Your business can’t get by without storing data. Period. End of story. But when you go looking for a solution to cover all your storage needs, the possibilities seem endless, and some of them are likely to sap your precious IT budget. So when you’re shopping for data storage tools, you shouldn’t overlook open source.

Once you dive into the world of open source, you’ll find a huge array of solutions for just about every problem or purpose–including storage. To save you from having to dig around in the muck and mire for the right solution to fit your needs, I’ve cobbled together a list of 10 launch points that will help you find the perfect storage tool.

1: Samba

Samba provides secure, stable, and fast storage (as well as print services) for all clients using the SMB/CIFS protocol (all versions of DOS and Windows, OS/2, Linux, and many others). If you plan to host storage for a variety of platforms, you will not get by without Samba. It’s the glue that holds heterogeneous platforms together. In fact, many storage appliances depend upon Samba to get the job done. And now that Samba has nearly seamless integration with Microsoft Active Directory, the solution is all the more flexible.

2: NFS

NFS–the Network File System–was created in 1984 to allow computers to access file systems on remote machines as if they were mounted locally. What’s nice about NFS is that it allows you to create a set-it-and-forget-it distributed file system. One caveat: The setup can get a bit complex and you must set up both server and client. NFS is available for every Linux distribution on the planet and can be installed from either the command line or the distribution’s package manager.

3: File Server

File Server is a dedicated Linux storage distribution that uses Samba, Webmin, Pydio, SSL, and much more to create an outstanding storage solution without having to piece it all together yourself. One of the best features of File Server is that you can set it up as both a standard Windows-compatible storage solution and as a web-based file solution. With the help of Pydio, you can enjoy an incredibly easy -to-use web interface to store your files.

4: Ceph

Ceph is a distributed object store and file system “designed for excellent performance, reliability, and scalability.” In other words, this is storage for the big boys; small shops need not apply. Ceph is the solution you want when you’re looking for massive data storage. It also works seamlessly with block storage–so you can use it on a storage cluster for scalability.

5: FreeNAS

FreeNAS is another storage-based Linux distribution that can be installed on nearly any platform to create an outstanding storage solution. It features replication, encryption, data protection, snapshots, file sharing, an easy-to-use web-based interface, and a powerful plug-in system. FreeNAS provides a versatile solution that any platform can connect to and any business can enjoy.

6: Openfiler

Openfiler makes it easy for you to deploy both storage area networking (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) with all the bells and whistles your company needs. Openfiler offers a community edition and a commercial edition. The commercial edition is ideal for iSCSI Target and Fibre Channel Target stacks and features high availability cluster/failover as well as block-level replication for disaster recovery.

7: ZFS file system

ZFS file system is one of the better file systems to use when considering a storage solution. It offers excellent scalability and data integrity. When you’re installing most Linux distributions, you can choose the file system you want to use. If setting up a Linux storage solution, ZFS will go further to ensure data integrity than any other file system. If you do decide to dive into ZFS, make sure you do plenty of research and understand what it does and how it works.

8: OpenMediaVault

OpenMediaVault is an open NAS solution built on Debian that features services like SSH, (S)FTP, SMB/CIFS, DAAP media server, RSync, and BitTorrent client. OpenMediaVault offers a massive plug-in system–so if it doesn’t have what you need, you can add it with ease. This might well be one of the best out-of-the-box storage solution experiences you’ll ever have. It’s that easy to use. OpenMediaVault also enjoys full-on UPS support.

9: Lustre

Lustre is a “scale-out architecture distributed parallel filesystem.” It’s lightning fast and can handle petabytes of data and tens of thousands of nodes. The description alone should indicate that Lustre is designed to address large-scale storage needs. Since 2005 Lustre has been consistently used by half of the top 10 supercomputers on the planet. Ideal industries for Lustre include meteorology, simulation, oil and gas, life science, rich media, and finance.

10: Linux

I cannot, in good conscience, list the best open source storage solutions without including Linux itself. Why? Because most Linux distributions can easily serve as an effective storage solution. Of course, depending upon your size, you may need to tweak various aspects or turn to an enterprise distribution (such as Red Hat or SUSE). But for network storage, Linux has you covered.

Other solutions?

Storage is an area where open source excels beyond the capabilities of most proprietary solutions. If you’re looking for something powerful, flexible, and scalable, open source and Linux can deliver.

Have you found an open source storage solution that’s not on this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

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