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Designing a low-watt, quiet, affordable server for home

post #1 of 3
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Hi guys. A friend wants a simple, affordable server for home tasks - filesharing, 24/7 operation for Bittorrent, remote access RRAS endpoint, etc. Here's what would be expected of it:
  • Will run Windows Server 2012 (soon R2)
  • Transmission Bittorrent client (Transmission Remote GUI on a separate, primary desktop is too good to give up; this necessitates some Linux VMing unless someone has a good use-case alternative to Transmission Remote GUI, open to suggestions [has anyone used the Remote GUI with the Transmission-QT Windows port?])
  • Expandable storage and support for multiple volumes (separate OS and data disks, etc); support for all RAID levels on a hardware controller
  • Will be expected to serve up 1080p content via Plex to one client
  • Must be very quiet

Currently deciding on the best way to accomplish these goals. We could do a custom build or buy an appropriate solution. I see three ways, each with their flaws:

A custom build such as the one in my sig is good, but not perfect: it's physically larger than it needs to be, and there's little vendor support (the RAID card for example was pulled from electronics recycling and as such there's no warranty or support channels, not good for reliability). However, it's the most robust and expandable, and likely the quietest. Lingering sense that something like this is overkill/overly expensive for what we need. (Devil's advocate: incredibly futureproof barring unforeseen problems.)

An appropriate prebuilt server such as a ProLiant Microserver from HP is an attractive choice, however looking into it reveals some flaws: it comes stock with a very weak CPU (Celeron); it's RAID controller can only do one logical volume and requires the purchase of a host-bus adapter to separate OS and data disks; CPU can be upgraded to a proper Xeon but this is of course expensive and at that point we're basically back to Option 1. Physically small, reportedly quiet, but probably not as quiet as Option 1.

A NAS could accomplish these goals at a surface level, if we can stomach losing Windows Server support. However, experience with Synology tells me NAS units are somewhat loud, and while the software is robust the hardware is limited for the price (dual-core Atom, typically) -- this means it's expensive, pound for pound.

~

I almost recommended a custom build such as what's in my sig, but I wanted to see what the community had to say. Any input is appreciated, thanks!
Edited by moonslug - 8/26/13 at 10:46am
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post #2 of 3
I'll just say, stay away from inexpensive ProLiant microservers.

Mobile components, and anemic like all hell at it (Celeron/Athlon Neo).

We have one at the shop, and while my boss claims it's very fast, in reality it is a piece of trash. But our old one was a Coppermine Xeon-based one, so you get the idea.

It only serves remote desktops for three points of service, and god damn it, my old Opteron 1214 (s.AM2) was MUCH faster than this piece of trash.
   
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post #3 of 3
I recently built my home server out of spare parts I had laying around, a Core 2 Duo E6750 underclocked to 2.33ghz and undervolted to 1.040v-ish according to HW Monitor and CPU-Z i cant remember the specifics I set in the bios.

I have Plex running on it I would watch The Walking Dead Blu-ray 720p from night to the text morning:lachen:
I haven't got any 1080p blu-rays to rip atm unfortunately but I'm sure it shouldn't struggle with 1080p either, I've had a 720p video going on, multiple videos streaming to androids in the household, If i have the time I'll give something like this a shot again as I cant remember my testing conditions.

Anyway I believe my Core 2 Duo should be pulling maybe 20-40w on idle, i haven't got a power meter to test but based off of this
and other Core 2 Duo processors I've made a estimate, of course I'm probably not spot on but the idle power consumption of the system is probably ranging between 20-40w as I suspect so I would class it near low-power.

Does your friend want a specific form factor for their home server?
Mine is currently in an ATX case, quite big but this is because of the ATX Mobo otherwise I would go MATX and get a case like this

My home server is audible, kind of annoying but nothing to serious, I think this is because of the crappy power supply I pulled out from a closet, not 80+ and probably doesnt do my aim for lower power any good -_-

The components I think your friend should go for is based on the form factor, you can often fit more ram into a ATX motherboard than an MATX and also leaving room for expansion and future proofing depending on what's running on the server.

A sandy-Ivy I3 would blow away my Core 2 Duo and should do just fine, waiting for the Haswell Celeron, Pentiums and I3s would be ideal if you want futureproofing for the build and also to improve power efficiency as I believe the new architecture aims for.

For file-sharing and 24/7 operation and NAS-like functions 4GB ram I would expect to be the minimum, I'm currently running Windows Server 2012 64Bit with 6GB ram DDR2 ram (Spare parts) My ramdisk I use for my minecraft with friends deducts 1GB, add the server that's 3GB leaving me with a lot less ram but I don't particularly require a lot of ram as I basically use my server as a NAS with Plex and Sub Sonic, friends being on my server don't bother me as I hardly notice an impact on my Internet if any.

An 80+ 350-450w PSU should be fine for a home server, from what you say your friend would use it for I wouldn't expect it to touch more than 200w, HDDs may bring it past 100w but the way how later Intel Processors are becoming more and more power efficient especially with throttling it may not even be more than 100w as I've witnessed Celerons and Pentiums at 40-60w, and If you have a headless home server you're taking away the power consumption of input devices and the display so power consumption is alot lower.

I'm not very educated on NICs but definelty get gigabit networks up and running if you want fast file transfers, and multiple Gigabit NICs, I only have one atm and every now and again I'm fiddling with network settings and lose connection to my server through RDP, have to crack it open and reset the blasted thing -_-
Perhaps and NIC for RDP and another for the home network.


Here's something I put together with a target of 400, I've got to admit this isn't the best build you can come up with, BD drive for ripping Blu-rays, CDs and DVDs.




I've been streaming PS2 ISOs and some Steam games to computers, you need a fast network and preferably over 10MB/s network speed to actually have a decent experience, I tried this with Sleeping Dogs on a computer that's connected by Ethernet @10MB/s, Home Server is 1GB/s, Computer is 10MB/s I should really buy a gigabit switch lol and the game works well, and also FFX, a pretty cool concept as you don't need the game installed on your computer, I wouldn't expect it to work for all games and if the network goes down mad.gif

Linus has videos concerning home servers you may want to check them out as they are very useful.-Part 1
-Part 2
-And a video from Tested

Just so you know these videos are aimed towards Windows Home Server builds.

What's your friend's target price range?
Edited by TopicClocker - 9/5/13 at 7:05am
    
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