Why do I even bother running a home file server?
Over the past year, my TrueNAS Core server has been bugging me every few months about one of my boot failing. In this case, the boot drives are simply two USB sticks, run in a mirrored configuration. If one fails, the other one handles the load. (The reason I use a USB stick for a boot drive is that my server has an internal USB port for that very purpose, and no other place for the boot drive to go.)
This week, after yet another USB stick failed, I tried to resolve the problem by buying new USB sticks and installing TrueNAS onto them. The OS installs took hours and the server would not reboot. Eventually I discovered that I could buy an SSD drive with the form factor of a USB stick, which is what I have wanted for years. It fits inside my server like a USB stick, but contains a fast, durable SSD drive instead of slow, fragile flash memory. I installed TrueNAS onto it, which seemed to take seconds rather than hours, but I could not boot from it. I spent an hour swapping USB drives and trying to boot the server until it would not boot TrueNAS from any USB drive I had. It was a disaster.
I gave up and installed Ubuntu Server onto the new SSD drive. I knew that Ubuntu supports ZFS now and could import my existing data pool. Luckily, it boots like a champ. After the install, I found some instructions to help me set up ZFS, Samba, and Minio, and—after editing file permissions—everything is set. I didn’t lose any data during the OS switch, but I did mess up my Arm backups when I tried to move them into a new Minio storage location. Luckily, I wasn’t depending on those backups for anything, because my important data is in the cloud and I have backups on Backblaze B2 as well.
I use the NAS daily for media sharing and backups. It takes very little maintenance except once in a while when it becomes a headache and money sink. I sometime wonder if I should go back to having an external hard drive instead, now that 8 TB external hard drives are pretty cheap. The problem with that approach is that external hard drives get hot and die, which happened to me so many times that I bought a NAS.
I will miss running TrueNAS (which used to be called FreeNAS) because I have run it for ten years and used to be really into its FreeBSD underpinnings. Now, all the servers I rely on run either Ubuntu Server or Debian, and I will just have to deal with administering them via SSH rather than via a web page.