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FreeNAS on VMWare with External Drive


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I have been looking around on line for several days for a solution to my problems and have not yet been able to come up with a solution.  So I am hoping that someone in this community will be able to help me.  You all have been able to help me with problems in the past for which I am grateful.


I have a FreeNAS server with a ZFS array of 4 2TB drives.  I had been backing some of the data o that server up to CrashPlan.  When they dropped their consumer offering I did switch to the Small Business offering but was never able to make that work correctly.  So, after they were not able to resolve the issue for me I dropped my account.  So now I am trying to find a way to back up my data.


I have an external 4TB drive that I have been trying to use to make a backup of my data here at my house.  At least then I would have 2 copies.  I am trying to see if there is a way to use my Google account for a third copy of the most critical data.  I have tried to put the external drive on my Windows 10 desktop computer and use a Robocopy script to back up what is on the FreeNAS machine.  However, I get a a lot of IO errors when I run the script and have not been able to figure out what is causing them since both the FreeNAS machine and the external drive seem to be working fine.


Now I am trying something different.  I have created a second FreeNAS server on my ESXi host.  I have connected the external drive to that host.  My plan is to connect the external drive to that VM and then set up an RSynch job to copy all of my data from the first FreeNAS machine to the VM FreNAS server to the external drive.  I could have that job configure to synchronize the data as frequently as I would like.


My problem is that I have not been able to get the VM to see, much less mount, the external drive.  I think it might be that I need to install VMWare Tools to that VM, but I have not been able to find any instructions on how to do that on a FreeBSD guest OS.


My questions for you are:

  • Is this a good plan for backing up my data or is there a better option that someone can offer?
  • IS there a good way to back up this data to a cloud system.  I would prefer to have something that would back up directly from the server, not like I had to do with CrashPlan where I backed up a workstation with a mapped drive to the server.
  • Can you tell me how to get a VMWare virtual computer to recognize and use an external drive.  I have been thinking about getting an external drive enclosure where I could put drives to scan them with SpinRite.  I would like to have a VM with SpinRite that I could use to do this at any time.

Thanks for your help with these issues.


Dan Brown

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I have an update for all of you on this topic.  After doing a lot of Googling and playing around with my ESXi host and the FreeNAS VM I finally figured out how to get the usb drive to pass through to the VM.  I had to create a new usb device on that guest.  Once I did that I was able to see that drive and add it to a pool.  Then I was able to set up an Rsync job that will sync my data from my physical FreeNAS server to the external; drive on the virtual FreeNAS server.

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