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Poll

What is your preferred server OS for home use?

Windows Home Server
3 (13.6%)
Windows Server (any year)
4 (18.2%)
Linux distro
9 (40.9%)
FreeNAS
2 (9.1%)
other
0 (0%)
Windows (desktop: 7/XP)
4 (18.2%)

Total Members Voted: 22

Last post Author Topic: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?  (Read 11825 times)

superboyac

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What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« on: January 04, 2011, 10:25:38 AM »
I'm curious because I will build one this year.  I'm leaning towards Windows Server.  But I know a lot of people will say that is overkill.  I don't know.  WHS sounds good, but I don't need any of the built in features because I'm a 3rd party software kind of person anyway.

Part of my question is, what does a server OS do that a regular OS doesn't do (like Windows 7, XP)?  i mean,r eally, what's the difference?  I'm guessing it has to do with handling a lot of drives, right?  I know my XP machine starting acting weird once I attached more than 5 drives to it.

So that's what all this is about.  I'm trying to choose a server OS for home.

Josh

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2011, 10:35:05 AM »
The difference between a workstation and a server is the allocation of resources. In a workstation, more priority is given to running applications while on a server more is given to background services. Non-essential addons (themes, various client services, etc) are cut out in a server environment and a focus is placed on availability versus usability.

I use Server 2008 R2 for most of my work. I do have a dedicated server setup running pfSense and another experimental one running centos and testing out apache on with a few specialized configurations for certain projects I am working on. Other than that, I rely on WS2008R2 Core (for the most part).

f0dder

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2011, 12:23:34 PM »
Linux - because it's gratis (I used to have a lot of spare time).
- carpe noctem

AndyM

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2011, 12:45:32 PM »
... what does a server OS do that a regular OS doesn't do (like Windows 7, XP)? ...
The difference between a workstation and a server is the allocation of resources. ...

Is this a function of the hardware or the OS?

Josh

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2011, 12:54:32 PM »
The OS allocates resources as demanded by users or applications.

Eóin

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2011, 01:07:11 PM »
Windows Server 2008 R2 because it's free for students and is just sooooo easy to manage.

If I were setting up a web facing server I'd prob go Linux or *BSD. Actually I'd almost certainly go OpenBSD for geek browny points  :D

superboyac

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2011, 01:09:22 PM »
Windows Server 2008 R2 because it's free for students and is just sooooo easy to manage.

If I were setting up a web facing server I'd prob go Linux or *BSD. Actually I'd almost certainly go OpenBSD for geek browny points  :D
Thanks.

Eóin

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2011, 01:18:36 PM »
BTW, one big plus for Windows Server over a desktop Win OS is that it supports RAID setups. Pretty much all ours does at home is act as a file server tbh.

Stoic Joker

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2011, 02:00:33 PM »
Windows Server 2008 R2 because it's free for students and is just sooooo easy to manage.

I'm MCSA in both Win2k & 2k3, and yet I still spend half the time working with 2k8 trying to figure out where the hell they moved stuff to. I think they got a little too cute with the interface; the new IIS really drives me nutz. The old one was fine (UI wise) what was the point of scattering stuff everywhere hidden behind little pictures?!?

I'll get used to it eventually, and really like parts of it ... But I'll bitch about the rest in the interim... ;)

Eóin

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2011, 02:14:14 PM »
Well I only started playing with Win Server OSes with Server 2008, so i guess I started from a clean slate.

Stoic Joker

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2011, 03:07:59 PM »
Well I only started playing with Win Server OSes with Server 2008, so i guess I started from a clean slate.

That can help I'd imagine, starting with 2k I didn't have to unlearn any of the NT4 stuff so it was easy to pick-up as everything was new. The term Primary Domain Controller (or PDC) is a left over from the NT4 days - You still hear people using it, but they're generally the (older) NT4 crowd - still not completely unlearned yet... :)

...and I guess I'm getting my turn at that bat now also... (hehe) ...Shit.

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2011, 04:00:42 PM »
The main differences between server and desktop OSs as I see them are:

  • Built-in services - things like IIS, Active Directory, etc. (for the Windows side)
  • Resource allocation/priority (as Josh said)
  • Different default services - servers will often not include services (or have them disabled by default) that desktop systems use, and have other services enabled/installed that are not available or enabled by default on desktops
  • More sophisticated user handling and credential management
  • More sophisticated data storage management (e.g. RAID)

There are of course a few other things, but those are the majors I think.

Now the first question that springs to mind is, if you're going to be using all 3rd party services, what exactly do you want a "server OS for"? Especially Windows Server. Even for a small business, if you have less than 10 clients (at a very, very minimum) I would not recommend a Windows Server setup unless there were serious authentication/credential management and service needs.

If this is just for your home network environment, then what is driving this decision? Do you simply want a central data repository where everyone can access e.g. movies and other media? Is centralized backup a desire? Do you want to run your own mail server so that the whole family has on-site mail with central SPAM/virus filtering, unlimited mailbox size, shared calendars, etc? Essentially, as always, what problems are you trying to solve?

Personally if I had a desire to create a server (I don't, despite having 6+ systems at home and more than 20TB of data to access in a shared manner), I would probably use Linux, even though I'm not terribly familiar with it, just because I know it can cover all the services I would want without cost. If I didn't want to host my own mail or web services, I'd go with Windows Home Server. Windows Server 2008 and other business-oriented versions wouldn't really enter my mind because I have no need for Active Directory and such services, and if I want to run a web server, I want it to be LAMP anyway, not IIS.

- Oshyan

superboyac

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2011, 04:17:31 PM »
OK, for the sake of this discussion, let's avoid any concerns about price.  Let's just assume I have an infinite amount of money and it doesn't matter what the alternatives cost.  I may go with a very expensive solution simply because it means I have more buttons to pick instead of command line stuff.  I'm like that.  I'm VERY familiar with Windows, and while I'm not necessarily afraid of Linux (I've used it as a virtual machine), if it means I need to fiddle around more with command line stuff or text files, I'd rather not.

JJ, your assumption about my needs are pretty right on.  Definitely less than 10 computers will be using the server.  My main purpose is simply file storage.  I want a central place to put a bunch of hard drives and access them from several machines.  So, I'm talking about anywhere between 5-20 drives, and 10-20 TB of information, including double and sometimes triple redundancy.  So I don't actually have that much data, but once you multiply it for the backups, I do have a lot.

The backup stuff will be handles by SFFS.  These are all just file syncing, nothing more.  No RAID.  I want to be able to pull a drive out at anytime and use that drive's contents standalone anywhere else...so just files and folders.  Some of the drives will be used to stream media, so the drives that have things like videos will be used by other computers to play them.  No big deal, I think.  Nothing normal OS's don't do already.

I mean, what if I just ran regular ol Windows 7 on the server machine?  Would that work?  Is it going to have issues with all the hard drives?  I'm not going to us Linux if I have to get used to a lot of new things like a new type of file structure, command line things, different programs to learn.  i have no desire for that.  I'm a Windows guy, I'll stick with it until I have time to explore other options.  I'm extremely good with Windows and very comfortable getting all up into it without worrying about it.

I'm not that concerned about crazy security things, like corporate level firewalls and so forth (unless I should be).  I mean, I'll do it if it's relatively painless.  But i don't want to buy thousands of dollars of hardware firewall equipment, and learn all the security things.  I've heard that just my normal wifi router is good enough, no?  I mean, I recently tried setting up an SFTP server, and I never got it working.  It was a huge pain.  I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I don't have the time now or later this year to learn too many new things.  but I do need to do something about my storage issues, because I am full right now and I'm tired of burning DVD's and keeping track of what I'm keeping/removing/backing up.  I literally spend 2-4 hours a week now just dealing with running out of space issues.

Anyway, if there is a nice Linux distro that handles this well and wouldn't require me to spend ages on Linux forums, I'd be very interested in checking it out.

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2011, 04:30:42 PM »
If the vast majority of your need is simply for data sharing and syncing, I believe a NAS-oriented solution (like FreeNAS) might be ideal. That being said, if you're most comfortable with Windows, there's no reason not to just use Windows 7 for this. It can handle the number of drives just fine (I've had up to 15 drives on a Win7 machine already), it has Library support, you can share Libraries directly, meaning you can essentially "federate" data across multiple drives into a single cohesive presentation and then share it. Being Windows, you can use all the tools you're already familiar with. It won't include extraneous web server, mail server, and active directory type stuff, which are all services you won't (as far a I understand) need and will just be there for no reason. Regular Windows Homegroup sharing should provide sufficient access control and ease of use, especially vs. e.g. Active Directory.

Security should not be an issue as long as you're using appropriate encryption on your wireless (WPA2), and you do not share files with "Everyone" but rather have user names, passwords, and appropriate logins and permissions on each machine for the central share(s). This is fairly easy to setup, and will provide another layer of security should a casual snooper happen to get in to your network (say a friend who comes over who you give the wireless key to).

All in all I think Windows Server is overkill and you should be looking at either a NAS-in-a-box type prebuilt Linux distro, or Windows 7. Probably the latter given your inexperience and level of comfort with Linux, plus the fact that you want to run your own familiar sync software.

- Oshyan

superboyac

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2011, 05:18:12 PM »
Thanks JJ, that's exactly what I was looking for.  If what you say is true, I'm very happy with that setup and would not be nervous about diving into it right now.

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2011, 05:31:58 PM »
Well, I speak from personal experience. This is exactly what I do with my media server. I actually run 2 "servers", one for media which doubles as a media playback and cataloging machine (it's in my living room hooked to my flat screen TV), the other is a more general data storage system that handles other (non-"media") data sharing, backup/syncing for all the other systems, cloud backup (it backs up all the other systems to its own drives, then backs *those* up to a cloud service), etc.

Anyway, Win7 on both machines, works great. No RAID for the internal drives, Libraries functionality is ideal for the media folders. I use an off-board RAID unit at the moment (the Lacie mentioned in my "Not backing up will cost you" thread) on the non-media server, but probably not for long given my experiences with it.

- Oshyan

Stoic Joker

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2011, 05:33:44 PM »
Let me make this simple... Technology Totally Sucks ... When Applied Badly.

Windows 7 Libraries Do Not Work over the wire. Period. So if you include network share folders X, Y, and Z in a Library on one machine, then go to a different machine you will have to recreate in again, and again, and again ... There is a word for that, it's called stupid.

A Windows Server... Will give you the full set of file sharing services, like DFS (Distributed File System)  which is a "Library" for folders from disparate locations pulled into a single shared location for consistent easy access from any location...And you only have to do it once. No you don't get the spiffy indexing features with DFS, but you also don't get them with the Win7 Libraries over-the-wire either. So nothing is "lost" but major constant headaches.

IIS, AD, DHCP, DNS, and etc. are all services that Can Be Added to a Win2k3 server. They are not compulsory, or even there by default. It does just fine as a bog stock workgroup server. However IIS is a kick-ass web server if you know how to setup and manage it properly.

With 10TB of data to keep track off if you go with proper commercial hardware, then RAID (1+0 as well as a backup strategy) would truly be the best configuration. But if you just want to hang a bunch of independent drives off a RAID controller then DFS will be your best bet to keep things organized and accessible. Either way a true server OS will handle the access of the data much better by not wasting it's resources on themes & multimedia nonsense.

Note: Commercial RAID controllers have on-board repair features that work (both manually and transparently) quite well. Not to mention that multiple configuration can be used for the various drives so you're not locked into the all or none crap of the consumer lever stuff.


superboyac

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2011, 05:40:50 PM »
Oh man...
OK, I think I'm going to have to set aside a couple of weeks in the next few months to explore all of this.  I have no idea what is going.  i don't know the differences in all of these things, i don't get it.  I'm hearing all sorts of contradictory things, I'm not going to be able to make a decision this way.  It's ok, I appreciate the help, but I think this is going to take a lot of legwork and time on my end until I know what I'm doing.

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2011, 05:42:19 PM »
Libraries work fine for what I'm using them for, but I do not attempt to combine multiple *remote* network folders into one library, I'm going the opposite direction, taking multiple local folders and presenting them as a single share. It sounds like suberboyac wants to do the same thing.

What exactly is the advantage of RAID in this situation? If you're not using AD, IIS, etc. then what's the point of using a more expensive server OS? Not having skins enabled? Turn them off in Win7. Server-tuned process scheduling? Set priority in your Windows system settings to services. Yes, of course, these are not quite the same thing, but for 90% of the benefit they're worth not bothering with the expense and, yes, added complexity of Windows Server IMO.

- Oshyan

Josh

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2011, 05:43:06 PM »
SBAC, The big question is what is the ultimate purpose of the machine in question? That can help us tailor an OS/Solution to your needs :)

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #20 on: January 04, 2011, 05:46:21 PM »
Oh man...
OK, I think I'm going to have to set aside a couple of weeks in the next few months to explore all of this.  I have no idea what is going.  i don't know the differences in all of these things, i don't get it.  I'm hearing all sorts of contradictory things, I'm not going to be able to make a decision this way.  It's ok, I appreciate the help, but I think this is going to take a lot of legwork and time on my end until I know what I'm doing.

You know Windows 7 already. You can try this stuff on smaller data sets (e.g. shared libraries) and see if it does what you want. If not, go for the bigger guns. If so however, you've saved yourself time and money.

It's really all about accurately and completely (as much as possible) determining your needs and then mapping the solutions that exist to those needs as closely as possible. If for example you have a bunch of folders on separate machines that you want to access as a single index of files, and you want every machine on your network to be able to do this, then Stoic's suggestion makes more sense than Win7 default. But I don't need to do this, and it didn't sound like you do either. Instead I have 4 network shared libraries - music, movies, tv, and data, the first 3 of which are on the media server, the latter on the data server - and these are linked to on all my machines here. It's a pretty easy and convenient setup as far as I'm concerned.

- Oshyan

Shades

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #21 on: January 04, 2011, 06:14:27 PM »
In my experience the communication between any PC that runs XP/2003 (or older) and the one that is running 'HomeGroup' (7, 2008R2) is not great...to put it mildly. If you plan to use such a mixed environment, than I strongly suggest to not use the 'HomeGroup' crap at all.

In Windows 7 it is possible to set up your networking for a 'Work' environment, which appears to "kill" the HomeGroup features.

According to Fred Langa you can actually gain 10 to 15% of raw networking speed just by disabling 'HomeGroup'.

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #22 on: January 04, 2011, 06:28:06 PM »
Interesting tidbit Shades. I haven't had any major problems with the few XP machines I have left, but admittedly they seldom access the network resources. Everything else is on Win7. The network speed issue is of greater interest to me though...

Edit: To clarify, I'm not actually using "Homegroup" in my setup, though I'm not sure I've properly and fully disabled it. But I did suggest that above just because it's pretty easy to get working as long as you have other Win7 machines. But superboyac is surely savvy enough to use regular Windows networking and given the advantages you've mentioned, I think it's worth doing that, especially in a mixed environment.

- Oshyan
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 06:31:56 PM by JavaJones »

40hz

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2011, 07:02:59 PM »
@SB-

A server's primary function is to provide security. It does this by controlling access to resources and data assets stored on a network. Anything else a server does after that is pure gravy.

Some suggestions in no specific order:

- If you don't need much security - and all you want to do is store and share files - a NAS solution is your best bet.

- If you want/need to do more than that (i.e. provide remote access, have user roles, offer additional services such as VMs, HTTP or SFTP) then you will want to get a 'real' server.

-For home or SOHO use, Windows Home Server is all you'll need. It's very easy to work with. And it doesn't take a pilot's license to fly it. At a street price of around $100 (so far) it's also pretty cheap for a product that has full tech support available.

-Don't even bother running print shares off a home or SOHO server. Unless you need to restrict who gets to use the printer (or account for the number of pages coming off it) just go for a printer with network capabilities. Print directly to it over your network and be done with it.

For a business with plans to grow (or just delusions of grandeur) the choices get a little more complicated.

-If you're going to maintain it yourself, it doesn't really matter what you pick. Linux or Windows - either way you've got some work and book time ahead of you.

-If you're hiring, pick whatever the most popular platform in your area is . Because that's what the talent pool you're going to hire from is likely working with - and knows best.

In my neck of the woods, it's Windows Server hands down. Out in sunny Los Angeles or Frisco Bay it's probably more likely to be an even split between BSD and Bill Gates.

-If you want to try a general Linux server solution, and it's your maiden voyage, try one of these first: Zentyal or ClearOS. They're very forgiving since they have a nice GUI to work with until earn your Techno-Wonk Beanie-copter.

140.jpg

(Note: Effective 10/17/1999 - having webbed-feet is no longer a requirement in order to wear a 'B-C.')

Luck! :Thmbsup:


« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 07:05:37 PM by 40hz »

JavaJones

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Re: What is your preferred server OS for home use? And Why?
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2011, 07:19:20 PM »
Well said (as usual) 40hz. Security is of course one biggie I missed in my list above, though several of the entries sort of tie back in to that. Basically, access control.

I haven't worked with WHS myself, but I'm curious about it. Like I said above, Win7 (Home Premium in case anyone is curious) works fine for my needs, which I think are pretty extensive for a home user. But WHS might fulfill my needs even better. I'm just a bit wary after they removed the storage concatenation feature recently, and I'm unsure what the future of the product is.

Also a good recommendation as far as printing goes. My wireless all-in-one Canon has been awesome in this regard. Seamless multi-user access.

- Oshyan