My 2-day weekend with Nextcloud on FreeNAS

In recent weeks, I have been asked by friends and old cust0mers on how to extend their NAS shared drives to work-from-home, the new reality. Malaysia went into a full lockdown as of June 1st several days ago.

I have written about file synchronization stories before but I have never done a Nextcloud blog. I have little experience with TrueNAS® CORE Nextcloud plugin and this was a good weekend to build it up from scratch with Virtualbox with FreeNAS™ 11.2U5 (because my friend was using that version).

[ Note ] FreeNAS™ 11.2U5 has been EOLed.

Nextcloud login screen

So, here it how it went for my little experiment. FYI, this is not a How-to guide. That will come later after I have put all my notes together with screenshots and all. This is just a collection of my thoughts while setting up Nextcloud on FreeNAS™.

Dropbox® is expensive

Using cloud storage with file sync and share capability is not exactly a cheap thing especially when you are a small medium sized business or a school or a charity organization. Here is the pricing table for Dropbox® for Business :

Dropbox for business pricing

I am using Dropbox® as the example here but the same can be said for OneDrive or Google Drive and others. The pricing can quickly add up when the price is calculated per user per month.

Scattered and disorganized

The cloud file storage offered by many for free can be addictive. 1GB here, 2GB there. All free. But I have seen too many organizations finding out that putting some files in OneDrive, and maybe duplicates and different versions in Google Drive, and one large folder in the free Dropbox®, with another large folder in pCloud.

These create file storage sprawl, with different copies all over the place with little optimization for consolidating and making work more productive and efficient.

Losing control

With all the folders and files scatter in different clouds, I have also been told that many customers cannot keep track their projects. They do not know where the most relevant copy of the files are, and they have no control of where and how these files are stored. When one free storage runs out, they create new users and subscribe to the free file storage again.

Security alerts

And with the lack of control, security gaps and crevices happen, often unseen as the undisciplined users create cybersecurity risks without even knowing them.

My Nextcloud architecture diagram

I started the project to see if I can build a pretty good enterprise-grade file sharing for Free. Both FreeNAS and Nextcloud are free, and so is Virtualbox running on my very old Gen 2 i5 desktop.

This is what I drew on Saturday morning. I wanted the SMB share in the LAN to be presented as a folder on Nextcloud running in the same FreeNAS™ system.

My Nextcloud on FreeNAS architecture diagram

I have several considerations I have yet to work on and I want to continue to fine tune my testing to do more. These considerations include:

  • Setting up a more streamlined authentication mechanism for both FreeNAS™ user/group and Nextcloud user/group
  • Setting up a more secure nginx configuration with SSL and also with Let’s Encrypt free certificate.
  • Configure and expose the Nextcloud service to the public Internet. Right now, given my shallow knowledge, I am just thinking of Port Forwarding with Dynamic DNS (which could be a really bad idea) or using some sort of free secure reverse proxy.

It works minus the security

After 2 days and going through a whole bunch of obstacles, it is working now minus the authentication and security. I was able to have a Y: network drive which basically mirrored the “Wau” external storages folder in Nextcloud in the internal LAN.

Y: Network Drive

Nextcloud external storages folder

Free as in free

Because of Covid, many organizations have shifted to the cloud, with cloud storage consumption growing leaps and bound. However, the cloud is no longer a cheap option. While storage of most archival and cold files cloud storage (read S3 storage) is cheap, the working nature of moving and sharing files is not. This is going against the nature of working with files seamlessly without the fear of breaking the bank to pay the monthly bills.

This weekend exercise for me was a totally free venture which can be done with so many advantages and benefits. I will document my Nextcloud on FreeNAS™ in a future blog, but for now, I present you with a totally “free as in free” option to have your own private Dropbox®.

Oh, and I watched Army of the Dead by Zach Snyder too. Messy movie.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

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