My ‘homeserver’ as I call it does many things at once. It’s responsible for serving up videos, and music over several applications/platforms, automatically downloading content, taking OTA streams and sending it to XBMC, and backing up all the computers on the network. I’d like to outline the hardware specs and software running on it. Click through to read more.
My homeserver is the hub to everything, and without it, I couldn’t be the cordcutter I am today. It’s responsible for so much that goes on everyday and it truly does make my life easier through simple automation software. Built in 2011 it’s starting to show its age but honestly I don’t see the need to update/upgrade anything (aside from HDD space). First lets go over the hardware side of things.
OS: Windows Home Server 2011
Case: Fractal Design Define R4 Black Pearl
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M
CPU: AMD A8-5600K
RAM: 2x 4GB Kingston KHX1600C9D3/4G
PSU: Corsair 550W (Cant remember exact model)
Storage Card: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8
OS: 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
5x Seagate 3TB
1x Seagate 2TB
1x WD 2TB
Total usable storage: 17.4 TB
Many people ask why Windows Home Server? Well I used the original version and it worked great. It saved my ass many times when it came to backing up and restoring entire OS’. The drive pooling feature worked great as well. The dashboard that displayed all relevant information was also helpful. When that server died I decided to upgrade to the newest version. Unfortunately they decided to omit the drive pooling feature. For many people it didnt work right and I guess they decided to let 3rd party developers come up with their own software. This brings me to what I use for drive pooling – StableBit Drivepool. It’s worked flawlessly for 2 years now, and I’m going to be posting a review on it soon. Essentially it takes all my hard drives and presents them as a massive 17TB drive.
What else does my homeserver do?
Automated content downloading with Sick Beard. This nifty tool automatically downloads all my TV content from BTN, not Usenet. I tried usenet but it never really worked 100% for me. Right now it’s working flawlessly with Broadcast The Net. It also talks to my main XBMC box. Once a download finishes it notifies it to update its library. I don’t have Couch potato setup right now as I like to manually download all my movies.
Backup all the PCs on the network. When I was living with my parents it was backing up 2 more laptops then it is now, but it’s still backing up my desktop, laptop and my girlfriends laptop. It takes backups silently in the background thanks to the software that comes with Windows Home Server. It archives the backups nicely as well, keeping 7 daily’s, 4 weekly’s and 1 monthly per computer. Kind of overkill but you can never have enough backups. I’d also like to implement an offsite backup routine that ships the backups to another location but that’s still being researched.
MySQL DB for the XBMC library. Both my XBMC HTPCs are synced up using a MySQL DB on the homeserver. Whenever I watch something, it gets updated in the DB, which is great when you have more than 1 HTPC. This way I can pause something on one htpc, go to the other one, and resume playback right away. It also keeps my ‘watched’ files in sync.
Subsonic music and video streaming is also setup. This allows me to stream music (and cache it) on my cell phone, and also stream it to my work so I can listen to music while I’m at work. I’ve found that caching the music on my cell phone using DSub and Subsonic to be very easy. There’s no plugging the phone in to the PC and transferring files or anything. It’s extremely easy and I have it setup to not degrade the quality at all, unless it’s FLAC, in which case I transcode to 320kbps.
Take an ‘Over The Air’ HDTV stream from an HDHomeRun Dual and pipe it to XBMC via NextPVR. Through the use of NextPVR I interface with the HDHomeRun I have and I can watch live TV on all of our XBMC HTPCs. This was probably the most frustrating thing to setup. I went through a few different ‘PVR’ softwares and finally settled on NextPVR as it was basically the only one that worked. I have it setup now so that it works great and because the HDHomeRun has two tuners, both HTPCs can watch live TV at the same time.
Since my girlfriend has an iPad, I’ve installed and setup Air Video Server so that she can stream all the content to her iPad. If it isn’t compatible, the homeserver will transcode the video (and audio if necessary) down to a proper format the iPad can plan.
It also has BitCasa installed that I use to send stuff to my storage there. I also have dropbox installed, and being backed up.
I can’t really think of anything else off the top of my head that this beast takes care of. It really is the hub to everything we do and all the media we consume. It’s taken probably a year to get perfect and it’s been running flawlessly for two years now. I’d also like to comment on the fact that it’s quite stable being up 24/7 for months at a time. I tend to do updates once a month, but I’ve left it longer and I didn’t experience any issues with the OS.