I'm looking to buy a barebone box to use as a headless home server. I plan on loading Ubuntu Server 9.10 on it, and using it for backup, running a person webserver, and streaming music from it using Jinzora. I've built it as a VM, and am trying to pick out optimal hardware, and I'm pretty hardware-illiterate.

I understand that I'll need to buy a 2GB stick of DDR2 RAM, and a 3.5" SATA hard drive of whatever size I feel like paying for. My question is whether I should hunt around for a 1000Mbps NIC for optimal streaming. The questions I've read around here indicate that server performance from an Atom server like this are mostly going to be determined by the hard drive disc speed and the network connection, but I haven't built a server like this before. Is the built-in 10/100 Mbps NIC on the mobo sufficient, or should I attempt to find a 1000 Mbps NIC that I can stick in the PCI slot? The 1000 Mbps cards I see on Newegg are all PCI-e, so I'm not really sure what I should do.

Thanks for the help!

  • @Lifeson: Remember, you can always upgrade later if you make the switch to all gigabit. Best of luck to you!
    – Troggy
    Nov 23 '09 at 22:35

Depending on the max throughput you'd need at once, gigabit may not be needed yet, but it's always good to have it for the future and they aren't too expensive. Make sure all other hardware is gigabit capable as well before making the upgrade. There are a couple on newegg they're just tricky to find.

  • I'd only be looking to stream mp3s while I'm travelling for work without having to worry about packing around an external drive. I'd guess that a gigabit would be overkill for this purpose?
    – Lifeson
    Nov 23 '09 at 20:00
  • 2
    @lifeson: it wouldn't hurt. but your bottleneck is going to be the internet uplink, not your home network. Nov 23 '09 at 20:18
  • I was under the impression it was local streaming until I read your comment. Your internet connection will be the bottleneck in this case as ~quack mentioned.
    – John T
    Nov 23 '09 at 21:04
  • Alright. I'll stick to the 10/100 card, and if I need something greater locally (like if I ever build something for video streaming in the home) I'll treat it as a separate project. Thank you all!
    – Lifeson
    Nov 23 '09 at 21:24

I would try and buy a motherboard that has a built on 1000 Mbps card first, then I would look at 3rd party cards.

Also, are you running a gigabit network (switch/router) that this would be able to connect at full speed to? If you have a gigabit card, but no network that supports it, you will not be able to take full advantage of the speed. I recommend upgrading if you plan on doing lots of data transfers. When I upgraded, it was a very nice increase in network speeds and transfers.

  • I'm looking to be as cheap as possible, otherwise I'd definitely get a board with a built-in gigabit card. It's the form factor and ultra-low price tag of the Foxconn I linked that are attracting me to it. You raise a good point about the router; I'll have to double-check when I get home.
    – Lifeson
    Nov 23 '09 at 20:02
  • @Lifeson: Make sure to notice what ~quack mentioned. If you are streaming outside of your home, your bottleneck will be your internet connection upload speed. Gigabit connection speeds would only be able to be utilized within your internal home network provided the proper network was in place.
    – Troggy
    Nov 23 '09 at 20:27

I don't think PCI gigabit cards are anything more than a way to take your money. The PCI bus is your bottleneck and gigabit cards are going to be not much more than an expensive network card with a huge buffer.

You'll need a motherboard with PCI-E or PCI-X instead.

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