Advice and help regarding recommended server specs for home server use

By Leeky
May 16, 2010
  1. Hello, and sorry if the title isnt the best, I wasnt really sure how to word it I'm afraid.

    Having used search for the last couple of hours, and seen many threads its clear I'm in the right place. :) You all have a lovely forum!

    I'm looking for a solution to a rather annoying problem in our household. We have upwards of 8-10 computers/laptops in our house, and documents/media are fast becoming a nightmare!

    We've decided to go along the route of purchasing/building a server to basically use as a fileserver, to centralise our documents/media and thus enable access to either user account from any one particular computer we have.

    Below is what I'm looking to be able to do:

    1. Fileserver (mainly comprising of centralised documents on the server itself accessable by each person individually but private from others)
    2. Central backup of all crucial computers to prevent data loss (stored on the server, and done by the server on a regular basis)
    3. A dedicated server firewall to place in front of the internet, before the network.
    4. A web server, so I can run image copies of my own personal forum/websites and test any changes BEFORE doing them to my live site.
    5. To download torrents/large files etc directly on the server. Like an automated nightly backup of my web hosting server online for example.
    6. Stream full HD from the server to our media centre pc (and onto a HD TV).

    I was thinking along the lines of using 3 older, seperate servers. the first being the firewall server. The 2nd being a fileserver/backup server, and the 3rd being a intranet only web server to test new software etc on. I plan to wire the entire house with cat6 cable, and run everything at gigabit speed (all computers have gigabit capable hardware already)

    I have been reading online for weeks now, but unfortunately the answers I seem to need aren't explained in posts I've been reading.

    The servers (whether built or bought) will run Ubuntu Server 10.04, and we have a mixture of Ubuntu 10.04/Vista/W7/MAC OSX operating systems. Shortly it will be only Ubuntu 10.04/MAC OSX and no Windows at all.

    Basically, what I need to know is:

    1. Can a fileserver/backup solution/firewall/web server be all run from the one server acceptably?
    2. Am I wiser to split these up into seperate servers for security reasons?
    3. If I seperate them as above, can I just get away with using old servers, say with twin xeon or Opteron 2.0-2.5ghz CPU's with 2-4GB RAM?
    4. I have a now spare Dell Vostro desktop PC with a Intel Q8200 Quad core, 8GB (non ECC) RAM, and 4TB of storage (4x 1TB), as I now use an Imac I recently purchased. Would this be stupidly overkill for use as a server above?
    5. I would be sincerely grateful if someone could be kind enough to explain about the required specs should my idea be well off. I don't want to spend thousands, but I don't want to waste money on something thats useless either.

    I plan to purchase a rackmount cupboard to house these into, along with the gigabit switches so rackmounted servers would be an advtange. I can put my pc into a rackmount 2U case if needed. :)

    Any advice is welcome. If you need more explain please do get in touch. Thank you for your time. :)


    EDIT: Not sure if it needs mentioning or not, but we use a Virgin Media 50mb broadband connection, so whatever solution needs to be able to utilise this speed fully. :)
  2. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,383   +105

    Do you have this network in place already?

    This is mine below done with Cisco Virtual Network Design Tool.

    For web server I use IIS 7.
  3. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 3,797   +116

    No, I haven't installed anything yet.

    We've just moved, or rather, are in the process of moving. Our old house is cat5e wired to every single room, but just uses Netgear fast ethernet network switches, along with our D-Link router. To be honest the limits of this setup, and very slow network file transfering has been getting to me for a while, but I've not done anything as I knew we were planning on getting a bigger house.

    I've decided where I want the servers. We have a cupboard in our hallway a perfect size that is literally the centre of the house - So ideal for running cables to pretty much everywhere required.

    I'm looking at this with open eyes really.

    I have this quad core Intel PC I can put into a rackmount case, but I feel it would be better suited as a desktop than wasted as a server. But that said, I don't have the experience in servers to know what would be suitable.

    Either way, we're looking around 8-10TB for media/documents storage alone. I have nearly 3.75TB of Media on my Dell quad cores drives now! Then I'd say about 1-2TB should handle the backups for all the computers (my Imac has a dedicated Firewire800 external drive for timemachine and therefore isnt needing server backups).

    Out of that, it works out the following:

    500GB-1TB would be essential documents/pictures/stuff that MUST be safe (I'm wasting a fortune on DVD DL's at the moment for backups weekly!)
    1-2TB for backup's of all the hard drives, which could be less as would be compressed. When we move solely over to Linux this will drastically decrease though!!) - I reckon 250GB would be more than enough to hold multiple images of each computer then.
    4TB (upto 8-10TB eventually) of media (mainly HD video etc) which is replacable but if it can be sensibly backed up would be nice!

    The webserver in my opinion is neither here nor there, as I have 30GB total space, and I'm not even using 20% of it. So thats easily sorted on a seperate server.

    Its finding something suitable really for all of the above. Most of my questions have been answer by reading on this very forum, and via google over the last few weeks, but I'm finding it very hard to find out what sort of specification's my servers should be, and whether it would be more suitable to split them up or not.

    I'd welcome absolutely any advice on the subject, as I'd like to press on with ripping all the floor boards up, and fitting all the wiring (and then sorting the creaking boards!!).

    My two remaining, but biggest questions are really whether I am really future proofing my network if I use cat6 cabling (given its so much harder to work with than cat5e). I have everything to work with cat5e already, so jsut need more wiring, and I know it will handle gigbit LAN fine. But will I live to regret using it.

    My other, bigger concern is regarding the server. I don't want something barely up to the task, but I also don't know for certain if my Dell quad core desktop would be suitable to do everything I need for the servers, or even whether it would be suitable given that its a desktop setup, not designed to run in an server environment.
  4. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,383   +105

    I would stick using the Quad-core for the main access to your files. I just added more HDD they run quiet WD Blue SATA II. 1.5TB but again I have more HDDs on the older signal core I was using prior. Data doesn't go away. I had merged all data and media one night over the gig network. Since I am now using dual direction PCI-E and ditched the PCI gig data transfer was pretty smooth for me here. I now use ESR-9850 router prior was Belkin N+ Gig/Storage and DIR-655. This newer router made by EnGenius also Called Senoa/EnGenius ESR-9850 has Gig, 802.11n, AP/Repeater modes. I use that the main router the Gig ports a not limited they have 614 to 704Mbps through-put and max connections of 19,727 documented on Small Net Builders site. It blows the DIR-655, Belkin N+ and NetGear WNDR-3700 out of the water in routing over Gig networks. LAN to LAN I transfer a lot of media over the Gig side and frankly the speeds have been very good in MB/s almost 200 mb/s. I also do a lot of RDP too.

    This is the best time to buy hardware upgrades. 2TB I would stick with not 1TB on some brands like Seagate had a lot of issues with firmware. But I am sticking with WD.

    I had mention that I run internal Web Server as my needs acquire me to remote in from the outside or while I am on vacation to access my server on a ship or overseas. Quota for the Web Server is unlimited. Though it really not using a lot of space. The program I use to mange it runs better on quad and more RAM. It also has FTP features to manage my host site for business.

    Everything here is Windows 7 Ultimate 32/64-bit or Home Premium 64-bit (new laptops have this OS) Netbooks also run 7 too. My server is 64-bit. Windows 7 gives you two networks Workgroup or HomeGroup. HomeGroup works more with access media over the share network better than it did in prior versions. I was running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise because of the multi-CPU access. I did migrate over to Windows Server 2008 Enterprise wow what difference in 4C/4T operations. The issue with Server OS is that limited options to spend more on Security. Where as the 7 U/64-bit there is plenty software available.

    As for the homestead here I have older home with basement + garage, first, second and huge attic to me that would be consider the 3rd floor, patio, and woods. Coverage has been very well with 802.11g or 802.11n.

    Wire management for wired side I run CAT5e as most of the hardware supports that Ethernet Cable. I take 5/8 wood hole drill bits to cut into the oak wood floors (near the baseboard) to snake the CAT 5e down into the basement. Second floor the cables are run out by AC in the Window or using 1/2 cutter into the window frame to the outside snaking cable over the roof down to opening on the first floor. Like in my case old dryer vent. Ethernet cable can stand up to rain, snow, ice, cold, heat etc. I've been doing this way for over 10 years.
  5. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 3,797   +116

    Thanks for that very detailed reply. :)

    So my quad core would be a suitable option to use as my main fileserver then? Does the fact it has 8GB of (non ECC) RAM pose a problem?

    In regards to the webserver, and to the firewall - Should these both be seperate servers giving me 3 servers in total? Or can the quad core server be more than acceptable for the job of all 3? I don't want to un-neccessarily overload the server, when purchasing a used, twin xeon/opteron 2.-2,5ghz server is so darn cheap!

    Is cat6 really worth the hassle?
  6. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,383   +105

    No! Mine is the same configuration in RAM. Additional cores can handle many task and the RAM would be more ideal with 64-bit OS. The standard OS firewall is just good enough with good security program. I don't want anything to hose the network or the system that's running the network. As for backup you should have enough HDD to support all your systems drive C: is the one you want to have a backup image in case of disaster.

    What type of CPU are using now Intel or AMD in your server? Are you using any network device that supports CAT6? CAT5e just fine and cheaper to get.
  7. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 3,797   +116

    I don't have any servers right now. Hence why I was considering using my now redundant quad core PC as I now use my Imac everyday.

    Would it be wise to run my web server for website/forum testing on an older, seperate server?

    I'd only be keeping the installation discs as backup images anyway. The media/docs will be on the servers storage drives. I'll be using Ubuntu server regardless of what server I use - So it'll take up sod all drive space. :D

    Currently, I have gigabit NIC's in all computers/laptops, but my network switches are only fast ethernet. So I'll be needing to purchase gigbit switches. I was just going to get a patch panel, but having read into it, its not the best idea as I would be wasting bandwidth on my network. So network switches it is. :D I'll get a rackmount version so it can sit tidy in a rackmount case. :)

    So I need everything to run gigabit, from the wire, to the sockets and wall plugs, to the network switches. But I must have gigbit network speeds, because the current ones are far too slow for me and have been annoying me for a long time. lol.

    Cat6 cable is pretty much the same price as cat5e, I've nothing to save by choosing the older stuff instead. cat6 socket modules are too badly prices either, so I was thinking of properly installing the cat6 into boxes with ethernet ports on them in the various rooms, and then just using patch leads to connect the sockets to my computers. From what I've read sticking normal RJ45 plugs on cat6 is a big no no. lol. So this approach is a workaround (or sort of for me), which enables a tidier installation without resorting to expensive tools. Plus, my shielded cat5e cable can be used to make patch leads and save me some money. :)
  8. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,383   +105

    CAT6 is rated 500MHz as CAT5e is 350MHz still if you want the CAT6 go with that one. Yes the key is to save money. Down the line you can always upgrade the CAT cable if your needs require it. Ubuntu Server well okay, Windows IIS 7 Web Server here on Windows 7 network. I am sure the Linux base Server will suite your needs for backup and NAS features.
  9. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 3,797   +116

    Thanks for your advice.

    I'll get started in the next couple of weeks then hopefully, going to find a 305m reel of cat6 I'm happy with, then get all the module boxes and plan my network wiring, and I'm away. :D
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