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The Perfect Home Server

Perfect? Is that even possible? I guess not, but my newest server is pretty close in my opinion. The Focus was to get power consumption and price as low as possible while maintaining performance and safety. My current home server is an averages PC with an AMD64 and 2 GB of RAM while having a RAID 5 with 6 hard disk. As you can imagine, my power bill is incredibly high, so I definitely want a more energy efficient solution this time.

First, I want to specify what the server has to be able to do IMHO:

  • Mail Server with Exchange
  • VPN Server
  • File Server
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS
  • WDS
  • Print Server
  • Fail Safe to some degree
  • Silent
  • Low power consumption
  • Cheap

So the first 7 can all be solved by running a Windows Server 2008 R2 with Exchange 2010 (luckily both are free for MSDNAA), so no problem here. The next point, fail safe is a little trickier. First, a RAID system is needed because the last thing I want is that I lose all my data because my hard disk died (which happens pretty often). To get a lower power consumption, the only possible solution would be running a RAID 1 (Mirror) with two hard drives. To keep it cheap and get the power usage down, only “green” hard disk should be used. I choose the Western Digital Caviar Green 1500GB (WD15EARS) drives with Advanced Format as they are really cheap and offer better performance and hopefully better security due to better CRC calculation with longer CRC data. Next was the main-board and CPU. Well, to run Windows Server 2008 R2, I would need a x64 capable CPU with at least 2 cores. And guess what, there is only one solution for this, the Gigabyte GA-D510UD. It’s the only board that supports RAID onboard while have 2 cores (+ Hyper-threading) and is really power efficient.

Gigabyte not only offers the board with CPU, but also the smallest Mini-ITX case “Gigabyte MIB T5140″ with 2 native 3.5″ drive slots, perfect for my RAID 1. The only thing that didn’t match my criteria was the 40mm CPU fan of the Gigabyte board. Why on earth didn’t they make the system passive like the competition? Well, what is the first thing you do if you have a noisy fan? Right, you remove it and replace it with something bigger and silent. I took a old 120 mm Arctic Cooling fan out of my old server and mounted it right above the CPU and guess what? It fits perfectly, like it was designed to be used this  way.

Now after inserting 2x2GB of RAM, I’m ready to get incredibly silent and cheap server filled up with data. And just in case anyone whats to recreate the server, here is the list of things you’ll need:

  • Gigabyte GA-D510UD (€ 70)
  • Gigabyte MIB T5140 (€ 50)
  • G.Skill DIMM Kit 4GB PC2-6400U CL5-5-5-15 (€ 80) or similiar 2x 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 2x Western Digital Caviar Green 1500GB (WD15EARS) (2x € 80) or similiar SATA hard disk
  • Arctic Cooling 12025 L (€ 5) or similiar 120 mm fan

Total of € 365 in April 2010.

WD15EARS

2 Responses to “The Perfect Home Server”

  1. Ephestione:

    You should only go for what he’s comnfortable with, so I cannot really argue with installing a windows server on a home headless machine :) Yet I feel that my asrock a330gc+2GB (total 80€ past november, if I remember correctly) with the latest ubuntu (as I am not geeky enough -yet- to use arch) is up to its scope, even if its use is mainly p2p and video surveillance). You could maybe have gotten less of a powerhouse for less money and less consumption with the same results ;)

  2. Qian Qin:

    Hi Ephestione

    after running this server for a few month now, I have to say the Atom is really slow, but it works flawlessly. Windows 2008 with everything installed is still one big monster but the Atom can handle it. Outlook Web Access might be a bit slow, but I can get over 70MB/s over Gigabit when reading files from the network share. There are cheaper solutions, but not if you want to run an Exchange Server (needs at least 4GB RAM, which the 330 unluckily doesn’t support).

    Qian