Do you need to connect to it remotely or will it have a screen and keyboard? What do you mean by transferring files? What do you mean by media center, storing media or actually streaming media to a TV? How many devices including phones/tablets/pc's will connect to it at any given time?
When I say "Transfering files" I mean that this will be a place for me to place some files, and then be able to access them from other computers in my house, and possibly from computers outside the network.
I mean more storing media, then grabbing it from another computer.
The total amount of devices is currently 7, but i want to have the ability to add more in the future.
These devices are two win7 pc's, two macs, 2 android phones, and an ipad.
Will i be able to connect with a mac and will i be able to connect from mobile devices?
What type of pc is going into? An older PC or newer PC?
I know older windows had a limit of 10 connected users. I think that went away Windows 7 or some version, but I can't recall to be honest.
http://www.freenas.org/ is a very lightweight OS that can boot from an SD card if need be, login from a web browser to configure and just create shared folders, permissions, etc and that's it. Lets you throw drives in a box, go to a web address and in a few minutes, files are on a network.
Any device capable of accessing a network share should be able to see that no problem, windows, mac, or android devices if you run a file manager like ES file manager or there are others.
Any windows using IIS is suitable for an webserver, you can configure apache, in any windows, if you want a PHP in windows. Install IIS ftp for a file server or webserver. Create an free account with dyndns or something like that, to create a dns name, or install apache dns and configure it as a dns server, if you do this you will need a different computer for the dns naming system. You can use the same computer but its better to use a separate computer for this.
Once you have IIS installed you need to configure the setting for your FTP. Windows works just fine for a home server. Windows server is better in a corp server that needs many computers assigned to the network to use separate IP within that domain, windows server home is a better choice for a person that wants to configure your IP to a web level good for development and serving that development, and Linux is the best. NO IF about it you cannot beat Linux. Never ever run a server on your personal computer.
My home server run Linux Mint. Also used Ubuntu previously.
It is use for :
- File Sharing (Samba)
- Media Streaming (PS3MediaServer)
- Email centralization (Dovecot)
- Webmail (Roundcube)
- Backup Management (Home made Shell Scripts)
- Remote Management (SSHd and VNC)
- Teamspeak (Teamspeak 3)
Was previously used for :
- FTP (vsFTPd), retired because of inherent security issue FTP brings
- Wire/Wifi Router (Home made Shell Scripts using IPTable), retired because of downtime caused by server maintenance
It runs on somewhat old hardware :
Athlon X2 5000+
4Go RAM DDR 2
Integrated 760G graphic
Integrated 1Gbit LAN
CRT monitor (praticaly never used since I manage the server with SSH and VNC)
1X300 GB HDD, 1X500GB HDD and 1X1,5 TB HDD
I'm quite confortable in a Linux environment (work as network security mainly with Linux/Unix systems and using Linux since 1995) but there is alot of howto on the internet to help you install everything easily.
The real advantage of Linux is "no cost". Everything installed on my server is free to use or open source. Total investment was 0$ (all decommissioned hardware from main computer). But if you look to out of the box experience and easy to configured, I would look more at windows home server.
One big recommendation, even for windows, don't underestimate security! Every services you open to internet is a security threat and bots are always scanning for available services. SSH, Terminal Server/remote desktop, SMTP, FTP, HTTP, VNC, SQL are all services subject to hacking (using security holes or plain old dictionary attacks). And as soon as a bot compromised your server, they take contrôle without you knowledge and use your server for many bad things (hosting porn, warz, pedoporn, sends spams, botnet...)