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What hardware and software will I require to run a Linux Home Server?

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migrated from Aug 27 '09 at 23:11

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

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Consider using energy-saving hardware, like systems built on Intel Atom processors, if you plan to keep your home server always on

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For your first server, I would just use whatever you have available. Don't invest in much hardware until you find that Linux works well for you.

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I've had something similar at home for years. My advice:

  • get a BIG CASE, not some rinky-dink one-drive enclosures or something where the drives all hang off USB. Something cavernous. You WILL stuff it full of more drives over the next few years.
  • Run RAID-1 for peace of mind, AND have a regular backup strategy with offsite backups.
  • You want a stable OS with quality releases with long term support so you're not constantly chasing a moving target. To me that means Debian/Stable or an Ubuntu LTS release. I know nothing about Arch Linux though.
  • Don't overestimate how much CPU you need and insist on some monster CPU, most of the time the system will be waiting for network or disk. (But given the low-end spec of the SheevaPlug you mention I guess you've already figured that out). One of the nicest home server setups I've seen used a low power mini-ITX board (looking somewhat lost inside a full-tower case) with an 8-port SATA controller in it's single PCI slot.
  • The WoL isn't that important, you'll just end up with the box on all the time anyway as soon as you discover you want it to automatically monitor your webcams, say.
  • Instead of WOL, once you get multiple disks worry more about how you can spin some of them down (drive SMART settings). Basically this just means storing the frequently accessed stuff on a different drive to the rarely accessed stuff.
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I've had something similar at home for years What, a server that has no purpose whatsoever? Why not just buy a Cray and run Tic-Tac-Toe on it? – Ernie Dunbar Aug 28 '09 at 20:26
Eh ? I don't get your point. It's a server. It serves up files and data over NFS and SVN and POP3 and other protocols to client machines. Cray power not required. – timday Sep 2 '09 at 12:27

Find an old machine that nobody is using anymore. Ask your family or friends if they have one lying around. Old hardware has a habit of ending up in garages and attics. You don't need a beast of a machine to run a few Linux services.

When it comes to software It's hard to give any tips without knowing what you intend to use the machine for. You could start by choosing a Linux distro. I find Ubuntu to be a good starting distro for many people. Try to install it and just start poking around. Don't get angry if you don't get a hang at it at the first try. Linux takes some time getting used to. I would advise you to not take the easy way out and install a window managed like Gnome or KDE. That would just slow down your learning (I assume you are doing this to master the art of Linux).

You should definitely have a look at the package manager (apt) Ubuntu is using. It helps a lot for new users to be able to search and install software without have to compile it from source. Try to Google the services you want to install on your server and use apt to install them. There is also a lot of guides out there to help people just getting into the Linux world. Remember that Google is your friend! Have fun!

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Bottom line: You want quality hardware -- this will give you stability.

The speed on Linux is not so important since any old machine will make a Linux server perform quite well.

To get a linux box running, at least more so in the past, you had to know what type of hardware you had. So, having quality, name-brand hardware just makes life easier. Buying the cheap knock-off hardware at the discount computer store will generally just cause headaches.

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Not much for a simple server.

A desktop box, that can run for days without overheating

Linux, openSUSE works very nicely for servers if you want the GUI, if not ubuntu server edition

Apache2 with modules like mod_rewrite

mysql and mysql administrator

php5 and php apache libraries

a hard drive big enough to fit what your gonna put on your computer

Depending on what the server will run, you may need more, and we can help you figure out what is it.

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First you need to decide what kind of server you want - file storage, web, irc,virtualmachine host or any mix of this - your software choices and hardware requirements are going to depend on this. Next select an OS, and preferably do a dry set up run on a VM. Make sure everything works to your satisfaction.

I'd suggest getting a good book, and going headless and administering the box over SSH. This is a good way to cut your teeth on command line linux.

Planning is really key.

Software wise:

What kinda server are you running? a *amp/web server? file storage? Is it a special purpose box, such as a nas, or one for various uses ? Would you be best off with a barebones or server distro, or a special purpose one? Think and do a little homework around your needs

Hardwarewise, my current home server is geriaric- its a PIII, running ubuntu. You have 4 options

1) put old hardware to use - consolidate as much ram, hard disks and such into a single box. test the ram (with memtest) and the hard drives, to make sure they are good. Install the os, and the apps and you are good. This is what i did. I get uptime measured in months before someone accidentally trips the house power, or accidentally unplugs it. More importantly

2) Get a low end, low power box, such as the atom family. Put in as much ram as you can, and as big a hard drive or drives as you need.Skimp on a case, and shove it somewhere inconspicuious. Considering that the atom could theoratically hold up to 2 pata and 2 sata drives, this works excellently for a from scratch home server.

3) build a server off desktop parts or proper server parts - this has the most room for expansion, but since most servers are CLI only, unless you expect massive load,or need more than 2-3 tb of storage this is overkill. my web/irc server dosen't even max out the 640 mb of ram i have

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I recommend an M388 for your hardware. Install Pidgin on it.

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Typical M388 conversation: "WTF?" BOOM – jweede Aug 28 '09 at 11:58
what was the point of that answer? If you want to help, please do, then you can joke around a bit. – alpha1 Aug 28 '09 at 19:46
What's the point of the question really? "I want to run a linux server" without providing any more detail is like saying "I want a computer." The question itself is entirely retarded. I could have just as well recommended a P100 and installing a Day of Defeat server on it. He may as well install Oracle 11 on it. – Ernie Dunbar Aug 28 '09 at 20:22

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