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Thread: Building a home server - where to start

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    Building a home server - where to start

    I've built my own system a number of years ago, 2009 to be precise. I've accumulated a lot of stuff which I don't really want existing on this PC anymore. The PC is actually a gaming PC, so quite powerful, however over the years it's not really been used for gaming, mainly work and watching movies.

    I'd like to keep most things on a home server now, as it'll enable me and others to access things remotely plus stream off of Plex for example.

    Having said all this, I do have a few questions.

    1.) What sort of power does a server really need to have? I would assume an i7, top of the range CPU is a bit of an overkill...

    2.) What kind of operating system should a server have? I use plex all the time, so this server would have to provide me a way to continue to use plex

    3.) How do I set up this server to enable me to transfer files between computers on the same network, and on a different network?


    If there's anyone out there that has built a server of their own, I'd like to see a few specs if possible
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    DILLIGAF GoNz0's Avatar
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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    If that CPU is spare then use it, Plex transcodes some formats and that caused me to ditch the HP microserver as it didn't stand a chance. I bought a 2nd hand rack server off eBay to take the CPU but ended up keeping the rack server and moving it out the way as they tend to be noisy (moving it to the loft in a couple of weeks to free up a bit more space.

    And the file transfer thing, windows networking, setup a share (google it)

    As for power I assume your gaming rig has power saving so it will in theory idle very low. Mine does.

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    The late but legendary peterb - Onward and Upward peterb's Avatar
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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    What sort of material do you want it to serve, and what clients will be using it?

    I use a Linux based server which acts as a file, mail web and latterly a simple media server.

    SAMBA serves files to Windows, mac and other Linux machines using the server message block ptotocol.

    Posrptfix acts as a mail relay, dovecote provides imap based mail delivery systems

    Apache provides web services, and minidlna provides media streaming to dlna clients.

    None of it requires a lot a grunt, although using a more sophisticated Dona server (like Plex or tombstone which does transcoding) will require more.
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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    Quote Originally Posted by adamsonm View Post
    1.) What sort of power does a server really need to have? I would assume an i7, top of the range CPU is a bit of an overkill...
    It depends very much on the applications running on the server. Since this will be a media server, an i7 might be beneficial if you're streaming while transcoding to multiple client devices. Whether or not you'll need transcoding power depends on what codecs your client devices support and what codecs your media files are encoded in. If everything you have is in h.264 mp4/mkv and all your client devices support it, an i3 will do just as well, otherwise you'll need more CPU grunt.

    Quote Originally Posted by adamsonm View Post
    2.) What kind of operating system should a server have? I use plex all the time, so this server would have to provide me a way to continue to use plex
    Plex media server has broad operating system support, if you're competent with Linux that's a good choice. Otherwise Windows whatever you have a spare license for will work fine. The only problem you might have with Windows is plex media server will require you to log in on boot for plex to start, there's ways around that to make it start as a service but it's a fair bit more work. But otherwise you'll have to do that every login and lock your account again to keep the desktop session running but secure.

    Quote Originally Posted by adamsonm View Post
    3.) How do I set up this server to enable me to transfer files between computers on the same network, and on a different network?
    Windows file sharing (SMB, or server message block) works well enough in most cases, Windows supports it natively of course, and Linux can support it through the Samba daemon. Permissions might get fiddly at times but it's easy enough, and most platforms support it one way or another, I use solid explorer to connect to my Linux server.

    Quote Originally Posted by adamsonm View Post
    If there's anyone out there that has built a server of their own, I'd like to see a few specs if possible
    This is more or less my home server: https://uk.pcpartpicker.com/list/WvYwCy
    It's running Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS.
    Last edited by aidanjt; 12-01-2017 at 01:26 AM.
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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    I built a dual hexcore CPU home server from bits off Ebay last year. Overall the performance is probably not that much better than a modern quadcore Xeon, but the CPUs were about £50 each!

    Admittedly its hugely overpowered for the workloads currently applied to it and I don't think I would recommend anyone else do the same thing as I did (despite the fact I enjoyed it), but I would certainly recommend the OS I chose. After a lot of research I went with Un-RAID which (setting aside the RAM compatibility issues I had that are nothing to do with the software) I found overall to be pretty straight forward to set up and get advanced applications running on. Plex will certainly work on it, although I prefer Emby which is overall a very similar service.

    The biggest advantage of UnRaid vs other typical NAS OSes is that it doesn't actually create an array in the typical fashion. Usually a RAID array (except for RAID 1) will stripe data across drives and will require them all to be the same size. UnRAID will create an array out of any sized drives you have as long as the Parity drive is the same size or larger than the biggest data drive but it will maintain individual file integrity. This means if, for example, a drive and the parity were to fail, you wouldn't lose the files left on the none-broken disks.
    The disadvantage here is that you dont get any speed benefits that you get with a striping RAID, although having an SSD cache drive can lift some of this restriction and frankly, I havent noticed a speed issue even when transferring to a disk directly.
    Un-Raid is not free, unlike FreeNAS or many of the other NAS software options. Its not expensive by any means, but there is a cost to consider.

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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    Quote Originally Posted by adamsonm View Post
    I've built my own system a number of years ago, 2009 to be precise. I've accumulated a lot of stuff which I don't really want existing on this PC anymore. The PC is actually a gaming PC, so quite powerful, however over the years it's not really been used for gaming, mainly work and watching movies.

    I'd like to keep most things on a home server now, as it'll enable me and others to access things remotely plus stream off of Plex for example.
    Great idea, lots of people do this. I started doing this in the early Pentium days, re-purposing old PCs to act as a home-server. Much better bang-for-buck than buying a NAS etc.


    1.) What sort of power does a server really need to have? I would assume an i7, top of the range CPU is a bit of an overkill...

    2.) What kind of operating system should a server have? I use plex all the time, so this server would have to provide me a way to continue to use plex

    3.) How do I set up this server to enable me to transfer files between computers on the same network, and on a different network?
    1) i7 is overkill, but they're also pretty good at power saving when not doing a lot. I initially looked at low-power CPUs for mine when I had to buy fresh (the old PC went pop) and somebody had done a decent in-depth study on the low-power CPUs vs mainstream. The power consumption was essentially the same when idle, and whilst there was power savings when underload, the load took longer to complete, so the advantage was lost.

    2) Linux is ideal, it's free, great on resource management and easy to manage remotely. I use openSUSE as it feels better for this sort of use than the more desktop/simplified distributions.

    3) File transfers on a local network you use CIFS (Windows file sharing), Linux and Windows provide this and it's straight forward to setup. Just make sure your systems are set to use the same "workgroup" and they will discover each other automatically.

    For remote use, you have lots of options. You can use SFTP to upload/download files. You could run an OpenVPN server and use a VPN connection and use Windows File sharing. You could setup Apache and use WebDAV over HTTPs. I use a mix.

    If there's anyone out there that has built a server of their own, I'd like to see a few specs if possible
    After getting a cracking deal on a microserver I finally decommissioned my Dad's home-server. Which used to be my PC, many many years ago. It was an old Pentium 4 and it happily dealt with media transcoding (although only one stream at a time). It went as it didn't support virtualisation or 64-bit.

    Personally, I'm currently running a Sandy Bridge Pentium/Celeron cheapy thing. It's dual core and not very powerful. I run VMWare ESXi Hypervisor (free) as the base system with three or four virtual machines running on it all the time. One is my NAS/Media server (serviio) that does media transcoding fine. Another is a pfsense virtual router/firewall which is far better than the usual hub junk you get from your ISP. As well as some other lab stuff.

    I would highly recommend going down the virtualisation route, it's free and provides you with a great deal of flexibility. You can install ESXi for free (you might need to find network card drivers and what not). This runs "headless" (no need for a monitor). You then connect to it via a web-page or client and you can then setup virtual machines to run on it. And remotely control them from there too.

    The real advantage I have found to this, is upgrade time. When I want to upgrade the OS or make a major change, I just snapshot the virtual machine and do the work. If it goes wrong, I rollback to the snapshot and it's as if nothing ever changed. If my hardware dies, I can install VMware on any other machine, and upload the virtual disk image from the old server and it just works.

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    Senior Member MaddAussie's Avatar
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    Re: Building a home server - where to start

    I run a G8 HP Microserver running FreeNas, I run Plex in a jail (freenas plugin) along with a few other bits and bobs. Plex transcodes everything fairly well, never really had an issue.


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