modified or provisioned easily from inside the operating system.
Later on, the ESOS designers thought the next step would be to add highly available storage clusters, and included more features such as LVM2, DRBD, Linux software RAID, and a full-featured cluster stack.
ESOS uses a wide variety of software projects such as SCST, Linux kernel, GRUB, BusyBox, and many others. It also has several proprietary pieces that you can download and install such as storcli64, arcconf, percccli64, and others that FreeNAS doesn’t offer.
You can boot ESOS from a USB flash drive and load all the directories, files, and binaries among others into memory on boot. If the USB flash drive fails, the system will run as normal until the failure of the flash drive is addressed or replaced.
ESOS is a volatile system meaning the configuration settings and files are synchronized into a file system. Plus, log files are archived to the USB drive on restart or shutdown or in the event that a file system grows too large.
This way, ESOS offers an easy and reversible upgrade procedure. All you do is create a new and updated USB flash drive for ESOS, copy the configurations to it and boot the new drive. If you get issues with the new version, you can still boot back into the previous ESOS USB drive.
Like FreeNAS, the ESOS NAS includes an advanced ZFS storage subsystem. It also has two operating modes: Debug and Production, enterprise RAID controller CLI configuration tools, NIC bonding, Linux Ethernet bridging support, and a user interface based on text (TUI) among many other tools.
EasyNAS is a reliable storage management system and framework for small or home office setups. As a FreeNAS alternative, EasyNAS provides a wide range of features that you won’t find in a commercial but it works through the Btrfs system, compared to the ZFS file system used in FreeNAS.
Plus, EasyNAS also uses OpenSUSE, and has a web executives interface that looks commonplace and can be used or administered by anybody. It arranges the Samba server easily, and in a few snaps, you can have your SMB server operating fully to server record sharing assistance on your system.
EasyNAS’ Btrfs features include:
- Adding or deleting Btrfs file system and volumes
- Mounting and scrubbing file system features
- Compressing file systems on the go
- Adding or removing HD to file system, and SSD optimization.
- Storage topologies in EasyNAS include JBO, RAID 0,1, 5, 6 and 10
It also supports network protocols similar to those in FreeNAS such as Samba (CIFS), NFS, FTP, RSync, AFP, and SSH. Additional services include web management and Radius.
If you’re looking for support, EasyNAS offers a forum where you can post your queries, troubleshooting issues, complaints, and concerns. You can also email the developer and/or submit bug reports.
With EasyNAS, you can enjoy benefits such as secure data storage and sharing, an easy to use web interface, an all-in-one server, and the ability to run on standard PC hardware so you can use it with any computer.
Out of the ten NAS operating system tools we’ve listed above, we recommend OpenMediaVault as the best FreeNAS alternative.
Not only is OpenMediaVault free to use, but it’s also ideal for use with low-powered equipment, which FreeNAS doesn’t do.
While FreeNAS is useful for your home or small business setup, OpenMediaVault can be used in home or small offices, and large enterprises as well.
Plus, OpenMediaVault is a next-generation NAS solution based on Debian Linux and contains services you may not find in FreeNAS. Such services include the DAAP media server and BitTorrent client.
The modular design of the OpenMediaVault framework can also be enhanced through plugins without encountering any major issues.
OpenMediaVault has a smooth interface that works very well. It’s also faster and lighter in weight than FreeNAS. You can also use OpenMediaVault for backup, as a file or media server, and to download torrents or YouTube files.
If you create, use, and manage massive amounts of data from your tablet, laptop, or computer, a NAS operating solution is good to have with your NAS device. This way, you can be sure that your files are accessible, safe, and above all, have peace of mind.