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Building new Ubuntu file + media server (long)

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July 2, 2010 9:07:53 PM

I have had several different types of servers running in my house for 10+ years, but they have always been some flavor of Microsoft server-based systems, and mostly used for pure business type reasons (file storage, email, database, etc.)... The time has come for a change, and I want to jump into Linux / open source AND I have changed my focus for the server somewhat.

IMPORTANT: would like to stay in the $3-4K range for new hardware

Functionality Considerations

Functionality needed on server:
  • Mass storage is definitely still in, but will now also include very large media files (movies etc.)
  • Automated backup of clients to the server is definitely in
  • Remote backup of server is definitely in (looking for tips on this by the way)
  • Media streaming and POSSIBLY on-the-fly encoding of the same (been looking at MediaTomb)
  • Remote connectivity + FTP (beyond the LAN)
  • Print server (easy to do yes?)

    Functionality no longer needed on server:
  • Email + database is gone... using external providers for next to nothing

    Technical Considerations

  • Minimum 10TB of storage (with expandability to 20TB+)
  • Processing power to handle key functionality above
  • Reliability is key, with some redundancy (must have hot-swap HDs, thinking Raid 5 as well)
  • Green is a plus, quiet is a big plus
  • OS: thinking Ubuntu initial/basic install (using CLI), but doing most configuration using eBox - yeah, needless to say I need the visual interface (can't be helped), but didn't want to expose the server to a full XWindow server
  • All the various components should be proven to work together (hopefully) and my target OS


    Need input on:
  • Mobo + CPU (would two be needed??... seems like "not needed" with the bloat of MS Server removed)
  • RAM (and how much)
  • Case (would like one nicely setup for hotswap, and also with at least one optical drive slot... rack or freestanding doesn't matter)
  • HD + HotSwap casing options
  • Controller, assuming RAID 5 is a good idea
  • PSU
  • Cooling options (fans, etc.)

    ASSUMPTION: a GPU provides no value on the server (never has in the past, assuming that is still the case given above functionality) + NIC on mobo should suffice... also assuming after initial / basic install of Ubuntu, it can go headless (eBox admin will be done from a client)?


    I know this is a request for pretty much everything, but I have never built a server, and would much prefer some sage / experienced advice - note that I have built plenty of PCs and am very comfortable with assembly of parts. Furthermore, I am actually excited to shed my Windows Server anchor and move to Linux (should be a fun / learning experience).

    On a somewhat unrelated note, but more for those that might be interested... My current server (Windows Server 2003) has been acting as the local DNS + DHCP server as well; I am thinking for this new server (and to hopefully minimize administration), I will simply use the ISP router's DHCP and completely ditch the DNS service - the server will of course get a static IP. There are roughly 10 clients that will use this network + various media devices.
    July 3, 2010 4:11:28 AM

    You still have not convinced me that you need a system more powerful than a desktop $700 system, plus the cost of the hard drives and any needed monitors.
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    July 3, 2010 4:30:38 AM

    enzo matrix said:
    You still have not convinced me that you need a system more powerful than a desktop $700 system, plus the cost of the hard drives and any needed monitors.


    Could you assume that I need a server, and possibly make suggestions about solid hardware options? I will also say that if you have a $700 desktop system in mind that handles everything I mentioned, please feel free to share that as well!
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    July 3, 2010 5:48:53 PM

    I forgot to ask, how many other computers will be utilizing the server at the same time over the network. Or am I misunderstanding and you intend to use this server to host a website or something else on the internet that will be accessed by a large amount of users and forgot to mention that?

    Anyway, if this is just a home server like I thought, then this should work just fine:
    Athlon IIx4 635
    Asus 785G AM3 motherboard
    4GB DDR3 memory (not OCZ)
    corsair 400W Power supply
    a case that you think looks nice and has space for drives
    WD Green 2TB drives. you'd have 5

    On the server side, if you have $3-4K to spend, based on your uses, you would probably be looking at some higher clocked intel xeons over the lower clocked with more CPU cores. I'm having trouble recommending anything beyond one CPU with four cores, which makes you buying a "server" as opposed to a "desktop" redundant. Since the main difference is that a server can support more than one CPU on the same motherboard working together and a desktop system only supports one CPU.
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    July 4, 2010 1:15:16 AM

    No more than 10 concurrent users. There will eventually be a website, but it will never have a lot of traffic

    My concern about going with a PC-type setup is that it doesn't have the redundancy as the server usually provides (and the easy mass storage WITH hot-swap). Several times over the past few years, I have had a HD fail on the server, but it has never caused loss of data OR required me to shut down the server - I have simply hot-swapped the HD and let the raid 5 array rebuild.

    Also, as far as getting the 10 (and up to 20TB) storage capacity, wouldn't a server have more (& easy) slots for hot-swap bays?

    Will the gear you suggested have enough umph to stream multimedia, and potentially transcode on-the-fly depending on the device? On a related note, streaming and transcoding relies exclusively on the processor right? In other words, a GPU has nothing to do with that?

    Having said all of that, I am warming up to not being so anal about server uptime, redundancy etc. I will mull it over some more...
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