Best Server for Home Lab

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Running a home lab is an investment and certainly comes with the cost of equipment, including servers, networking gear, storage, and ancillary devices. However, a cost that is part of running a home lab is electricity, aka power. Power costs are one of the abstract costs that come from running a home lab environment and can certainly total higher than expected. This post will consider several recommendations for the Best Server for Home Lab and other power considerations for considerably lowering your home lab costs.

Best Server for Home Lab

What is a Home Lab?

Think of a home lab as a place where you can fail in the privacy of your own home. As Thomas A. Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I consider myself an expert at failure. But seriously, I would like to fail a lot more, and a home lab will create endless opportunities for me to fail. Of course, all the while seeking success, but you got that already.

In general, a lab is a place where you can safely perform experiments. Most of you reading this article are techies and sysadmins. As you know, trying out new things on production equipment never ends well. Shush… it’s OK, I know, I know, you didn’t think that one command would take everything offline. This risk is the reason why we build ourselves a sandbox environment to dabble, test, and fail in, all from the comfort of our own homes.

To date, I host my test labs on servers in North America and Europe. I’m creating a customized network and server home lab; to fill those areas where I would like to become more familiar. I will also be using my home lab for remote backups, network monitoring and alerting of remote servers, and wired UAP APs, among other things.

Power considerations for home lab environments

When running a home lab environment, multiple considerations are worth noting as part of your home lab environment investment. Why does electricity matter? If you are like me, the home lab environment is a valuable part of my everyday professional career and personal learning. Home labs are a great way to get your hands on technologies in a sandbox environment where the fear of breaking things is out the window. You can create snapshots and use other tools to “rinse and repeat” various steps in your lab environment without the normal concerns of trying and testing things in production (which you should never do).

I have made a sizeable investment in equipment (servers, networking gear, storage, etc.) to build out a home lab environment that runs 24x7x365. With this being said, the run costs of a server lab can add up and will certainly add an amount to your electricity costs. Also, it can have a direct relationship to cooling costs as well if you want to keep your server room running fairly cool, which I do. These can definitely show in the summer months as AC runs to help compensate for the additional heat.

With a few of these things already mentioned, there are questions you will want to ask yourself that can directly impact the electric costs:

  • For example, will you run your lab 24x7x365?
  • Do you want to have actual hardware configurations, or can you use nested?
  • What types of servers do you want to run?
  • Do you have specific CPU requirements?
  • What types of networking gear do you require?

Runner Up Homelab Server For 2020

If the above might be a bit too much for you here are our two top picks for runner up servers.

  • Supports Intel® Xeon® E5-2697 2.7GHz/12-core processors
  • Can easily support 128GB given the type of memory. Max capacity 768GB (24 x 32GB HDIMM @1333MHz or LRDIMM @1066MHz)
  • Supports VMware vCenter 6.5 and earlier
  • Equipped with iLO (Integrated Lights Out) for easy remote connectivity
  • Supports Intel® Xeon® E5-2600 product families
  • Max capacity 768GB. 2GB/4GB/8GB/16GB/32GB DDR3 up to 1866MT/s
  • Supports VMware vCenter 6.5 and earlier
  • Equipped with iDRAC7 for easy remote connectivity

Home lab location, it’s all about location.

Location, Location, Location. It’s all about location! Please excuse the lack of originality – I’m a sysadmin, not a writer. I’ll try my best to get you to the end of this article.

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Location is critical for several reasons. The choice between the home office, living room, closet, attic, basement, or garage depends on a range of important variables. These include room temperature and ventilation, workable space around your equipment, ease and distance of network cable runs, foot traffic, 24-hour ease of access, power, noise levels from your home lab, and more.

Here’s a quick list of Pros vs. Cons I’ve compiled to get us thinking about all the possible home lab locations. Choose wisely:

Home office

  • Pros: Proximity to work area/desk/devices, fewer cable runs, and you can watch lights flash all day.
  • Cons: no home office or you already spend too much time in your home office.

Living room

  • Pros: Usually cool, lots of space/setup options, blinky-blinky sci-fi movie nights, and counts as family time.
  • Cons: divorce, foot traffic, could get damaged, or damaged during the divorce.

Closet

  • Pros: Easily accessible, stealthy, and you get to say: “Look at what I have hiding in my closet.”
  • Cons: Poor ventilation (excess heat), lack of space, and one less closet = unhappy wife.

Basement

  • Pros: Usually cooler temps, and volunteering to do laundry (maybe con?).
  • Cons: don’t have a basement, flooding, spiders, or no access when injured.

Attic

  • Pros: Less noise, easier cable runs.
  • Cons: can get hot depending on where you live, roof leaks, humidity/condensation, and creepy at night.

Garage

  • Pros: Less noise in the house, completely out of sight, wife won’t even notice.
  • Cons: A Bug’s Life in your lab, excess heat (if no AC), dust, could require longer cables, or gets wrecked when parking the car.

Best Server for Home Lab

It sort of depends on what your personal preference is. I’ve been more exposed to HP shops so for me personally, I went with HP but if that’s not your style, my equally ranked Dell choice is great as well.

Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click on an Amazon link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Here is why this is our overall best server for home lab in 2020:

  • Supports Intel® Xeon® E5-2697 2.7GHz/12-core processors
  • Can easily support 128GB given the type of memory. Max capacity 768GB (24 x 32GB HDIMM @1333MHz or LRDIMM @1066MHz)
  • Supports VMware vCenter 6.5 and earlier
  • Equipped with iLO (Integrated Lights Out) for easy remote connectivity

Here is why this is also our overall best server for home lab in 2020:

  • Supports Intel® Xeon® E5-2600 product families
  • Max capacity 768GB. 2GB/4GB/8GB/16GB/32GB DDR3 up to 1866MT/s
  • Supports VMware vCenter 6.5 and earlier
  • Equipped with iDRAC7 for easy remote connectivity

What are the Different Types of Server Software?

There are a number of types of server software out there, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a brief overview of the different types:

1.PHPServer: This is the most popular type of server software and is used for websites that require an easy-to-use platform to run their operations. PHPServer can be used on both Windows and MacOS systems.

2.MySQL Server: MySQL Server is used by many websites as its popularity ensures it’s not too difficult to set up and manage. MySQL Server can be used on both Windows and MacOS systems.

3.ASPNET Core: ASPNET Core is a new system designed for web applications that’s built on top of the ASP .NET Framework. It offers a more concise development experience and is perfect for developing quickly without sacrificing performance or stability.

4. Ruby on Rails: Ruby on Rails is another popular choice for web applications because it makes creating user interfaces quick and easy, as well as being able to scale easily thanks to its Rack middleware feature.

What are the Different Types of Server Software.

There are many different types of server software, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. To choose the right server for you, you first need to understand which features are important to you. Then decide which type ofserver rentals is best for your needs. Finally, read through this subsection to find out how to choose the right server for your needs.

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Subsection 3.2 Which Are the Different Types of Server Rentals?

There are a variety ofserver rental options available, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. To make the best decision for your budget and needs, it’s important to research each option before making a purchase. You can findserver rentals that match your specific needs on websites like Airbnb or Booking Bids. Additionally, there are a number of online services that allow you to rent servers from individuals or businesses. By doing your research and choosing the right rental option based on your specific needs, you can save money and have an easy time traveling without breaking the bank.

Network vs. Server Racks vs. Cabinets?

Next, we need to decide how we will store the equipment (modems, routers, switches, servers, patch panels, UPS systems, power strips, cooling fans, etc.).

Network cabinets and racks are often confused with Server cabinets and racks. Routers, switches, patch panels, and the like are usually much shallower than servers. As such, Network Cabinets and Racks are usually not as deep as Server Cabinets and Racks. Also, networking devices often produce less heat than servers. You will find some network cabinets will have glass doors that may not leave enough ventilation for servers.

After deciding the depth and ventilation requirements for your home lab, there are a couple of other things to consider. A cabinet is an enclosed space with door(s) and/or removable sides, whereas a rack is a semi or fully open (4 sides open) frame. To help you decide whether to use a cabinet or rack, consider the following:

  • If you are installing large, heavy servers, then the extra stability of cabinets or four-sided racks should be considered.
  • If you need frequent access to the sides or rear of equipment, then an open rack or cabinet with removable sides would work well.
  • If your equipment requires extra cooling, an enclosed cabinet will need more attention to cooling and ventilation.
  • If the room is prone to dust, the extra protection of a cabinet will go a long way in keeping it out of your equipment.
  • If you are installing in a general living area frequented by house guests, consider an enclosed cabinet that can often look neater in appearance when locked. However, a well-maintained open rack with tidy power and network cable runs can look just as neat!
  • If restricted access/security is required, many enclosed cabinets often offer lock and key access control for better security.

Best Quiet Home Server in 2022?

So, let’s talk about the best low-power, quiet home server. It may be an “it depends” answer for different users. What is the best low-power server for one home labber, may be different for another. There will be tradeoffs depending on which CPU and form factor you choose.

The smaller form factor servers with different server types may be limited in the CPU “power” contained in the CPU packages. Generally, the best low-power home server will not be for ultra-performance workloads. However, for most home labbers, this will not be an issue as we are more often looking at running multiple workloads well, even if we sacrifice a bit of speed. Efficiency is arguably more important in this case.

In my opinion, in trying various home lab server equipment, Supermicro offers the best low-power home server for my use case. Utilizing the Xeon-D model CPUs, which are now getting a refresh from Intel, is a great way to have the best of both worlds balanced. The CPUs are low-power consumption packages but still “powerful” enough from a compute standpoint to run all the workloads I need to run in my lab environment.

So, for this post, I will describe why the Supermicro is the best low-power home server for my lab. It comes down to the following:

  • Stability
  • Performance
  • Cost
  • Enterprise features
  • Fanless options
Stability

The Supermicro servers I am running have been running 24x7x365 for several years now, and I have not had any issues. The only component I have lost has been a few NVMe drives which are expected since I am running consumer-grade NVMe drives to save cost. Most failures have been the cache drives fronting the vSAN datastore in my vSAN cluster. These are the only failures of consumer NVMe drives I have seen.

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The servers themselves have been rock solid, not failures. BIOS updates and other updates have gone smoothly. I have run these with vSphere 6.5 and up to vSphere 7.0+ now, and they are still running fine.

Performance

I am running a combination of Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU D-1541 @ 2.10GHz and Intel(R) Xeon(R) D-2146NT CPU @ 2.30GHz. Granted, these are getting long in the tooth now. However, they are still serving my purposes quite well. I am watching Intel’s newly announced Xeon-D processors: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-xeon-d-1700-xeon-d-2700.

Cost

The cost of the Supermicro SYS-E301-9D-8CN8TP and SYS-5028D-TN4T units I have been running were not inexpensive, but they were affordable. I collected the ones in my lab environment for a couple of years of investments in the servers. I was able to purchase and grow the lab over that time. I now have (4) of the 5028D units and (1) E301-9D units.

Costs have gone up considerably across the board for all server hardware, so keep in mind the current supply chain issues will come into play with costs.

Enterprise features

While I would say that Supermicro servers do not include all the enterprise features of a brand new Dell server, they do have a good number of features that I like. These include a built-in out-of-band management IPMI solution allowing power control, remote keyboard, video, mouse capabilities, and automation capabilities with their command-line utilities.

How to Choose the Right Server for You.

When it comes to choosing a server, it’s important to have a long-term investment strategy in place. If you plan on using your server for more than just surfing the internet or playing video games, it’s best to invest in something that will last. Consider factors like how often the server will need to be replaced and how much money you think you’ll save over time. Additionally, diversify your investments by buying servers from different companies or regions. This way, you won’t lose out on opportunities because one company had a surge in popularity.

Diversify Your Investments

Another key factor to consider is the number of servers you want to buy. You don’t want to spend too much upfront and then find out later that you only received one of the servers you ordered and weren’t able to use it because another company took it back. Instead, go ahead and purchase at least two servers so that you have redundancy in case one goes out for any reason. And if money is an issue, consider getting servers with longer lifespans so that they can continue serving for years without breaking the bank.

Stay Up-to-Date on Financial News

Keep up with financial news by staying up-to-date on websites like Reuters and Bloomberg each day (search for “financial news daily”). By doing this, you can get information about upcoming deals, stock prices, and other financial developments before anyone else does! Additionally, keep an eye out for alerts sent through email or text messages about financial events happening near your location or within your industry! By being prepared for potential volatility when deciding which server to choose, you should be well situated for budget-friendly travel!

Be Prepared for Volatility

One final thing to keep in mind when choosing a server is how volatile the market can be! If there are unexpected changes happening in theServer industry that could affect your business negatively (like a increase in piracy rates), make sure to research potential risks beforehand so that you can decide whether investing in aserver is worth the risk!

Conclusion

Server Selection is important for businesses of all sizes. By understanding which server brand is best for you, choosing the right server can be a breeze. Additionally, being up-to-date on financial news and preparing for volatility are essential steps in making this choice easier. With a long-term investment strategy and diversifying your investments, you should be able to handle any potential challenges that come along with running a small business.

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