Photo courtesy of Flickr: Rob Stinnett
Whether you want to back up or share files, stream audio and media from different devices, or even host your own website, setting up a home server is a simple solution that you can employ for relatively cheap. In this article, we will be sharing some resources you can use to set up your own home network or – if you want to host your own site – web server.
Creating Your Own Home Server
When it comes to creating your own home server, you have three options: purchase a pre-made server box, repurpose an old computer, or build one from scratch. There are benefits to all of these options, but at the end of the day, it all depends on how hands-on you want to be, the level of customization you want, and your budget.
Contrary to popular belief, a server in a home environment doesn't necessarily require as much firepower as a regular desktop. While a regular computer has to face the task of running multiple programs, streaming videos, dealing with your fifty Internet tabs, and so forth, a server's main function is the handling – and transportation – of data across a network.
That doesn't mean firepower won't help or isn't good – just be aware that the purpose and function of a home server is different than your laptop or gaming PC.
A brief note on hosting your own web server – if you are using your website for business or receive a lot of traffic, you may want to have a hosting company handle your website hosting needs – if things go wrong, it's always better to have someone in the know on hand to quickly resolve any issues. If you are going to make your own web server, then I would suggest doing it with a test site first and running that for several months (or a year) to get the hang of server nuances before trying to host your own business website.
Tools of the Trade
Below is a list of hardware and software you will need to get started setting up your own home server. For our purposes, we are going to suggest using an old computer you have lying around, but you can always match the specs (or improve upon them). This is sort of the minimum we suggest using.
- A computer with a decent processor (think Intel Core i3/above or an equivalent AMD if that floats your boat), between 2-8GB RAM (with 4GB being the median), and at least 2TB of hard drive space (the more space the better – storage is the purpose of the server after all).
- A Flash Drive - anything 4GB or above will suffice. Depending upon which server OS you go with, you'll likely be booting it from this device.
- A monitor, keyboard, and mouse
- A good server Operating System.
If you want to run a Windows-based server, I would check out this informative article from Tested, which shows you how to set up a Windows Home Server.
Another option would be to use FreeNAS, a great (and free) option for setting up a home network. It even allows you to create software based RAIDs – a personal feature I like. Additionally, it comes with a number of optional plug-ins and utilities other networking solutions don't offer which can come quite in handy.
Alternatively, if you have a Windows 8 computer, you can always use this article on setting up a Windows 8 PC as a home server to guide you through the process. If the computer you are using isn't up to spec, you can always add more RAM and hard drive space for pretty cheap.