DIY Eco Linux Fileserver (part 1)
Every now and again, I undertake a DIY tech project. I think it’s because I’m a geek at heart and I like to think to myself a little smugly, “still got it”.
The Project Brief #
This time the brief actually came from my lovely wife: shrink the physical footprint and electricity consumption of the servers running 24/7 in the home office. The beige boxes are going green!
For a number of years I’ve been running a home-built Debian Linux fileserver. In my view, it’s a handy way of reducing the floor space in my home office that requires vacuuming. In my wife’s opinion, it’s a blocky, beige, slow and electricity-guzzling monstrosity. On the plus side, I’ve never had to heat the room.
It’s one of two identical midi-tower servers (the other’s the firewall, but that’s the next project), with three or four aging IDE disks that are rapidly running out of space. Aside from Samba to share my files with the Windows desktop and laptops, it’s also running a web server and MySQL server I use for testing stuff like WordPress, as well as SqueezeCenter and network services such as DHCP and DNS.
I generally take the approach of replacing and upgrading my hard disks after a few years, ideally before they fail. Being relatively paranoid, I have multiple stages of backup:
- big disk online in file server ->
- bigger backup disk online in file server ->
- even bigger external disk offline
- + selected irreplaceable photos and files are backed up to Amazon S3.
- bigger backup disk online in file server ->
Rejected Options #
I’d thought about buying a consumer NAS device. I particularly liked the look of QNAP‘s filers, running Linux on an embedded Intel Atom chip. Low power, small footprint, native support for SqueezeCenter and other goodies were all definitely pluspoints, but I wasn’t sure how much control I was going to have over the underlying OS to run other more random services.
For similar reasons, I thought about building a mini-ITX box with a couple of big disks in, then maybe installing something like Openfiler. Cost was going to be an issue to build a small machine, easily taking me into the £400+ band. Plus, this time around, I wanted something with an even smaller footprint. So I kept on looking.
I came via a fairly circuitous route, but while looking at suppliers of ultra-small Atom motherboards, I came across Zotac’s MAG. Dual-core Atom 330, 2GB RAM, NVidia’s ION chipset, WLAN and most importantly an eSATA connector. Good reviews and ready for Linux. Liked it a lot. Not unattractive either: I particularly liked the big LED-lit circle showing it was powered up. Bit of hunting around for suppliers brought up the not-unreasonable price of £229 (incl. VAT) from Aria.
Searching around a little more uncovered a couple of other respectable contenders, first of which was the Asus Eeebox. This had an almost identical spec to the Zotac and although not quite as nice-looking as the Zotac, a better-known brand, albeit one which looks like the Marketing department had a dodgy keyboard when naming the brand. A bit on the pricey side though, with Google Shopping showing prices around the £265 mark.
The last nettop in my top three was Acer’s Aspire Revo. Once again, a very similar specification to the other two machines. It has a slightly quirky parallelogram shape, which may annoy me over time, though it happened to have a competition-beating price: £200 (incl. VAT) from eBuyer, £30 off the RRP. Lovely job – order placed.
Having ditched the NAS appliance option a while ago, I wanted to get the most storage for my money. This was pretty straightforward, searching on Dabs, Scan and Aria for the cheapest 2TB eSATA external hard drive from a supplier I’d heard of. In the end, I picked up an Iomega Prestige Professional for a rather reasonable £139 (incl. VAT) from Digital Fusion.
Next week, when the kit’s arrived and I’ve had a chance to play around with it and attempt to install Debian, I’ll post up some some tips and gotchas.
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