Another common use for a Windows Home Server system is for centralised storage of files on a home network, both for access over the local network and across the internet. If you don’t want to use a media streaming distribution for your file storage needs, there are plenty of other alternatives for this task too.

The most popular dedicated distribution for turning your server into a network attached storage (NAS) device is FreeNAS. Based on the FreeBSD operating system - unlike the other options here, which are all exclusively Linux-based - FreeNAS includes a wealth of features normally only found in enterprise-grade devices. While this includes CIFS support for Windows shares - just like Windows Home Server - it also extends to AFP support for OS X clients with full Time Machine backup capabilities, NFS for Unix-like clients, FTP, TFTP, rsync, SSH and even iSCSI as both a target and a host.

Open source alternatives to Windows Home Server WHS Alternatives - File Sharing
FreeNAS uses the high-performance ZFS file system for maximum flexibility

If you ask a little more of your server than simply supporting plenty of network protocols, FreeNAS also supports 10GigE networking hardware, uses the high-performance ZFS file system, and boasts software RAID support for striping, mirroring, and both RAID-Z and RAID-Z2 in double or single parity modes. Plugins due for release in version 8.2 will also add a BitTorrent client, UPnP server, iTunes/DAAP support and even a webserver - although these will always remain optional for those who prefer to keep the attack surface of their fileserver down.

Open source alternatives to Windows Home Server WHS Alternatives - File Sharing
Openfiler is likely a better option than FreeNAS for those well-versed in Linux

If you’d prefer a Linux-based system for your file storage needs, consider Openfiler. Although not as impressively feature-packed as FreeNAS, it’s still a powerful package - and comes with optional commercial support if you’re planning on deploying it in a small business environment. Be aware, however, that the current branch of the Openfiler distribution needs a 64-bit processor to run - making it a poor choice for repurposing older hardware, unless you’re happy running the outdated 2.3 build.
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