Earlier this year we tested Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. Now we're reviewing software-based NAS that you can load onto your own equipment — whether it's a PC, server, virtual machine, or in the cloud.
We looked at FreeNAS, Openfiler, Open-E DSS, NexentaStor, and SoftNAS. All offer some sort of free solution or service, with some being fully open sourced.
Deploying a software-based NAS solution versus an appliance has some pros and cons. For instance, going with a software solution enables you to select and customize the hardware it runs on to best fit your particular application and environment. For a small and simple network you could load the software on a spare consumer-level PC, or for bigger networks purchase a server or run on a virtual machine.
On the other hand, going with an appliance may be better if you aren't comfortable selecting the hardware, installing the software, and then maintaining both. Appliances are generally more plug-and-play, whereas with software solutions you have to spend some time building your own appliance.