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Home Server

What is a Home Server?

A home server is a computer that serves other devices within or outside the household via a local home network or the Internet. It can be a simple personal computer with a large hard drive, sufficient memory, and a network connection. Home servers are often used to distribute multimedia content, such as images, music, and video to other household devices.

In this article, we are going to look at home servers by answering the following questions:

What is a Server?

Servers set-up

A server is a dedicated computer that provides services on behalf of clients, such as ordinary desktop computers or workstations. It is basically a centralised machine to which several clients connect for a specific service, either over the Internet or a local area network. The service could be to retrieve a  website, access data, email, and so on.

Depending upon the need of the server, you can determine the required setup. For example, a server could be dedicated to one service, such as one server reserved for a website, one server for data storage, and another for email. Or set up a server to handle several services on one machine “computer”.

In general, most people think of a server as a powerful centralised computer that clients connect to across a network, and they’re right. However, a server is more than just a computer. A server is actually a role that a computer plays, and because any desktop computer can be configured as a server, it does not need to be especially powerful. So, for example, a file server can be set up in a home network on any computer. Files will be stored on the computer in a shared folder, and other computers will be able to connect and access them. Or set up a webserver to host a website and let other computers connect and retrieve the webpage.

Ordinary computers have limitations in that they are not designed to handle a high workload and cannot handle a large number of incoming connections. This is not only because of limitations in hardware but also the software; desktop operating systems can only handle a limited amount of concurrent connections.

Why Do You Need a Home Server?

A home server can provide different services, and it can be extremely efficient for those who are working from home. It can be used for data storage and management, gaming, reducing computer load, and even home automation. It can also be used in an advanced way, such as running a Tor node (secure surfing), hosting your own email, web hosting, chat server, home VPN server and more, which may require a higher level of technical skill. With that being said, a home server is more affordable than you think, it can be as simple as raspberry pi!

Raspberry pi 4

Now, let’s look at some of the most common applications.

Home Server for Centralised Data Storage

A home server can be used as centralised storage for all types of media content, such as photos, movies, documents or music. Nowadays, every person owns at least two devices, such as a smartphone and a laptop, which contain many data. Now take into consideration all of the devices and data owned by one household. It can be challenging to keep tracking and managing all of those data across different devices. Moreover, the data size can be massive, high-quality photos and videos captured every day from smartphones, movies, and documents. Not to mention the duplicate copies on each and every device a person owns.

A home media server is an excellent way to free up storage and centralise all of your data files. Setting up a home server allows storing complete household’s files in one centralised area rather than having them scattered across multiple devices.

Because the server is connected to your home network, anyone in your family can use their own devices to access and play the media in real-time and make file sharing a lot easier. A home server can also be open for a user to access from the outside local network.

– Automatic Data Backup

It is critical to back up all of your data. All that valuable information can be lost with a single click on a malicious website or a thoughtless move with a cup of coffee near to your laptop. A home backup server can be an excellent solution for keeping your information safe.

– Reduce Processing Power

Playing media consumes a large amount of CPU power on your computer. For example, assume you want to work on your laptop while watching a movie in the background. In this situation, a home server can play the movie for you, allowing you to multitask without the risk of your computer crashing.

– Home Server for Web hosting

Are you thinking about starting a personal website? Or perhaps you’d like to begin your career in web design! A home server is the most affordable way to start. It allows complete control over your website, and you don’t need to pay for a hosting provider. Bear in mind that an ordinary computer won’t handle millions of visitors. Nevertheless, it can function in the same way as a hosting service with limited traffic volume.

– Provides a Platform for Home Automation & Security

A home automation server provides a centralised platform for controlling your smart home. You may use a centralised server to handle heating, lighting, and IoT home appliances to save energy, or you can use it as a control panel for all of your home security systems.

The benefits of a home server are enormous. It can enable email hosting, online gaming, VPN, securing monitoring, and the list of benefits can go on and on.

How to Build a Home Server?

It is very simple to build up a home server and very cheap. Actually, you are now may already have the components to build up your very first home server. So what are the components of the home server?

1 – A computer. So depending on what you need it for, you can use an old computer in this case; it’s entirely free. Or you can buy a server, there are a variety of price ranges to choose from. Home servers are frequently utilised with NAS systems. There are a variety of solutions available depending on your needs. They’re more user-friendly than standard servers, but there’s less flexibility for customisation.

2 –Operating system. Any major operating systems, such as Ubuntu, Unraid, Amahi, and others, are available, some of which are also free. Choosing the right operating system suitable for your server is determined mainly by the type of operations you want it to perform. For example, Unraid may attract gamers, while family members may prefer FreeNAS. Personally, I prefer Ubuntu. It is an open-source and the most adaptable operating system, as it can be used as a file server, a streaming portal, or even a remote management system for IoT devices.

3- Software. There are varieties of software you can install on your home server, and many of them are open-source, meaning they are FREE. However, it is important to consider what software to install because you don’t need to load your server with useless applications. At the same time, you can always change, upgrade, and reconfigure your home server software at any moment if you want to try something new.

Home Server vs Cloud Service

Someone might argue that cloud services are better. Therefore, it is worth mentioning some of the pros and cons of home servers and cloud services. So does it worth setting up a home server instead of transferring all of your data to a cloud storage service? The following somethings to consider:

Home Server

Cloud Service


Operating a server means the user is responsible for server security. In other words, it’s your job to take the necessary measures to protect your files Signing up with a cloud provider means the users are handing their security over to somebody else.


Having a server guarantees that the user is in charge of data and can decide whom to share it with. You have no control over how your data is stored on the cloud or who has access to it.


Setting up a decent home server can cost a few hundred dollars. The cost of a basic cloud subscription is roughly $5 per month. However, the more cloud storage space and additional features you need, the more you will be charged.


Any natural disaster happens, your server might be broken, and your data will be lost. Cloud storage is safer in terms of data storage and backup system.


Depending on the hardware you use, your server might be extremely fast or super slow. A cloud service mainly depends on internet speed and connection.


Setting up a home server is convenient, relatively cheap, and a great learning experience. With little to no investment and some research, you can turn your local network into a data hub for you, your friends or family.

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  • Mustafa is an Architect & Researcher in the Built Environment with a specialisation in Digital Architecture and Sustainability. He is expert in computer modelling, simulation, reality capturing technologies and Internet of things. Throughout his career, he designed domestic and non-domestic buildings. His latest research has focused on Digital Twin, Advanced Digital Technologies, simulation tools and VR/AR visualisation to support Built Environment Applications.

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