For the past three or so years, I have been running at least one server of some sort out of my home 24/7. Whether it be a private match for some game, my private TeamSpeak, or some file transfers, there is always a machine off in the corner of my room humming away and waiting for tasks. Hosting servers from home isn’t necessarily that useful for the average consumer, nor would it be the most convenient way to get things done. However, having a machine up and running at all times, ready to take on a variety of automated tasks has been very gratifying and has allowed me to learn much more about what goes on behind the scenes of some of my favorite services that I had previously taken for granted. With this write-up, I hope to explain the reasoning as to why hosting one’s own servers and improving a standard home network can be beneficial and also to potentially encourage the stray reader to experiment with projects such as this, since becoming more involved with technology will be essential for the general population to move forward as technology improves.
I’m no organization guru, but I will be breaking this post into different segments going over the what, why, and how of my server hosting projects.
At this point, a reader might be wondering what one could possibly do with a home server setup. On this front, the opportunities are almost unlimited, depending on the hardware on hand. In my opinion, the two most basic tasks a home server could be useful for are networking and storage. Beyond that, though, there is also the possibility for streaming, gaming, and much more.
In this day and age, an efficient home network can be crucial to keep a household running, and the basic hardware rented from an ISP (internet service provider) may not cut it if a household is doing anything more intense than streaming some video and browsing the web over wifi. One way to improve a home network is to slowly build up a home lab of sorts. Using old computers that may be laying around and collecting dust, it is possible to use something like pfSense to build a better router for a home network. The cheapo routers that ISP’s hand out are typically made up of extremely underpowered hardware and even a low-end PC can give headroom for much better security and much greater stability across the board. Throw in a decent network switch and you have ethernet at the ready for the entire building.
With an improved network, there is a better capacity for other hardware such as a NAS (network-attached storage) or a basic FTP server. This will become a personal “Google Drive/Dropbox” of sorts and allows users to create backups of crucial data and have those backups stored under the same roof. Even a basic file server for moving files around a house and keeping important stuff safe makes a world of difference, especially since it can be easy to fill up the hard drives that come with laptops or the storage built into a smartphone.
Furthermore, a home server could be used purely for entertainment. This somewhat overlaps with the idea of having a storage server at home; by storing media such as music and movies on a server, it is possible to then stream that media from other devices without using an external service or needing the content to be present on the client device. A media server setup is awesome for anyone with a movie or music collection, as swapping discs can sometimes be a pain, and all the media one might have will fill up any device’s native storage in a minute or two.
By bringing an old PC back to life, it can even be used as a dedicated server for multiplayer games. Whether it be a private server for some friends or a public server for anyone, self-hosting for games (and inherently becoming the admin of the server) can be a lot of fun and may prove to be a great way to get friends together online. On the more local side of things, you can even use a low-end PC to stream games from a higher-end rig somewhere else in the house. In this sense, you can have a cheap laptop or tower outputting games to a TV in the living room as a client while the gaming rig in the bedroom is doing all of the heavy lifting and streaming to the cheap machine.
There is much more that can be done with a home server rig for the more technologically inclined, but the capabilities of the above examples may peak the interest of even the most average of tech users.
So there’s a lot one can do with a dedicated machine running in their home, but why go through the hassle of self-hosting when there are a plethora of third-party services that have the same effect?
My personal answer would be: because why not/it’s fun.
It is probably obvious, however, that this answer won’t apply to the majority of average Joes, so my answer to readers would be: stability and security
The first part of the answer, stability, is the most apparent and a fairly straightforward reasoning behind self-hosting. Google Drive has been my cloud storage of choice since it starting gaining momentum over services like Dropbox. It functions well and I trust Google, for the most part. Though I still would never use Drive for any sort of serious backup or for copies of any important files. If for whatever reason Google’s servers go down at some critical moment, I won’t be able to access anything. If some sort of physical damage came to Google’s servers, far from my reach, I would have lost my data with no way to salvage it. I’m sure Google does have a variety of failsafe systems in place in the event of a situation like those I have mentioned, but it is always more stable to keep backups and important data local and in reach. By backing up files to my home server, even if my network goes down I am able to physically move over to the server and physically interact with the storage device in which my data resides. With this in mind, data storage to a local network server makes perfect sense. This also links to the security part of my answer. Since it is possible to physically access my own server, it is a lot more secure than something like Google Drive. Aside from the fact that a custom router PC in a server rig is extremely beneficial, if there was some sort of breach onto my file server I could yank the cord myself and shut out any outsiders from touching my precious data. On the other hand, if there was a data breach of a third party solution I use, there is no way I can ensure that my files haven’t been compromised as they live at the mercy of the third party’s network.n order to grow along with the technology evolving around humanity and even in order to stay competitive in the job market with most new positions involving newer technology.
Overall self-hosting servers and managing a solid home network is extremely beneficial in today’s world. While this hobby or project isn’t for everyone, those who weren’t previously into tech may decide to become more familiar with it upon learning of the capabilities of a home server of some sort. For a lot of people, it is perfectly fine to rely on mainstream services to get things done. These days it is becoming increasingly important to learn about technology and to have even a basic skill set regarding the backend of the services used on a daily basis by the average person. While not everyone is meant to be a “tech person”, a home networking project is a great place to dive into the worlds of computer building, server management, and even an entryway into other areas such as programming.