I think everyone needs a home server
Most of us are at the stage now that we have moved on from our first computer, so what do we do with all the old ones? Well this is a question I asked myself a few years ago, just as it was becoming to unmanageable dealing with all my data on not so reliable dvdr/cdr. I thought, why not make a server out of all these old parts and fill it with hard drives. It can sit quietly in a hole somewhere and replace this giant pile of discs I have.
So I did it, I made home server server and called him Homer. I have tried a bunch of different setups over the years but the basics of what you want for a home server is: Plenty of HDD space and a fast network connection (Gigabit). The rest depends on what OS/Software/Tasks you will be running on it but most older machines perform great as a simple central linux file server.
Some OS Options
Simple Linux Home Server - Amahi
Amahi is really neat, it replicates all the functionality of MS Windows Home Server plus a lot more. It is not quite as pretty and easy as WHS but it is not far off. It is also now more importantly, supported! It wasn't quite for me, mainly because when I tried it, you were forced to used Fedora, which I am not a fan of.
Microsoft Windows Home Server
Now discontinued, I used this for a year or so and was actually quite happy with it. The main problem is it was slow, this was probably due to the hardware I was using but a switch to linux gave a huge performance gain. Windows Server is suggested as a replacement but that is more geared towards businesses and expensive considering the free alternatives. Read more about the product here.
A DYI, Get your hands dirty, Learn a bit Linux Install, Ubuntu Server
This is what I ended up doing and is certainly the most complex of the bunch, but is the best option if you want to learn a bit of linux or already are quite well versed in it. I used Ubuntu and it is great, long term support and thriving community with loads of guides at your finger tips. As long as you have an internet connection, most questions/issues are just a google away from a solution. Download Ubuntu Server
What I have now in my home server...
What started as some old pc leftovers, has grown up quite a bit. Its main purpuse is to provide central storage but as time went on I kept on finding new and interesting things to do with it and thus motivation to spend more money on it. Today it looks something like this:
- Intel i3 with 16GB Ram
- 256GB SSD for OS and Web Development
- 11TB Raid5 (5 X 3TB Segate NAS HDD)
- Gigabit Lan
- Tv server (via a usb tv tuner)
- File Server
- Plex Server (Home streaming, Remote media, DNLA Server)
- Web Server (Mainly for local development) - Apache / PHP / MySql / Node / Ruby / etc
- Torrent client for downloading open source software
- SSH, Backup, Monitoring, Code repo
Lots more ideas in the pipeline!
Should you build your own home server?
Doing what I did is not for the faint hearted, but is a great way to learn and end up with something pretty damn powerful. There are plenty of options for those who are not comfortable with the techy stuff, for those people... Get yourself a NAS. But if you like a good challenge, do your bit for the environment and recycle that old computer into something useful.