Choose the right computer, to use as a server

This wiki page gives some tips on choosing a computer to use as a server.

Which parts are important?

Any computer will work as a server. Since it would run 24/7, you probably want a computer that doesn't overheat easily.

Processor speed is not important, unless you have many users or run complex programs (like some Web apps or spam filters). A mail server for several users with simple spam filtering (postscreen, postgrey, SPF policy daemon: no mail content processing) should work with any available CPU.

Graphics cards are not relevant for most servers. They are pretty much only useful for installing the system.

Disks are important for data storage. They break: prefer two or more in RAID1. (Use mdraid or btrfs raid1: hardware RAID is unreliable and might need nonfree software. btrfs, while new, possibly buggy and needing recent kernels, has data checksums: won't corrupt data when a write fails.) You need backup too in addition to RAID.

Network connection: usually wired Ethernet.

Desktop, notebook, netbook, or single board computer?

  • Desktop PC

They easily support connecting two disks for RAID1. They are, on average, cheaper than their notebook counterparts.

  • Notebooks and netbooks

Netbooks don't have extra bays for hard drives. Notebooks might. RAID usually needs external disks with their own issues (slow, expensive, not in the same box).

Notebooks or netbooks are smaller than desktops, so they might be useful as a server if you have a limited amount of space.

Have their own battery, no need for UPS.

  • Single board computers

Be careful about choosing a single-board-computer. None will work without proprietary software (as of July 3rd, 2015). Some require proprietary software for very basic things, and so are unusable. Others demand proprietary software for peripheral features like Wi-fi. https://www.fsf.org/resources/hw/single-board-computers

Power consumption

Higher power usage means it will:

  • cost more
  • get hotter
  • get louder if it has a fan

Higher power use leads to lower time on battery (of laptop or UPS) during power cuts.

The page on battery life has some suggestions that may be relevant for saving electricity with servers.

Testimonies

The following are testimonies from Trisquel users that either run, or have run, servers.

"Depending on the usage of the server, you might be more interested in either power usage when idle or power usage when operating at maximum speed." -- lembas

"I'd recommend enabling the CPU frequency scaling and whatever other power saving you can. 90% of the time a home server isn't doing much, might as well keep it cool. =p

"Netbooks make excellent servers, unless you're running something heavy." -- dudeski

Citations: lembas - dudeski

Revisions

12/16/2013 - 01:00
muhammed
12/16/2013 - 01:42
ssdclickofdeath
12/16/2013 - 14:22
Michał Masłowski
01/24/2014 - 01:36
antiesnob
07/03/2015 - 21:33
JadedCtrl