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Old 02-07-2014, 09:50 PM   #1
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Default Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

Hello! I'm not sure if this is in the right place, so if it isn't, please move it/tell me to create a new one on the right board.

I want to create a new server for home use, however I don't know if I should buy 2nd hand/surplus parts or brand new ones. Here are my questions:

- Should I go with an old Pentium IV (which I can get for like 10-20 bucks), a second-hand intel i3 (40-50 bucks) or a brand new intel i3 (over 100 bucks)?
- As for the motherboard, should I use an old one (for the pentium) or a second-hand/new one for the i3? What should I expect from one versus the other?
- Can I use a normal (as in my old) PC case? It has space for at least 3 3.5' SATA HDD and a 250W power supply
- Should I worry about getting low-consumption hardware (as in intel i3 2100T) or, at the low usage of the server, it isn't noticeable/doesn't matter?


I plan on using the server for a few things (which, if I would need more than one server to do, I would gladly thank you if you pointed that out):

- NAS Backup and media storage
- Remote-accessable virtual machine (I would like to be able to have it running windows server and a windows 7/XP and/or debian virtual machine to tinker with)
- DNS/SQL/DHCP/Print server
- Firewall (does it make a big difference at home? In my college they set up a server just for dedicated firewall, and it makes a lot of difference due to the huge security needs they have)
- Web site hosting (nothing fancy, mostly HTML/Flash/javascript)
- Cloud or FTP file storage (since I'm away from home the entire week, and it would be nice to get some media in case I might want to see it/have an alternative to dropbox/GDrive)
- Torrenting

Also, it would be used as a testing rig, since I'm learning Windows Server 2008 and will learn UNIX-based server architectures. Oh, and if I set it up as a NAS storage server, can I access it from the internet using VPN?

I think this pretty much covers it up

Regards!
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Old 02-08-2014, 02:15 PM   #2
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Default Re: Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

Well for me, I would probably spend quite a bit of money on a server because of what you are wanting to do with it.. If it was just going to be say a media/ftp server that would be fine.. is this your first time making a server?

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Old 02-08-2014, 02:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

I have experience in maintaining them, but none in building them unfortunately, so yes, it's my first time. I was trying to be a little conservative and spend the least possible
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:22 AM   #4
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Default Re: Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

Either the Pentium or i3 should do the trick. Low power consuming hardware won't affect it but do get a PSU that is at least 400W. It should be able to handle all of those tasks depending on what hardware you go for. Make a list of hardware that you'd like to use then we can go from there and help you further.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:15 AM   #5
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Default Re: Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

What I did was pick up a used server off Craigslist for $200. Dell PowerEdge T300 w/ quad core Xeon, 8 GB RAM, and 4 hard drive slots. Runs Server 2008 R2 with Active Directory, DNS, File Server (all my files shared between my computers, as well as a media drive for my movies and tv shows), Print Server, data backup, and a time lapse webcam as a security cam for my apartment. I can access it from anywhere through TeamViewer. If I'm not on my LAN then I have to file transfer through TeamViewer though (which normally isn't ever a problem).

When I'm running a lot of stuff at once, my server can get a bit sluggish, and the specs aren't that much of a slouch. I'd definitely recommend you not try and do all that on a P4. Windows XP SP3 with nothing installed can get slow on a P4... If you can find a decent used server in your price range, or save a bit more money, that might be the better option. If not, spare parts with an i3 at the least. If you're going to virtualize on there as well, I know firsthand that takes up quite a bit of the host resources. If you're virtualizing on your server to tinker with the guest OSes, might I suggest picking up another cheap used dual core system and installing the OSes on that one instead. I haven't come to the point where I'd prefer virtualizing over a hardware install. We're doing a project in class, and many of the issues we are having because of the virtual environment (unrelated to what we are actually trying to accomplish) wouldn't even be issues on a hardware install...
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Old 02-11-2014, 07:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: Make a server from old hardware vs buying brand-new hardware

You can do all of that on the poor old P4 machine, it's just a question of pain (as in how much are you willing to put up with!)

If you can remove the necessity for remote desktop (use SSH) and remote windows server, (and host your SQL server locally on your workstation/laptop or whatever then you can do most of the rest with a $35 raspberry pi, the power consumption is like 2.5Watts, so you barely notice it's there!

on the other hand, it sounds like you want a big and meaty test rig for running VMs and playing with new software. in which case, get the best system you possibly can. the reason I say this is that it won't be long before running just 1 VM isn't good enough, you'll want to run a couple.
then your DB server will grow,
you'll decide that you want a separate web server from DB server, want to test sites in ASP and need windows hosting as well as Linux hosting. then you might want to start investigating mySQL as well as MSSQL server and want yet another box...

the trouble with VMs is that they effectively cost nothing so you keep wanting more and more... so don't start with a system where you are limited as to what you can comfortably run from the start...

I do see a couple of issues with what you're saying however...

Quote:
1- Firewall (does it make a big difference at home? In my college they set up a server just for dedicated firewall, and it makes a lot of difference due to the huge security needs they have)


2- Cloud or FTP file storage (since I'm away from home the entire week, and it would be nice to get some media in case I might want to see it/have an alternative to dropbox/GDrive)

3-Can I access it from the internet using VPN?
in order...
1, you'd need to give some more information on why the college decided to run a physical server instead of a firewall appliance (like an ASA or watchguard, checkpoint, sonicwall, net screen, big IP etc...

it might be that the initial investment was low, did they re use hardware and just download and install smoothwall? that's free and very easy to configure, making the cost of a dedicated firewall about 1 hour of staff time to set it up. compared to the thousands you might pay for the devices I mentioned above (then plus training and configuration)... you can see why they'd go server.

Alternatively they might have needed to integrate active directory authentication, such that they can limit access to specific ports by user name (e.g. some people may be allowed to use services that you are not, or if there is a proxy part of that server, maybe they wanted AD authentication for websites

Long story short, doing something just because someone else saw good results is not a great idea, as your requirements and ability to set it up may be different...
also your home isn't a college and you have vastly different numbers of users...
there is no harm is setting up the server as a firewall (except that you put a windows box that contains all your data in this scenario on the internet, and assume that the box will work ok, assume that there are no bugs etc...)


2 - cloud services.
I'll forgive you because it's a buzz word,
but cloud services usually have multiple endpoints, (like data stored across many data centres, and in those data centres there are usually visualised machines running on clusters of hyper visors,
such that the failure of one physical machine means that VMs all migrate onto a different host, rather than fail and bring down services. loss of an entire data centre means that services fail over to an alternative data centre...

the internet is normally represented as a cloud on diagrams because it's a mass of connected computers that you don't know or see. cloud hosting is a mass of connected computers, not just one box.

one person can't make a cloud on their own, no matter how many people tell you that they set up a traditional physical server at their house, data centre or whatever and installed , -that's not cloud hosting, that's just plain old regular hosting.

Seriously, when you good personal cloud some of the top results are companies like sea gate telling you that a single disk in an enclosure with a network port is personal cloud storage... -before that buzzword came along that was plain old regular NAS!



3 - assuming that you set up a VPN endpoint, and the appropriate DNS services, there is no reason that you can't use a VPN to access your files.

personally I use SSH and then SCP to transfer files over encrypted connection, (and use no-ip to get to my home server as I have a dynamic address...)
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