Build Your Own Server

Build Your own Server

Before you decide to build your own server it is best to make a checklist of all of the tasks that you are expecting it to perform. There is no point in spending huge amounts of money on building a server just to get something that is more powerful than you need when you are never going to use that processing power.

When I first decided to build a server it was something that I had been contemplating for a while. In fact it was just a natural expansion of my home media network. I already had a several Terabytes of hard drives crammed into one of my Windows Vista computers to store all my media files and backups. Unfortunately it wasn’t the most reliable of machines and had a tendency to lose the network connection or reboot half way through watching a movie.

To be honest I wasn’t actively searching for a server at the time but I subscribe to several hardware newsletters and I saw an offer for a HP ProLiant Microserver with a £100 cashback offer. It was too good an offer to resist as these microservers are already cheap. After the discount I picked this beauty up for less than £140. Claiming the cashback offer was very easy and I had the cheque within the month. This was an offer in the UK but there are probably similar offers in the US and elsewhere.

You can also build your own server from component parts but personally I didn’t see the point when this computer was so cheap but I would probably have gone that route if the HP microserver hadn’t been on offer.

Build Your Own Server – Hardware

Build Your Own Server : HP ProLiant Athlon II Neo N36L MicroServer

From all the reviews that I’d read online this was a very capable server. Here are a few of the server specifications.

  • Ultra micro tower (21 x 26 x 26.7cm)
  • AMD Athlon II Neo N36L / 1.3GHz
  • HDD 1x 250GB
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Four Internal Drive Bays & One Front Bay

It appears very well designed and robust. Four drive bay mounts are included, one already housed the standard 250GB drive that came with the system, and there is an hex tool and plenty of screws stored securly in the back of the door panel to use when mounting your drives.

Building Your Own ServerThanks to a large 12 inch cooling fan the microserver manages to remain virtually silent when in operation. This is thanks to the low power processor and 200w psu (non redundant power supply). When the server is fully running it should only draw around 70 watts.

Tip: Build your own server using large fans as they can shift the same amount of air but at a slower rpm which helps to make for a quieter PC.

There are two half height expansion slots available if you would like to add a more powerful graphics card but as I am running it headless there was no need for this. It wasn’t my intention to build a server that would sit on my desk. What I needed was a computer that I could hide out of sight and access remotely.


As standard the HP Proliant Microserver comes installed with 1GB DDR3 SDRAM installed in one of the two RAM slots. You’ll have to remove it if you want to install the full compliment of 8GB. It can run ecc or non ecc memory.

Optical Drives

There was no optical drive installed and I didn’t require one but from all accounts they are very easy to install. It is also possible to use a drive tray and install another hard disk instead of the optical drive, or even use a combination mount so that you can fit a hard disk and slim optical drive together. I’m not planning on using a DVD drive on this server but may in the future fit a cache drive for unRaid software into this slot. The 250GB drive that came with the server would be perfect for this.


Hard Drives

 building a serverAs already mentioned, the server comes with a 250MB drive installed in bay 1. The maximum capacity of the HP Microserver is 4 x 2TB. Four plastic caddies are provided with the system and although the drives is not hot swappable the caddies does make mounting them a cinch.

I removed the original 250GB hard drive that came with the server and installed three Western Digital 2.0TB ( WD Cavier “Green” Advanced format Drives) which can utilise 4k alignment sectors. One is the Parity Drive and the other two are data drives.

If you have a lot of hardware then you may want to check out some tips to build your own server rack

Build Your Own Server – Software

The HP Micro Server is capable of running a variety of operating systems including  Windows 7 (64 bit), Windows SBS 2011, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu and VMware ESX/ESXi works.

I decided upon using unRAID, from Line Technology, as it was lightweight, free and could be run from a USB drive. It is specifically designed for digital media storage which is what I was after. One of the best qualities of an unRAID server is that you can easily add capacity over time, taking advantage of on-line hard disk sales and specials as they occur. My plan was to use the free version and evaluate it using my existing drives and when I was satisfied and required more storage capacity I would register and then add more hard drives and possible a cache drive to improve write performance.

The HP Microserver is no power house by any standards but running unRaid on the 1GB of RAM supplied is no problem. If you want to use a different operating system then it will also run Linux or Windows Home Server 2011 and even multiple o/s under VMware ESXi, although you’d be recommended to increase the RAM to it’s maximum of 8GB. So not only is it suited to the home environment but it equally adaptable to use for a small business or research department.

Building a Server

HP Microserver Boot USBI purchased a 4GB HP USB key, formatted it and installed the latest version of unRAID. The flash drive I used was a HP v225w (4GB). It has a very small form factor and a metal design, which I though might disipate heat quicker.

With the unregistered version of unRAID you are allowed to run three disks which basically consists of one parity disk and two data disks. The Parity disk is there to provide redundancy to the data disks. A requirement of the unRAID system is that the capacity of the parity disk needs to be as large or larger than the capacity of the largest data disk

Formating and installing software to the USB drive couldn’t have been easier and only took a few minutes to complete. The HP Microserver has an internal USB port for just this reason and the Microserver booted first time round, so no messing with the bios settings.

If you build your own server to boot from USB then it’s a good idea to check on the available space surrounding the USB port first as other components may block or prevent access if your flash drive is too large or bulky.

Before I could start using the server all the hard drives needed to be checked (pre-checked) and formatted. This was the most frustrating part of the whole build, not because it was difficult but because of the time it took with the 2TB drives.

I Installed just two drives to begin with. One Parity drive, for data recovery should another drive fail, and a data disk.

It took 31 hours to preclear the discs before adding them to the array and although this isn’t essential it is recommended and doesn’t lose too much time as it reduces the time to format them considerably.

The third drive was added after the server was up and running, this was also precleared before formatting and it took another 30+ hours to complete. I did it this way because the third drive was being used in my old computer and I needed to transfer the data over to the new server before I could move the drive itself. This was done more as a precaution than anything else as I already had a backup of the data. But I’m thinking that I could have saved 30 hours if all three drives had been installed at the same time.

I then set up User Shares, which are basically shared directories across multiple drives. Now I can have a Music or Movies folder that automatically splits across multiple drives so that as I add extra capacity in the future the folder will expand with it, so there is no need to have multiple Music folders for example Music-1, Music-2 etc.. it remains just Music. This saves me having to make any changes to the streaming units around the house.

I’m very happy with my HP server. It’s small, quiet, cool, boots in about 70 seconds and if I need to shut it down or access its configuration then I can do so through my iPad. As a home media server this is perfect for my needs at the moment. It actually cost more for the hard drives than it did for the server itself.

Now, at least, my data has some level of protection against a single hard drive failure and it is more than capable at sharing media to several computers and media devices around the house without interruption. There are also several plugins available for unRAID that allow you to add extra functionality such as a  torrent downloader, and Squeezebox Server.

I hope this article helps in your quest to Build Your Own Server .

Books on How To You Build Your Own Server

If you are looking for a Build your Own Server book then you are a little spoilt for choice. There are numerous online magazines and websites ready to offer you advice on components and technical know-how, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a book at hand that contains all of the important information in one place.

Finding one that’s easy to read is a must. If it’s too technical then a lot of beginners soon find themselves confused and ready to give up.

If you want to build your own server and lack the confidence or skills then these books will help in getting you started.

Build Your Own Server – A Book by Tony Caputo

Amazon ImageIf you are looking for a guide to help you through the process of building your own server then the aptly named “Build Your Own Server” book by Tony Caputo is worth reading.

This illustrated step by step guide will hold your hand as it guides you through 368 pages of illustrations and step-by-step instructions on how to build, configure and maintain a server.

‘Build Your Own Server’ teaches you how to:

  • Construct the nucleus of an internetworking computer system
  • Choose cost-effective hardware for building and/or upgrading
  • Increase security for all corporate resources
  • Set up, configure, and troubleshoot a server for sharing your printer, files, Internet connection, and more
  • Create remote connectivity to access your workstation from home or on the road
  • Restrict access to unwanted online content
  • Automate nightly backups, updates, and maintenance
  • Provide your customers with 24×7 access to dynamic information
  • Configure a Web server for a Web site, Intranet, or Extranet
  • Set up a Workgroup, Domain (Active Directory), and VPN network using Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003

The book itself is heavily biased towards Microsoft but the hardware configurations are applicable to most other operating systems.

NOTE: The Build Your Own Server book is a little dated now, having been written in 2003.

Read more about Build Your Own Server here

Windows Home Server For Dummies

Amazon ImageMost people have heard of the popular and useful ‘Home Dummy’ Guides. You’ve probably seen them lying around the office and being bright yellow they’re pretty hard to miss.

But the thing about the guides for dummies is that they are excellent at what they do and that is teaching beginners how to do something. They cover just about any topic you can think of from playing Su Doku to learning about Buddhism.

The good news is that there is also one that teaches you how to set up a Windows Home server.

If you are thinking about running a Windows Home Server and are interested in learning how to:

  • Share files among all the PCs in your home
  • Access your files from anywhere
  • Make regular backups automatically
  • Store files securely
  • Play music, TV shows, or movies on your Xbox
  • Share multimedia across your network
  • Keep your virus protection and system upgrades up to date
  • Get regular reports on the overall health of your network
This a well written book which contains everything you’ll need from choosing a version of home server to installations and configuration. If you want something more in depth then this may not be for you but if you are a beginner then this is a perfect choice.

Read more about Windows Home Server For Dummies here

Related Dummy Books on Servers include:

Mac OS X Lion Server For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)) Microsoft SQL Server 2008 For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)) Windows Server 2008 For Dummies

Building the Perfect PC

Building the Perfect PC In its third edition and re-released in December 2010 this is an up to date and highly rated book.

As most server hardware books are outdated before they even leave the shelves this author has taken a different approach.

Building the Perfect PC discusses the type of hardware you should be looking for depending upon the type of computer you want to build.

It focuses on teaching you how to choose quality components. But it does not give recommendations for particular models of hardware in the book.

Instead the book is referenced to the authors website where you can find an up-to-date list of the best hardware.

What You’ll Learn:


  • Get high-quality PC hardware from local stores and online vendors
  • Plan your computer project with a complete checklist
  • Create the ideal PC that will run Windows 7 or Linux
  • Take advantage of the latest multi-core CPUs
  • Assemble, test, and configure your PC with ease
  • Build a PC that meets your needs and fits your budget


Building the Perfect PC presents six in-depth custom PC projects:

  • Mainstream PC – Fast, flexible, quiet, and reliable at a reasonable price
  • Extreme System – A wicked fast PC for video editing, gaming, and more
  • Media Center – One PC to replace your TiVo, game console, DVD, and CD player
  • Home Server – Ideal home network hub to store, share, and secure data
  • Appliance PC – A tiny, quiet, inexpensive PC you can put anywhere

Building the Perfect PC is a well written and documented book but if you are a complete novice then you may find some of the installations instructions a little confusing or too in-depth technically.

Get Building the Perfect PC

Also available on the Kindle so you can read it on the go.

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-201 Study Guide

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-201 Study GuideIf you are need of some training for the CompTIA Security+ SY0-201 exam then this is a must have book to help you improve your knowledge and pass the test.

Note that the SY0-201 is due to be phased out at the end of December 2011 and be replaced by the SY0-301.

See the study guide below for details of the next edition of this book.

Get a copy of CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-201 Study Guide here

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide: Exam SY0-301

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide: Exam SY0-301The CompTIA Security+ study guide walks you through every objective and what you need to know in order to understand the foundation basics.

As with most study books it is not always a good idea to put all-your-eggs in one basket, as they say, and the two or three book approach may work better.

Get a copy of CompTIA Security+ Study Guide: Exam SY0-301 here

Tips on Buying Books

If you are not in need of a physical book, either paperback or hard cover, then you can save a lot of money by buying the electron Kindle version if you buy through Amazon. You don’t need a kindle to read them so long as you have access to the kindle reader software on you laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Do you Have your Favorite Build Your Own Server Book?

If you have a favorite Build Your Own Server book that you’d like to recommend then just leave a comment below and it will be considered for this page.

How To Build Your Own Server

Build Your Own Server

Learn how to build your own server that meets your needs without spending huge amounts of cash.

The word ‘Server’ in the computer World can mean many things. But basically it is just a computer that serves a network of other computers. From Google Data centers to a desktop server in your home office, servers are available for all purposes and budgets.

But before starting you should plan how to build your own server with hardware and software that is appropriate to your needs and budget. There’s no point in buying over your budget for a system that is not going to be fully utilized.


How to Build Your Own Server for Home Media Sharing

Firstly you should decide what sort of server you want to build. There are plenty of choices available such as;

  • Application Server (for sharing software)
  • File Server
  • Game Server
  • DNS Server (Domain Name System Server)
  • Print Server (to share access to your printers)
  • Proxy Server
  • Web Server (for hosting a website)
  • email Server (to administer company email)

One of the most popular is to build your own Media Server for sharing Photos, Music and Video around your home. But it is also possible to run different types of server from one physical computer either by running different software or by creating virtual machines using programs such as VMWare and then installing an operating system on each virtual computer, such as Microsoft Home Server, Ubuntu or open source software.

If you are just looking to host a web site then it is probably not worth you building a server yourself as there are many online companies that specialize in this service for a cheap monthly fee. One of the most popular is Hostgator which offers hosting for unlimited domains for under $10 per month. You can get your first month for one cent by using this link.


Choosing Hardware to Build Your Own Server

Build your own Server

When building your own server you’ll find a range of hardware available. If you need a server for your business then it is likely that you will purchase a pre-fabricated server from a reputable company such as Dell or HP that have good support and customer care. For the rest of us here is a rundown on server hardware.

The server case not only protects all of your hardware but it also shields it from electromagnetic radiation. It should be well made and robust and offer good airflow so as to keep components cool. Server cases come in many different shapes and sizes from a tower or desktop form factor to a rack mounted chassis. Whilst rack mounted equipment is common in industry it can also be used in the home. Rack mounted servers come in a range of sizes, whilst the common width is 19 inch the height of the server can range from 1U, 2U, 3U or 4U.

When choosing a server case you should consider whether it will fit all of the hard drives that you’ll need, how easy it is to remove components and if you want redundancy in your power supply then does it have room to fit them both.

The Server Motherboard is one of the most important components of your system. There are several sizes available such as ATX, Mini-ATX and Micro-ATX. You’ll need to ensure that it fits in your case but more importantly that it supports your chosen RAM and Processor.  Look for the functionality of the motherboard such as bus speeds, onboard graphics and I/O ports. Does it support Gigabit networks or have built in RAID support? If so what sort of RAID. How many USB ports and which SATA speeds are supported? Your motherboard has to be compatible with all the other hardware that you want to attach. Remember that you can always contact the manufacturer or read the forums to get help when you build your own server.

The amount of RAM required for your server depends upon several criteria. What applications you want your server to run and what the operating system is capable of handling. Whereas 1GB may be enough for a file server, 4GB may be appropriate for a home theater system and upwards of 12GB for a server running multiple virtual machines.

How to Build Your Own Server

Depending upon how high a workload you expect from your server will determine your Server Processor. If you are running a RAID server with a dedicated SCSI board then your processing requirements will be quiet low. If running SATA drives you’ll need more processing power and if you want to run ‘virtual machines’ then you should be looking multiple Quad core processors such as the Intel Xeon Quad Core family capable of running 64 bit operating systems.

Having a high powered Graphics Card in your server will probably not be necessary unless you also want to run it as a media center. Most servers are administered remotely so only require a monitor and keyboard when they are being installed.

When it comes to Hard Drives there is a lot of discussion concerning using SATA or SCSI Drives. As a rule SATA drives tend to be cheaper than SCSI drives. This is because SCSI drives have a more complex data bus than SATA and SCSI uses a onboard processor to handle control. SATA drives on the other hand rely on the mainboard processor. Although transfer speeds of these two drive types are comparable the SCSI architecture allows for a higher sustained throughput.

Another option are Solid State Drives (SSD) which are silent, have no moving parts and offer higher throughput speeds. The downside of these drives are the high cost and lower capacity.

SATA can support Hot Swap if the drive, controller and software all support it and have AHCI mode enabled.


Choosing Software to Build Your Own Server

Selecting software for your server is the next step.  Whether you decide to go with Open Source software such as FreeNas, Linux, UnRAID or with a licensed operating system such as Microsoft Windows Home Server (WHS) 2008R2 or even just windows 7 there are plenty of options to choose from. If you want to use your server different uses then you may consider using software like VMWare to run it as multiple computers each running it’s own operating system. If you decide to go this route then you will need to maximize your processing power and RAM to prevent your server from becoming sluggish.


How To Build Your Own Server Checklist

Build your own ServerNow that you have the basics you should take your time to make a checklist of the things you want the server to accomplish and then list the hardware that is needed to fulfill that goal. You can never fully future proof your server due to rapidly changing technology but you can build wisely and create a server that meets your needs for time to come.

Don’t forget the other hardware and peripherals that you may need to build your own server network such as routers, network switches and cabling and the all important UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). Build these components into your budget as well.


How to Build Your Own Server Cheaply

If you are on a limited budget then you can always use an old computer to build your server. It doesn’t have to be fancy or powerful for use as a server but reliability is important. Save money by using some open source software such as Ubuntu linux or FreeNAS and you can build a home server quickly.

When you’ve finished building your server how are you going to mount it. Will it be a standalone system or will you need to rack mount it. Read more on how to build your own server rack.

In our next article we’ll show you how to build your own server using a cheap HP ProLiant Microserver.


How to Build Your Own Server Rack – On the Cheap

Build Your Own Server Rack

Build Your Own Server Rack

The option to build your own server rack is available for those that feel that the cost of buying a server rack is excessive. But there are many options to choose from and not all are expensive or require a lot of construction.

Due to the increase in server use in recent years the cost of a buying a dedicated server rack has decreased significantly with some small racks being within the price range of many home users. One of the issues with buying server racks is not the cost of the rack but rather the cost of shipping it.

The size of a full height rack is normally referred to as 42U (or 42 rack units) with each unit being 1.75 inches in height. The width of a rack are either 19-inch or 23-inch with the most common type being the 19 inch rack. Rack mountable equipment is also measured in the same units such as the Dell Poweredge 850 which is 1U in height.


Aren’t Server Racks Expensive – What are my Options?

So when it comes to purchasing a server rack there are three options that you can take.

  1. Buy a standard professional server rack
  2. Purchase some shelfing to mount your servers in
  3. Build your own rack mount

When it comes to purchasing a professional rack you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands of dollars. Prices have dropped considerable in recent years and if you look in the second hand market through eBay and Craiglist you can pick up a bargain. The only problem with this could be the cost of shipping. Amazon is a great store to look for server racks, you can save big time and possibly get free shipping, they also sell used equipment.

If a new server rack is still too expensive then how about something a little different. Metal shelving is readily available and in-particular bread racks. With adjustable shelving and casters a bread rack is a good choice if you do not have rack mountable equipment. Bread racks tend to be a little wider than 19 inches, normally 20 inch and up. You can also check out furniture stores such as Ikea for metal shelving.

The last option is to build your own server rack. Whilst building a server rack may sound easy you should make plans and drawings first (Google Sketch is useful) and calculate the approximate cost first. You may find that this is not a worthwhile option. If you do go down this path then you will have to decide whether to fabricate the server rack out of wood or galvanized steel bar and tubing.


Choosing the Right Materials

A frame made from wood will be bulkier and as it is an insulator your equipment may stay a little hotter. If you want to use steel then use slotted square tubing for the four corner posts and slotted angle bar to join it together. You may need to add some side braces just to firm it all up.

Build Your Own Server Rack

Using a Bread Rack for your Servers

Whatever your choice remember that server equipment is heavy and your rack should be built robust enough to handle it. If your rack fails then the resulting damage could cost you  more than buying a proper rack in the first place.

Decide whether you want casters or feet during the design process as they can be difficult to add once the server rack is loaded up with equipment.

You should also consider air flow around your server equipment. In industry servers are kept in air conditioned rooms with cold air being forced up through the bottom of the enclosed server racks to aid cooling. In a home or small lab environment this may not be possible, in which case it is advisable to leave the covers off the rack so as to allow the air to circulate. When you build a server rack you should take this into account.

So if you feel like you want to build your own server rack first have a look at some of the alternative options, you  may find that you can buy a rack cheaper than building it yourself although it might not be so fun.

If you found this article useful then you might be interested to Build Your Own Server.

Welcome to Build Your Own Server

Build Your Own ServerIf you are thinking to build your own server then you are not alone. With an explosion in the number of files that people are now sharing and storing on their computers many people are looking to migrate to a server.

Having a dedicated server makes a lot of sense for several reasons. You can centralize all of your shared data making it easier to manage, backup and share across multiple platforms.

Servers do not require a monitor, keyboard or mouse as they can be managed and controlled remotely. This allows them to be stored in s secure location and administered from a computer else where with security and reliability.

Build Your Own Server using RAID Technology


Using RAID technology your data can be spread across multiple hard drives yet still be recovered should one of the discs fail. Server hardware is constructed so as to be easily upgraded with easy access to hard drives and component parts. Top of the line servers have built in redundancy so that should a power supply or hard drive fail then they can be replaced without switching off the computer so eliminating system downtime.

With a dedicated machine servers are easier to upgrade in terms of disk space, access speeds and remote access. If you do decide to build your own server then there are several open source server operating systems available.

Separating your personal computer from the server allows for a more stable system. Most users are frequently downloading and installing new software on their machines increasing incompatibility and security issues. With a server running it’s own dedicated and secure operating system it is less likely to suffer these issues and crashes.

Servers can also perform multiple purposes. Not only sharing your files but also acting as web, proxy and email servers. With the use of plugins you can stream data to multiple devices such as Playstations, Xbox or even portable devices such as an iPhone or iPad making your own media server.

For most people the prospect to build your own dedicated server could feel a little intimidating. But it can be a lot easier than you think and you’ll ensure that your irreplaceable videos and pictures are always safe and secure.

So go ahead and build your own server, you’ll be surprised as to how cheaply the parts can be purchased.