So, you are now preparing to set up your first home server. One of the choices that you have to make to set up an operating home server is what operating system to use. There are various options available, but most people would end up choosing between Ubuntu Server and FreeNAS. Both are open-source operating systems that come up with similar features, such as copy-on-write, snapshots, SMB, and ZFS. And both also offer robust capabilities in handling NAS and SAN applications. So, should you choose Ubuntu Server or FreeNAS? See the comparisons below.
Ubuntu Server and FreeNAS have quite different interface qualities. Ubuntu Server differs from desktop Linux operating systems that it has a character-based environment (command line interface). Thus, it requires quite a lot of knowledge on how to use the command line. It is not exactly convenient for non-technical users, though advanced users probably would not mind. Fortunately, you can set up an X Windows desktop environment in Ubuntu Server, though this needs to be set up manually.
FreeNAS comes right away with a graphical user interface, making it more convenient and accessible to non-technical users. It does not require extensive command line knowledge. There is even a setup wizard to help you install it correctly step by step. In case of error, there is a restorable configuration file that can revert back changes to a previous time before the error.
Ubuntu Server is an operating system developed by Canonical based on Debian Linux. Due to using a ‘full’ operating system, Ubuntu Server offers an extensive and comprehensive feature set, including compatibility with various virtual machines such as Virtual Box, VMware ESXi Server, Microsoft Hyper-V, and any other IBM PC compatible emulators/virtualizers. All critical services that interact with the Internet run in virtual machines. The developer even offers professional support services. On the other hand, FreeNAS is more of a NAS system, and it is based on FreeBSD and OpenZFS file system. It is simpler, making it suitable for non-technical users, but its feature set is not as vast. (Have a look : Ubuntu 16.04 vs Fedora 24)
Both Ubuntu Server and FreeNAS support 64-bit hardware architecture. However, it is only Ubuntu Server that supports 32-bit and ARM hardware architectures as well. FreeNAS supports neither 32-bit hardware nor ARM architecture.
|- Command line interface, GUI is available but must be installed manually||- Graphical user interface|
|- Requires deep command line knowledge||- Suitable for those with little command line knowledge|
|- More flexible, powerful features||- Limited features|
|- Supports 64-bit, 32-bit, and ARM architectures||- Only supports 64-bit hardware|
These two choices offer different advantages. In general, FreeNAS is more suitable for non-technical people, those who are not familiar with the command line interface. It is very user-friendly and easy to set up. However, if you don’t mind working on the command line interface, you may want to choose Ubuntu Server instead, which has more powerful features and better hardware supports.