So, you have a background using Windows and occasionally buying hardware to do things or create a website. You’ve been the ‘go to’ IT guy, but you’re far from the tech wizards that know a keyboard as well as a bricklayer knows his trowel.

You’ve got a lot of a data, collected over many years and you’ve always been happy with Windows storing it. You’ve thrown extra drives in your machine when space is low, it’s been no problem.

But then, you want to look at an old file, perhaps a video of you and your friends, but alas it’s corrupted. Windows didn’t think to check these files every now and again – but why should it, it’s got far more important things to do, like run the programmes you need and generally make a box of bits work together.

You might look for other ways of storing your data, perhaps a Network Attached Storage device, or NAS. But how much will that cost? There are Synology’s and QNAP’s, but they’ll just tie me into using their system – if there’s a problem, I’ll have to buy ANOTHER Synology. They are really reliable though, hence their popularity, but lots of things are popular and not because they’re good, but because they’re easy.

OK then, so what about UnRAID, god that looks easy to use, though I’m not too sure about it’s file system.

But then I heard about ZFS (yes, back to speaking normally) and how it’s a billion dollar file system – that sounds pretty reliable. I find that TrueNAS (formally FreeNAS) uses it, as well as FreeBSD. It’s certainly a learning curve, that’s for sure – especially if your background isn’t heavily computer based. But the first thing to do is not rush into it, get an old scrap machine, get hold of some small hard drives (may be 250GB or a bit more) and play with it. Learn by doing, that’s pretty much how I’ve learnt about most things.

Now, this new world of data storage is very different to Windows – with that, you have a 1TB drive and you pretty much get all of that drive for storage. With TrueNAS, it’s no where near, it’s based on redundancy and not trusting a drive to do what it’s supposed to do. So if you got for a proper setup, you’ll have the ability to lose 2 drives without data loss. The horrific downside is the amount of drives you need, for example if you were to have 8 drives that have 4TB capacity, you will get around 18TB of storage…instead of the 32GB that those drives would give you. BUT, like I said, you can lose 2 drives without losing data, provided you get on with replacing those drives. I would go on, but this is perhaps a boring bit of text! If I see a number of users are interested, I’ll perhaps expand a little.