Home Fileserver: What do I need?

Before embarking on this project I asked myself what I needed a fileserver for. That is, what would I put on there and, therefore, how much storage space would I require.

I came up with the following list of items I wanted to store on this machine:

  1. video: camcorder, recorded TV programmes, films etc
  2. photos: a large photo library containing many gigabytes of RAW photos
  3. audio: iTunes library
  4. backup space for existing computer until all data migrated to fileserver

By far the biggest consumer of disk space is video, so let’s ensure we create a large storage space for now and beyond. Also, using the fileserver as a backup device for my existing computer will use quite a lot of space initially, until the data is migrated to the fileserver.

As this fileserver will cost some money to build, let’s try to ensure it pays for its rent by providing some extra useful services like:

  1. continue working transparently in the event of a disk failure
  2. regularly check all stored data for silent errors (bit rot etc)
  3. automatically self-heal any problems found in any stored data from available redundant data
  4. report any data checksum errors or drive failures to me by email so I can fix problems quickly
  5. allow data to be stored and retrieved quickly across a gigabit switch within the home network
  6. allow streaming of audio/video to any connected devices around the house
  7. be fairly energy efficient
  8. be fairly quiet
  9. be fairly cheap to build
  10. allow capacity expansion
  11. allow flexible and simple configuration — for a techie, at least 🙂
  12. automatically backup new/changed data periodically to local or remote backup server
  13. be accessible from Mac, Windows, Linux and Solaris computers connected to the network

There, that should be enough to be getting on with 🙂

For more ZFS Home Fileserver articles see here: A Home Fileserver using ZFS. Alternatively, see related articles in the following categories: ZFS, Storage, Fileservers, NAS.

Join the conversation


  1. Why use Solaris? Unless you are a Solaris guy I suppose.

    There is more knowledge out on the interweb for Linux than Solaris – people are more likely able to get support/help from the Internet for a diy Linux solution than a Solaris one.

  2. @anonymous:

    Good point!

    In fact I would call myself a Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Solaris guy. I use Windows for games/Internet Explorer compatibility testing, Linux for web servers, Mac OS for my main client machine, and Solaris for storage — each one does the job it’s best suited to. No Golden Hammers here 😉

    I think the Linux world would really like to use ZFS, so it would be great if the licensing issue can be resolved — something about it not being GPL, I think (I know there is a ZFS on FUSE project, but this has reduced performance, apparently).

    You might find this interesting — it’s written by a long-term Linux user who discovered ZFS:

    He says: “I’m using it [ZFS] because I’m fed up with losing data to weird RAID issues with Linux, and I believe that OpenSolaris with ZFS will be substantially more reliable long-term.”

    Take a read, it’s pretty good, I thought.

    For anyone needing free help for Solaris/ZFS, you have Google and the forums — try the ZFS discuss group here:

    And of course, there’s always pay-for support available for businesses.

  3. Hi Simon,
    thanks ever so much for your blog which is so very helpful in planning the NAS which I am about to set up.
    In the “Home Fileserver: What do I need?” section you mentioned, that you wanted to have support for your iTunes library. Do you have any solution for that yet?

  4. Thanks Ansgar. So far, I have left my iTunes library on my Mac, and just made a copy of it onto the fileserver as a backup.
    Let me know if you manage to get your iTunes working from your fileserver, or if you get problems.


  5. Ansgar & Simon,

    My MP3s are on a drive which is NFS-exported from Linux. My wife’s Mac has that export mounted, and iTunes points to that for her MP3 repo. There is a checkbox to prevent the files from being copied over to the local FS. This has been working nicely since the day I set it up, about 5 months ago.

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