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Do I Need a Server for my Home Network?


   Every time users hear the word “Server” they think of a big computer with serious intentions. A common misconception is to associate a server with a physical machine that performs the role of a server. This is partially true, but with the rise of virtualization the idea of server needs to shift towards the role of “serving” something, that is to say, to serve specific roles. A server can perform multiple tasks, such as:

Web Server: if you really want to host your own domain and website, a web server with Apache can do the job for you. With Apache you can also view your pages locally so that if you have to edit your website before publishing it, that is what a web server is able to do;

File Server: Let’s say you have more than one computer and you want to transfer files from one computer to the server or retrieve files from it. With a FTP program like Filezilla this is possible.

Back Up Server: also known as NAS. Network attached storage are very popular today. These boxes are built with RAID 1 mirroring and if one hard drive fails you can be notified before its failure so that you have time to replace the broken hard drive and let the NAS rebuild the RAID within 24/48 hours. NAS are connected to the router or switch and offer redundancy with a USB built in port that you can use to plug in an external hard drive to back up your files. NAS, like computers, are not infallible and their RAID is not a replacement of a backup system set up by the user.

Media Server: Do you like movies? If you have hundreds of movies, you can stream them in your network with Linux distributions built for streaming music and videos. Even your mp3 files library can be streamed in your home.

DHCP Server: if you do not trust your router manufacturer, an old computer can also be turned into a DHCP server. The role of the server is to assign an IP range so that all the devices connected will pick up an IP and all the Internet traffic will be routed through the DHCP server to and from the Internet, providing enhanced security to the house. In this case the DHCP server should have two NIC cards, one connected to the modem and the other connected to the LAN. A third wireless card can be required if you also want to take advantage of the wireless capabilities of your server.

– DNS Server: If you have set up the DHCP server, you will aso need to route your traffic through reliable DNS servers. Since ISP providers’ DNS are not that great, companies like Google and Open DNS offer a better approach to a cleaner Internet experience. Better DNS servers are not a replacement for antivirus. If you run Windows computers with your home servers, you also need to install antivirus software for your client machines.