I’ve been using a WD 8TB external desktop drive for storage on my server. I’m starting to run out of space so wanted to upgrade the storage.


I was initially consdering getting a Network Attached Storage (NAS). My understanding is that it’s basically a low powered computer with a bunch of hard disks on it. It connects directly to the network so is easily accessible by all devices in the same network. It also supports features like hardware RAID etc. It seemed like it would have been the simplest to set up but also the most expensive.

Eventually decided against it because of cost. Also seemed a bit redundant since the server I have right now is pretty much a NAS.

My second option was a Direct Attached Storage (DAS). This is similar to a NAS but connects to a computer directly (via something like USB) instead of to the network. Pros are that it’s cheaper than a NAS. Cons are it has fewer features, not directly accessible via devices in the network etc. It still has features like hardware RAID etc depending on the company that makes it.

I didn’t go with a DAS because it’s still more expensive. I don’t really care about the hardware RAID features.

JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) is like a DAS where you put in a bunch of HDDs and connect it to a computer. The computer should recognize the disks individually. No features like hardware RAID etc and the enclosure itself is very cheap.

This is the option I went with since I don’t really care about the extra features of a NAS/DAS. I did read up on these enclosures online and the consensus seemed to be that reliability is an issue. Since the data I’m working with isn’t too important, I thought it’d be a fun way to experiment.


Once I’d settled on the JBOD option, I had to figure out a good filesystem and volume manager. In my previous setup (single external USB drive), this wasn’t really an issue since I just formatted it with Ext4. With the new setup, I’d have a bunch of external HDDs that I could ideally “pool” into a single storage unit. There are a bunch of file systems / volume managers that do this like LVM, ZFS, Btrfs etc.

Logial Volume Manager (LVM) does just that for Linux. With LVM you can do stuff like create a single logical volume with a bunch of various physical disks. This seemed like the easiest option.

ZFS was the other option. It seemed like ZFS is something that’s mostly usful for managing long term storage of data in a large scale. The focus also seemd to be on making sure data integrity is preserved.

ZFS seemed pretty overkill for my server since the data isn’t that important but I wanted to experiment with ZFS and it’s various features so I went with that. Drawbacks of ZFS was mostly a lack of flexibility which I guess is a trade-off for resilience. It looks like the best setup for ZFS is a bunch of drives where all of them have the same capacity. The total usable capacity in my case (mirrored) was just 50%.

Setting up ZFS on an external JBOD enclosure

Setting up ZFS was very easy on Ubuntu 22.04 server. I mostly followed the Oracle docs which are very comprehensive. There are a bunch of other ZFS guides online too.

I setup ZFS on a cheap 4 bay HDD enclosure with 2 HDDs. First, I had to install ZFS

sudo apt install zfsutils-linux

ZFS has a concept of “pools” so the next step is to create a new pool with the two drives. I set up a mirrored pool where I have 2 drives with the contents on one drive mirrored on the other drive. I have 2 x 16 TB drives so I’ll only have 16 TB of usable storage.

Next, we have to figure out which drives to add to the pool

fdisk -l

This is a very important step since we want to make sure the devices we’re using sda, sdb etc is the correct one. To avoid this confusion, you can use /dev/disk/by-id/ files instead

sudo zpool create -o ashift=12 -m /mnt/data zpool01 mirror /dev/disk/by-id/<hdd1> /dev/disk/by-id/<hdd2>

This command with create a new mirrored ZFS pool zpool01 with the two HDDs

and . The `ashift` parameter is to math the HDD physical sector size (12 = 4096 bytes). Other online guides seem to recommend setting this value manually. The `-m /media/data` means ZFS will automount the drive to that location. ZFS also has the option of automatically compressing any data you write to HDD. It uses `lz4` by default which adds a small overhead to writes on HDD but is recommended. You can enable compression with ``` zfs set compress=lz4 zpool01 ```