My family lives in 3 different countries in Europe. We've all got decent Internet connections, but we're struggling with sharing files (documents, photos and home movies, and music).

I'm dreaming of running a networked home NAS from my closet and sharing that securely with my family, but I am unsure how to go about it.

Ideally, it should cover these bases, in rough priority:

  • must work well with Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows (XP + 7),
  • onsite network drive for my media center PC and desktop PC,
  • onsite data backup location for my home computers,
  • offsite data backup location for the offsite family (Win&Linux),
  • offsite secure file share to my family (Win&Linux, FTP would be acceptable),
  • compatible with CrashPlan offsite backup software,
  • web front-end for remote management.


  • gigabit Ethernet,
  • at least 5 hot-swap drive bays (3½" is fine) with different-sized disks,
  • RAID-5 or better,
  • performance is less important than features; I'm not doing video editing or databases.

I'm considering the Drobo 5N or possibly the expensive Drobo B800 which has more drive bays but probably isn't worth it for home use. ReadyNAS is also often mentioned but I didn't find a lot of details about it. Lots of people praise FreeNAS and I'd be interested in that too, especially if it would be easier to fulfill the above wishlist with FreeNAS than with e.g. a Drobo.

But really the hardware isn't the problem -- it's the whole idea:

I've fiddled with computers long enough to see that unboxing some hardware and plugging it in is dead-easy - but that's not the end of it. Once I got the hardware powered up, how can I work through my list above? How can I make this available to my family -- securely -- without cursing my ADSL router to the moon in the process? I'm savvy with computers but I am not a datacenter sysadmin or Linux guru.

Also, it seems that CrashPlan only works with "locally attached storage" meaning USB, not network drives. That means I can't have this NAS backed up into CrashPlan. If i want to have data in CrashPlan, it must be local on my computer and from there CrashPlan can copy it to the NAS and into their cloud - but I must "waste" local space for that to work. It would also be totally cool to mirror this NAS to an identical NAS in my brother's home -- but that's still not a backup!

For the sake of argument, let's assume a budget of EUR 1000 and a handful of late nights to get it all configured.

  • You might take a look at Seafile or OwnCloud? These may deliver the front end of things you are looking for, and are Open Source so free :) Tie them in with your FreeNAS maybe? – jmreicha Mar 27 '13 at 14:36
  • Interesting suggestions, thank you! Seafile seems to be aimed at collaboration for teams but OwnCloud looks very promising! I'll look deeper into those. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 27 '13 at 20:03
  • @ChrisK I haven't started that project yet -- I've just moved into my new home and I'll get around to this in the next few weeks. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 3 '13 at 19:14

This is practically the same as a business setting up a file server. I have a readyNAS at home but haven't researched sharing it. At work, I have a RAID fileserver that I access from home, at work, all over (which gives me some experience with your question).

In the bigger picture, here are the steps in no particular order:

  • have a static IP from the ISP where the server lives (for your home internet service)
  • set up port routing in your firewall (usually the wireless+router box)
    • find out which ports you intend to serve, send them to the internal IP address of your NAS
    • set the DHCP server in your router to start at .100 or somethign
    • set your NAS to a static IP address within your LAN to a value outside the range of the DHCP server

For my work machine, it is running Ubuntu, a samba server, and openssh-server. At the workplace, I route port 22 (ssh) to this server. Within work, windows computers can connect to the IP address of the server, authenticate, and share files. This is handled within the samba.cnf configuration and there is a LOT of info on the internet on how to do it. I have no idea how you would securely do windows file sharing over the WAN, though ssh tunneling would work if you can figure that out.

For across the internet, I use SSH, SCP, and SSHFS to connect computers and share / edit files and I use id_rsa.pub and private keys for authentication. All of these use the ssh protocol for the connection. I do not know the explicit steps required to get Windows to share files, but I'm sure it isn't too complicated with googling. I know I use "putty" in windows to SSH in to ubuntu computers.

So, to get you on to letting a windows computer from outside your network share folders via windows sharing:

  • find out the port(s) to forward
  • find out the encryption and authentication schema available
  • test locally on your LAN
  • then test from work, etc
  • publish a how-to for your relatives
  • answer the phone when they call for help ;)

This isn't a "how-to" but should have enough info that you can get working on your goal. :)

  • Thanks for the edits! I'll try and remember the -, it looks easy enough. :) – Chris K May 28 '13 at 18:34
  • This solution sounds like a lot of terminal sessions and other keyboard work. Isn't there a more 2013-ish way of achieving this? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 14 '13 at 20:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.