Server n00b

I'm not sure if this is the correct area to post this, so if not please moderate...

I live in the UK and have family in Oz, I collect all sorts of junk as long as it's cheap or free and I like to tinker with things. I have a reasonably large amount of media that I store on a computer in my office and I would like to assemble a network that can host my stuff online, so that me and my family can access it from anywhere with user authentication.

My knowledge of networking and web hosting would struggle to fill a few pages, so this project is geared partially at providing a practical solution but primarily at educating myself. At this point of the planning stage I am not too fussed about the software but I do have a couple of small desires, so I'll establish my goals before I get onto the hardware..

If possible I would like to enable myself and my family to access streamed content via the web. Content would be music, video and pdf files for the most part, so a fair range of file sizes to deal with. As there would be a very limited user base, I wouldn't imagine more than 10 parallel streams, ever. I would like to achieve this all on a shoestring budget., so the hardware I'll be using will be mixed and mostly old, the software will be free wherever possible...

I have already:

1x i7 2600k, 16GB Ram, Workstation, primarily used for media content creation but also doubles as storage, with 10 x 3TB HDD in Raid1 and Raid5. This is the most used computer I own though, so it is perhaps moving the raid arrays to another machine, and even using it as an encoding machine in the downtime...

1x i5 2500k, 8GB Ram, Gamer, at this point only used for gaming and watching 3D films.

1x P4 2.8HT, 528MB Ram, unused. I am looking for a use for this, possibly as file server/storage, possibly as some sort of web or firewall server...?

Looking on ebay, there are a number of old server setups for sale well below £200. I think the best of them would be some variation of the HP Proliant DL585 G1/G2 - Dual Opteron 200's and above or quad 800's up to 890... Dual or single core CPUs depending on the specific ebay purchase. Please note that while I've heard good things about intels Xeon range, from what I gather of the older server setups, Opteron were the better choice for low budget builds...

So now that the stage is set, what are my questions?

1. What can I use my P4 for that will put it to maximum use?

2. What sort of system should I be looking at to host such a website? ie, one dedicated file server, one encoder, one web handler ect ect

3. How can I (or should I not at all?) utilise some old servers into my system? I'm happy to spend say £500 if it will make a difference, but as I won't make any money off this and I do want to learn, Im not interested in spending lots for megre performance gains. With dual socket mobo's coming equipped with 2 opteron 252s + fans at under £20 and fully kitted out 4 cpu Proliant DL585s with 16-32GB Ram coming in well under £200 a pop, it seems that there must be a way to put that cheap processing power to work...?

Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated, please don't be shy...
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  1. Check out some software called tonido. It allows you to do exactly what you want I think and is free. You essentially install Windows or Linux if preferred, and you can use that to share a folder and it just gives you a web address that you put in, log in and files are there, basically gives you a personal cloud server. I mean you can go and set up a webpage, host it, but then you have to pay dns hosting, etc and mess with more.
  2. Thanks, that does look interesting but at this point I think I'll save it as a fall back option. There isn't much fun in a few clicks and there are a number of free DNS services available. The primary function of this exercise is to learn about web hosting, so it would be very helpful to me to learn as much as I can, even if I resort to a software solution further down the track.

    As I understand it I would need a number of machines performing different functions to achieve what I've set out about, what I am struggling with now is how to work out what hardware is adequate for what functions, and where I am lacking... If anyone could help me with that, or link me to something helpful in that respect, I would be greatly appreciative...
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