Best Bet for a cheap, always-on "server"


I'm looking to buy the cheapest piece of hardware I can that will let me replace my current "home server" (an old desktop) with something that is quieter, cooler, and more energy-efficient. The things that I need this hardware to do:

OpenVPN (to get to my home network while I'm traveling)
SSH (essentially act as an ssh gateway to machines inside my network so I only have to open one port to the outside world)
send out Wake-On-Lan broadcasts when needed, so my workstation can sleep most of the time when I'm gone
Nagios / other network monitoring (includes running some sort of httpd server to view the admin interface, I think, unless I can pass that load off to my real web server somehow)

And things that it should probably be able to do as well:

File server (via external USB/eSATA drives/enclosures I presume. something that would let me scale by adding additional drives later would be a plus)
Print server (a single usb printer, reliably shared to linux, mac, and windows clients)

This machine would not need to act as the primary switch/router/AP for my home network; the actiontec from fios is handling that role well enough. It'd just be a client on the network that I forward one or two of my public ips ports to.

From what I've been able to read so far, it seems like I'm probably going to want to either put dd-wrt / openwrt on a router of some sort or get some sort of sheevaplug-type-thing.

Can anyone recommend something to me that will be able to reasonably handle the load I'd need to put on it, with a minimum cost (upfront & operating)? For the purposes of this project, I'll consider my time to be "free" to a large extent. Thanks in advance.
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More about best cheap always server
  1. Go to, they have lots of cheap servers there that would be more than adequite for what you need.
  2. I don't really need or want a full server. I'm looking for something in a smaller form factor, mostly because of the heat & electricity cost. Most of their offerings there are already on par with my current system anyways.
  3. If just needs to be low powered and small, you should check out "Net-top Computers". They are netbook components(intel atom, low powered and great for home use) that are in a desktop case. They are extremely tiny and are about the size of a 5.25" CD drive. You can use one of those and install something like Ubuntu Server or Solaris.

    Once you have the computer setup, go make a free account. It will allow you to connect to your computer at home even though your isp has dhcp for home accounts. My router allows me to enter in my Dyn-Dns info and it updates my external ip to my account when it changes, and now I can type in my free dyndns domain name and it will allow me to remote into my computer. Its a great free tool to use once you get a server going. Oh and give the server a fixed ip (:P) and forward port 3389 to it. :)
    Hope this helps!
  4. Use Raspberry Pi 2
  5. amittiger12 said:
    Use Raspberry Pi 2

    or BeagleBone Black, if you can utilize additional I/O options (and prefer Texas Instrument over Broadcom)
  6. Buy a cheap £30 PC. Small form factor if you want. Dual core + 4GB RAM and you're good.
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