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Tech - Looking for a home server solution (1 Viewer)

Redbot

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edit: Update! Based on replies I have new requirements

I need a server tower that:
  • is power efficient
  • can host non-website RedGuides needs (symbol server, debug server, build server), which thankfully don't need much cpu
  • can host my family's plex server, 3 streams at once max (we're humble 720p/1080p folk, no 4k)
  • can hold 3+ HDDs or ~20tb
  • below $1k
Old post, back when I was naive and believed a tiny little intel nuc could do everything:



I need a pc that:
  • is power efficient for 24/7 on-time
  • is able to run VS 2019 and/or build Very Vanilla
  • can host the RG symbol server & debug server
  • can run Plex, both as a client (hdmi/5.1 audio) and server
  • can do some light gaming: 6 box EQ, modern 2D indie games.
  • isn't housed in a giant tower. I live in a small condo and need a small server.
My Intel Nuc (7i5BNH) can do all this on paper, but in practice it can't go a week without crashing. I'd consider a hosted solution, but every cloud option I've seen is more expensive after ~24 months of operation than running my own server out of my house. Thank you I love you
 
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Hit up Dell on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I got a Xeon Quad Core 8 thread for $199 and threw in a SSD and HHD I had sitting around and paid like $38 for another 16GB of ECC ram. They had an 8 core 16 thread Xeon for $499 at the time too. Could throw a video card in either and kill EQ with it. Both were mid-tower form factor.
 
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Turn your NUC into an ESXi node. Divy some of the labor (Especially SERVER duties) out to VMs inside NUC. Let a roku handle plex client. Build a moderate gaming box.
 

drwhomphd

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I think @Denethor has the right idea on splitting up duties. The biggest challenge you'll have doing all that and meeting your requirements, in my mind, is the power consumption bit. I'd probably aim for a modern desktop processor around 65W TDP (I think most the i5s and mid-range Ryzens meet this) and a mid-range or lower video cards. That should keep power usage to Max around 200-250W for the box I'd think.

I second @wired420 about checking Dell. The Dell outlet is also a good spot for machine deals a few generations old that are dirt cheap. A friend of mine has much success on this one.
 
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Denethor was right on the money in my opinon.

Buy a second NUC/SFF comp, Run VMware for how many linux/win servers you need. Shove it in a closet. Use a RoKu for Plex Client and use the current NUk for gaming and remote terminal to the Vmware box.
 

drwhomphd

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Denethor was right on the money in my opinon.

Buy a second NUC/SFF comp, Run VMware for how many linux/win servers you need. Shove it in a closet. Use a RoKu for Plex Client and use the current NUk for gaming and remote terminal to the Vmware box.
I'd argue it is also acceptable, if you're cheap like me, to leverage VirtualBox or HyperV as well if you don't want to fork out for VMWare licenses.
 

Knightly

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I don't think that's an issue when you're virtualizing on a NUC. But it is correct you don't get vmotion et al. I was just pointing out that there are free VMWare options available.
 
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ESXi free works well as long as you are not using any hypervisor cluster or central management type stuff (basically it's api is not available)

So if you have 1-20 physical machines you are not hoping to cluster up (for HA/vmotion/shared storage etc...) and you just need place to run a VM or 100s of them then it's great

Both hyperv and kvm have come up to par to VMware for many things and if i had to pay $ id probably be using them
 

Redbot

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You've all talked me into splitting up some tasks between devices, thank you for the advice. I've also decided to go with a tower, I'll make a shelf for it in the closet. Being able to spin up a bunch of persistent VMs (without them crashing after a day) is going to make my life a lot easier.

I'm concerned that a custom built tower won't have the uptime compared to battle-tested brand names like the two below. Is that a legit concern?

 
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If you want an actual server (brand name) buy some hearing protection. Enterprise/business class machines are loud (and power hungry, but will heat your Condo in a pinch)... If your into that kind of thing check out https://www.servermonkey.com/servers.html and build one hell of a shelf, they are heavy. I have purchased bunch of refrubished servers from them (one runs in my garage (game server) and more at my business) with no issues.

Honestly, custom is the only way to go in my opinion. I have my custom VM machine (Plex server, FreePBX , Netcloud etc.. ) in my laundry room on a shelf. Its been there for years running (I should probably clean it now that I mention it).

Runs a micro ATX supermicro board , I5 processor, 32gigs of ECC RAM etc... besides power outages in Florida.. its been on since 2016 and has never hiccup'd (now that I said that I am sure it will errupt in flames tomorrow).
 
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drwhomphd

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You've all talked me into splitting up some tasks between devices, thank you for the advice. I've also decided to go with a tower, I'll make a shelf for it in the closet. Being able to spin up a bunch of persistent VMs (without them crashing after a day) is going to make my life a lot easier.

I'm concerned that a custom built tower won't have the uptime compared to battle-tested brand names like the two below. Is that a legit concern?

I think it's a reasonable concern. You'll also not get the same sort of warranty or warranty option, usually. You can certainly get rock solid uptimes with a custom built machine but you're gonna need to spend some time digging solidly into reviews and in some case getting lucky (because uptime is going to be related to long term driver issues the reviewers won't see). I've been pleased that this latest tower I built is far more stable than any I've had previous but I certainly wouldn't trust it for "5 9's" levels of stability. It also has some annoying boot-to-bios automatically behavior upon restart (probably due to the fact I have it OC'ed).

So, in the end, I don't think you're hurting yourself buying something off the shelf. You'll also have a less sloppy power and cooling budget. Lenovo, Dell, and HP are pretty much the only big-3 enterprise vendors left and probably can't go wrong with either.
 
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I built my PC 7 years ago on a budget of $500. I leave it running 24/7. It's a Plex server, it's what I download with, what I do transcoding with and what I game with. At any given time, I have 2 to 4 people, outside my network, connecting to my Plex to watch things and I don't notice it unless I pull up the Plex client itself. I can run 6 copies of EQ while Plex is streaming to friends and family and while Handbrake is transcoding videos.
-Personal note: Roku as a Plex client to watch on is absolutely horrible. It's slow and laggy as fuck.
 
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as far as rack mounts you can get an audio rack (I think its a half size and only like 20u or so). small package just hide in a closet for noise. or build a wooden box for it and soundproof the box (add fans). then use it as a coffee table.
 
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I have some spare Dell Precision workstations if you want them. They are free if you want them. Shipping from 99701 though. Figure roughly 100ish per
 

Redbot

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Damn what a profitable thread! Sic I'm going to PM you about that too, thank you. 😳

ESXi is free
Turn your NUC into an ESXi node.
Ok I read a wiki and watched a video, ESXi looks like something that would be very helpful. I also found a "dealer" of licenses so the paid version should be no problem.

I realized the amount of storage we need is going to be far beyond my price range if we go with Dell or Lenovo brand server (3rd party HDDs violate their warranty). After reading ServeTheHome for a bit, I'm convinced that SuperMicro (while lower quality) is the best bet for my budget. I'm thinking this one, https://www.supermicro.com/en/products/system/tower/5039/SYS-5039C-I.cfm with a low-wattage cpu.
 

drwhomphd

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Damn what a profitable thread! Sic I'm going to PM you about that too, thank you. 😳





Ok I read a wiki and watched a video, ESXi looks like something that would be very helpful. I also found a "dealer" of licenses so the paid version should be no problem.

I realized the amount of storage we need is going to be far beyond my price range if we go with Dell or Lenovo brand server (3rd party HDDs violate their warranty). After reading ServeTheHome for a bit, I'm convinced that SuperMicro (while lower quality) is the best bet for my budget. I'm thinking this one, https://www.supermicro.com/en/products/system/tower/5039/SYS-5039C-I.cfm with a low-wattage cpu.
SuperMicro is 'good enough'. Folks use 'em quite a bit. The big issue you may find with them is weird issues caused by crappy UEFI Bioses or Firmware. That tends to be where most their issues lie (not like what the Bloomberg report pointed at).
 

NobodyKnows

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if you are considering virtualization you also will want to have a look at proxmox.
Free for private use and you can even coordinate VMs across hardware.
 
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If you're interested in actual servers, and using actual server components, check out serverbuilds.net and their discord, it has some pretty great information on everything you've mentioned. There are quite a few people in there who use their builds for hosting Plex servers, datahoarding, homelabbing, and some gaming too.
 
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reddit also has a nice homelab section @Redbot. good ideas and an equipment sales area too. as far as storage if you go server SAS drives are cheep. as far as plex you can run that on practically anything, even a pi.
 

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If you're interested in actual servers, and using actual server components, check out serverbuilds.net and their discord, it has some pretty great information on everything you've mentioned. There are quite a few people in there who use their builds for hosting Plex servers, datahoarding, homelabbing, and some gaming too.
Thank you, I really enjoyed this site. JDM is the dr. frankenstein of servers.

Now that my hardware issues are mostly resolved, it's time to configure. I've got Windows Server 2019 running on a box, and am trying to set it up as the domain controller. I've heard this is superior to using Workgroups, especially if I want to use HyperV. But the only way I can get this to work is by going to each client PC and changing the DNS to use the DC's lan ip. Is there a better way? My router doesn't allow me to set a LAN DNS :( I can flash it, but I'd like to stick with stock.
 

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You can either have your DHCP server serve the DNS to be your server (this is pretty standard, it should let you) or, if what you mention about your router not allowing it is true -- 1.) Use Windows DHCP instead of your router's DHCP. You can do this on the same 2019 server you're running as a DC or 2.) Set your router to point to the server as DNS. If your router is acting as a DNS server for your LAN, the place it gets its DNS from is going to be what it uses to answer clients.
 
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Thank you, I really enjoyed this site. JDM is the dr. frankenstein of servers.

Now that my hardware issues are mostly resolved, it's time to configure. I've got Windows Server 2019 running on a box, and am trying to set it up as the domain controller. I've heard this is superior to using Workgroups, especially if I want to use HyperV. But the only way I can get this to work is by going to each client PC and changing the DNS to use the DC's lan ip. Is there a better way? My router doesn't allow me to set a LAN DNS :( I can flash it, but I'd like to stick with stock.
I actually retired my local Server 2012 domain recently and went back to Workgroup computing. For Active Directory to work properly it must resolve as the primary DNS for your PC clients. It was a PITA but I always assigned my permanent PCs to the Windows DC by manually adjusting their IPv4 settings to point to the DC as the primary DNS and I removed the secondary DNS server address. Other devices like Android or Apple phones would still use the router-supplied DNS and ignore the Windows domain.

I never found a reliable work around for the DNS otherwise. Even if you were able to successfully change the router setting it would invariably get reset to default the first time someone calls your ISP for tech support and that tech has them press and hold the reset button on the router. (This happened a huge amount with many small businesses using Microsoft's Small Business Server but still using a residential grade Internet gateway!)

For my own local network I recently went back in time 25 years and configured each PC with a static IP and then the same username and password. I then enabled File & Printer sharing on all the PCs. Then I edited the Hosts and LMHosts file on each PC to point to the other PCs on the network by name. Then I made sure that the Function Discovery Provider Host and the Function Discovery Resource Publication services were both enabled and set to Automatic start. Finally, I enabled the entire C drive to be shared for Everyone with Read/Write permissions. File sharing now works effortlessly from any machine to any other machine. So long as your router is not allowed to pass SMB (Server Message Block) traffic it's reasonably safe.
 

ctaylor22

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Windows DHCP is a lot more flexible than most routers DHCP. I tend to have problems with routers needing to have the router return back a different Default Gateway address other than itself. This is not an issue with Windows DHCP.
 

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