John's Musings

Yeah, Me Neither

NAS Software ***BEST*** Of 2016

Now that I have built up 5 server devices and tried a bunch of NAS Operating Systems I'm prepared to make my call on which one is "BEST". First a rundown of the OS's I tested.

Each one has its merits however factoring in all my needs I'm prepared to call a particular OS ***BEST*** for my home server needs. It wasn't easy, and even though I'm calling one ***BEST*** I still plan on using some of the others. But if I only had the budget to build one dream server I think I'd have to install ........................


It simply suits my needs the best. Let's briefly define my needs or my idea of a good server platform for home. I am NOT an enterprise user nor am I running a network for anyone other than family.

  • It needs to be a web server with the ability to run the latest Apache2, Nginx, and PHP and be able to keep them all up to date.
  • It needs to be a cloud server. I work primarily in the field. I need to reach back at some files sometimes, especially if I'm in the field with my iPad.
  • It needs to be a media server. TV, locally stored movies from ripped DVD's, and a LogitechMediaServer for music.
  • It needs to be accessed and controlled via a web browser.
  • It needs to have RAID storage.

My software lineup would be as follows:

  • SAMBA for simple file sharing. All the OS's listed above do this well.
  • Seafile for cloud storage

  • Webmin for server control via a web browser

  • Emby for a media server

  • Plex - Also for a media server. What Emby doesn't do, Plex does and vice versa.

  • LogitechMediaServer - I have 5 TB of music and constantly stream from Spotify and listen to Talk Radio from TuneIn Radio while cooking. I have to have a music media server. LMS is the best platform for me. Others have flash and pinash but I like LMS.

Without a doubt Linux is easily up to all those tasks. Now lets discuss the pros and cons of each OS and how I came to my conclusion.

FreeNAS - The gold standard of NAS Operating Systems. Designed for enterprise use. Probably the most highly recommended by power users and geeks worldwide. I am running FreeNAS on my super-server at home. Where I find it lacking is that while it has plugins for Emby and Plex they are problematic. I had to manually install Plex for DVR support for my HDHomerun device and installing it manually wasn't easy and I'm not sure what you do to upgrade it at this point. Emby's plugin kept crashing so I had to install it, turn it off and then load the latest PBI (whatever that is) and now it works fine. You cannot install Seafile at all on FreeNAS, or at least I can't.

NAS4Free - Not even going to discuss it. Tried it, didn't like it.

OpenMediaVault - Basically this is Debian Linux with its own web GUI control. It's very nice, very polished and it will do all the tasks I outlined above although some of it would have to occur outside of the OMV web GUI. For example I wanted to install LogitechMediaServer but I installed the beta version of OMV which doesn't yet support it, blah, blah, blah. So I just installed it like I would on a Linux computer and it works silently but not under control of the web GUI. Same with Seafile.

Rockstor - Seems to be in direct competition for FreeNAS for enterprise level NAS stuff. Really neat and really polished NAS however it is another one where you are seemingly tied to whatever is in the plug-ins directory which Rockstor calls Rock-On's, which I guess is cool.

Debian - I'm very familiar with Debian as I am a Raspberry Pi geek and the OS of choice with the Raspberry Pi is Raspbian which is Debian Jesse (previously Debian Wheezy). So for sheer usability for me it seems like a no brainer. But if you get the minimal install of Debian it uses the 3.16 version kernel (which is rock solid) but doesn't support one of my TV Tuners. But for only this item Debian would probably get the nod from me as ***BEST***. Actually there is one more thing. The minimal install of Debian adds a desktop environment and boots into it. I neither need that or want that. My server will be headless with no monitor keyboard or mouse. I don't need all that.

Ubuntu Server - No Desktop Environment installed during setup and does every single thing I listed above for my needs, web server, cloud server, mysql can run all the media servers, and especially LogitechMediaServer. Ubuntu is tried and true, runs kernel 4.4 and has long term support (LTS) versions. I'm currently running 16.04 LTS. I'm good for several more years. They just came out with 16.10 but it is only supported for 9 months or so. It's for the bleeding edge guys. I want stability and security.

What you don't get with Ubuntu is those enterprise level file systems like ZFS. FreeNAS, and NAS4Free support ZFS which is the enterprise standard. Rockstor uses BTRFS file system which is gaining favor with the uber geeks as well. Ubuntu server nets you the good old ext4 file system (for now). I actually think there are implementation for ZFS for Linux but I'm not prepared to be a guinea pig with my data. I've been using Linux and EXT4 file system for many, many years and I can't recall having file system / file sharing issues EVER. No reason to stop now. I might change my mind about having an error correcting file system if I was an IT guy with multiple, multiple users all higher ranking than me and ugly angry all the time. But I'm the boss here.

The last point I want to drive home is that if you have FreeNAS, Rockstor, or OpenMediaVault you are kind of sort of tied to what plug-ins are available in their respective libraries. As stated above not all platforms have all the software solutions that I like. If you run a Linux server you can have whatever it is that you want. Seemingly no restrictions, just you don't get the Uber file system support.

Now here's something else to think about. Suppose my web server, music server, media server, and cloud server are all on one device and it dies..................Yikes. Here's how I deal with this. Super server which runs FreeNAS has Plex, Emby and Samba.

My OTHER server (which has considerably less CPU power) runs Ubuntu and runs my web server, Plex, Emby, Seafile, and Logitechmediaserver. I have some redundancy with my ripped content for TV and Movies and file serving. So basically I run two servers at home so if disaster hits I don't go down completely.

My pick again for best, most flexible home server.................

Ubuntu Server.