TrueNAS is a range of network-attached storage or NAS operating systems based on Linux and FreeBSD. It is based on an open-source software development model and has three versions or variations. These include the free FreeBSD-based TrueNAS CORE and the free Linux-based or Debian-based TrueNAS SCALE which is also marketed as a hyper-converged platform. TrueNAS Enterprise is a commercial version based on FreeBSD operating system. Understanding further what TrueNAS is also requires understanding what is a network-attached storage and a NAS operating system, as well as understanding its general pros and cons.
Pros of TrueNAS: Applications and Features as a Network-Attached Storage Operating System
A network-attached storage or NAS is a centralized storage device that is shared on a network of computers or clients. All computers connected to the network can save and access files or data on a NAS. This is akin to having a single and shared cabinet in an office. A NAS operating system is the specific software used for managing the NAS device. It connects to a network and interfaces with connected computers, allows a designated administrator to configure and manage the device, and provides users with a graphical user interface for managing files.
Nevertheless, based on the aforementioned, the purpose of TrueNAS is to provide users with an operating system for a network-attached storage device. Its common free-based competitors are Ubuntu Server, OpenMediaVault, and XigmaNAS. Commercial alternatives include Microsoft Storage Server, Synology DiskStation, TerraMaster NAS, and Proxmox. The free-based alternatives are ideal for small teams or organizations while the commercial ones are more suitable for large enterprises. Below are the specific advantages of TrueNAS operating system:
1. Free Version and Paid Versions
One of the biggest advantages of TrueNAS is that it has free versions that make a NAS operating system accessible to certain classes of users. The CORE and SCALE versions are ideal for those who have no budget to implement a centralized storage solution. However, for those who want a feature-packed operating system, the Enterprise version is a cost-effective solution that provides a set of business-centric and mission-critical features.
2. Intuitive Graphical Use Interface
It has also been praised by both reviewers and users for its clean user interface that enhances the overall user experience. The administration of the specific NAS device via the operating system is intuitive and overall file management does not require special skills. Those who are habituated with how to navigate an operating system would find the interface of this NAS operating system both familiar and instinctive to configure and use.
3. Advantages of the ZFS File System
Another notable advantage of TrueNAS is that it uses ZFS as its core file system. This translates to specific advantages such as native data protection, flexible storage design, native isolation to backups, snapshots for retaining data integrity and silent data corruption, and self-healing for the automatic detection and repair of data or files without human intervention. These capabilities are essential in use cases in which data integrity is critical
4. Other Features and Capabilities
All versions are compatible with clients running Windows, macOS, Linux distributions, different Unix variants, iOS, and Android operating systems. They also can be utilized to manage storage clusters and fleets for a multi-device network-attached storage solution. SCALE supports virtual machines or software hypervisors to run other operating systems while CORE has a selection of plugins for expanding its features and functionalities.
Cons of TrueNAS: Limitations and Drawbacks as a Network-Attached Storage Operating System
It is important to underscore the fact that this NAS operating system is not plug-and-play. This means that it needs to be configured according to the involved hardware, the requirements of the users, and the overall settings of the network. Designing and deploying a NAS solution based on this operating system should also take into consideration the existing hardware infrastructure and software pool for possible compatibility issues. It is possible to encounter some issues because of a mismatch. The following are the specific disadvantages of TrueNAS:
1. Requires Technical Expertise
Setting up either one of the three versions of this NAS operating system can be complex at first. This is true for those who do not have a background in implementing a NAS solution. It is still a doable initiative for enthusiasts but organizations who lack a robust IT team would be compelled to hire IT contractors. The user interface is also intuitive but some of the core functionalities are tucked in and require command-line interactions.
2. Lacks Built-In Software Firewall
Another disadvantage of TrueNAS is that it lacks a native or built-in software firewall. This is a drawback because it can be a concern for some users who require additional security measures straight out of the box. It also adds another layer of complexity as regards its implementation. A built-in software firewall can help the NAS solution from unauthorized access and prevent traffic from unauthorized sources from entering the entire network.
3. Notable Compatibility Issues
It might not be compatible with some legacy systems and applications that do not have support for its native protocols and technologies. There are also use cases in which this NAS operating system is not suitable. A common example is operations that involve extreme performance or capacity demands of some workloads that need specialized hardware or software. Users should also ensure that hardware components are compatible.
4. Limited Technical Support
The SCALE and CORE versions might be free but they lack a dedicated technical support unlike the Enterprise version or other commercial NAS solutions. There are resources and references available and a community of developers that can help with technical issues but these cannot be compared to having a direct line to customer support. This can be an issue for individual users and large organizations with demanding requirements.
Takeaways: Advantages and Disadvantages of TrueNAS and Several Important Pointers to Consider
Having a network-attached storage is the best alternative to a cloud-based storage solution. NAS operating systems such as TrueNAS are also ideal for those who do not want to pay subscription fees to products such as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. One of the main selling points or advantages of TrueNAS is that it comes with the free SCALE and CORE versions. This enables greater accessibility to NAS solutions for budget-constrained users or organizations
It is also worth mentioning that TrueNAS also offers a range of NAS devices. Purchasing these devices and using the relevant NAS operating system can be an easier route to implementing a particular NAS solution. Nevertheless, for what it is worth, it is still important to note that one of the main disadvantages of TrueNAS is that it still requires some technical expertise to design and deploy. It is not a plug-and-play solution because it still needs to be configured.