Looking to pay for detailed consultation on home server build

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ForcedInduction

New Member
Mar 25, 2024
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Hello,

I’m looking to pay someone who is experienced in understanding the capabilities and requirements a server would need to accomplish my goals, and what hardware is ideal or best.

I’m not certain what a fair rate is, is $50/hr with a two hour minimum good? I’m not looking to have the entire conversation all at once, but rather, over email/text/phone call over time, and as more consultation time is needed, more payment can be arranged.

I’m relatively experienced in parts, diagnosis and repair, and physically building a desktop PC for workstation and/or gaming on Windows, however I’m completely new to building or maintaining a server rack - but very eager to learn.

I have a lot of understanding with regard to command line, networking, capabilities of programming, and such. However, I have limited practice with all but programming and networking.



About the consultation:


I want to be able to have a discussion and dialogue with someone who’s knowledgeable on server hardware and knows the generally estimated average market price for various components whether new or used, and hopefully where I can buy them, even if they’re not currently available so I know what to keep an eye out for.

My usual philosophy in PC building is value-based where if I can increase the performance by 2x for 1.5x the price, I’m going for the more expensive component. I usually stop when the performance ratio is exceeded by the price by a significant margin.


Current/Immediate Goals for this system:

  • Provide more granular control over home network
  • Such as:
    • pfSense? If that’s the best solution?
    • I would like my current Orbi mesh system to transition from router/dhcp/AP mesh to become AP only. This system is currently backhauling over CAT6A cables.
    • I would like to be able to have separate VLANs and network separation for IoT devices
    • I would like to be able to block certain MAC addresses from accessing the internet (certain IoT devices that require being on the same network)
    • I would also like separate VLAN that is permanently connected to a VPN service that I pay for
    • I would like to get a 2nd ISP and have some failover automation setup in case of outage on the primary, where it will also switch back to primary when service is restored
    • I would like to host a VPN as well so I can have my phone connected to the home network at all times
  • Plex media server
  • Torrent application, ideally Transmission or qBittorrent
  • NVR for Reolink Camera system (only 2 cameras at this time)
  • Serve as backup system for MacBooks, personal computers, and iPhones
  • Separately a photo backup system so those photos can be viewed and or organized
  • Virtualization ready, for when I want to play lightweight games on TV with friends and family like Jackbox on Steam


Future goals for the server:

  • Expansion of security camera system, not necessarily Reolink, using PoE - maybe up to 10 cameras
  • Hub for home automation and automation control/triggers
  • Docker? To build monitoring and notifications for various things.
  • Some overhead capability for anything I haven’t thought of yet?

What I think my goals for hardware are:

  • A network switch with at least 24 ports, where at least 12 of those offering PoE++
    • Is the new ubiquiti switch Pro Max 48 PoE a good product? I’ve had a bad experience with ubiquiti performance in the past when trying to run a mesh network wirelessly using their UDM but not necessarily against trying ubiquiti again.
    • I currently have an 8 port 2.5Gbps switch that’s maxed out with no PoE, but I want to have the capability so I can transition to PoE++ cameras in the future.

  • A server machine, I’m expecting there to be extensive modification or assembly required.
    • I hear used hardware has the best value, but having a lot of headache deciding on what manufacturer and what model.
    • Ideally this server has some failover with dual PSU and/or a single UPS
    • I would like to start with approximately 50 TB and ideally 2 drive parity, with the capacity or ability to double this in the future - is this reasonable?
    • I’ve had bad experience with Seagate consumer level drives, is Western Digital Gold good? I am not pre-committed to these choices though.
    • I was thinking Unraid seems ideal for OS?
    • How much RAM? ECC is probably a good idea right?
    • Would definitely think NVMe for caching is good right?


Uncertainties on my end:

  • Am I asking for too much from one server? Should this be more than one or two machines?
  • I think I need a full width server rack? How tall should it be? Any recs?
  • Am I missing anything?
 
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Tech Junky

Active Member
Oct 26, 2023
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I see you've done your homework and just are in analysis paralysis at this point.

Well, most would say split the router function off on its own. I run a box that has it all in one and just use Linux as most of the other options are a bit finicky about HW and well, they've also gone to a subscription option @ $150/yr.

Since you're good with CLI options it's not difficult to get Linux working as a router and just need a box to put it on. You can get cheap boxes with multiple ports or you can go DIY and customize things in different tiers. I've been revising mine since 2015 though using off the shelf parts from Intel / AMD. If my concern was electricity costs then a small box would be more ideal as they can get under 10W of power draw depending on the model and how much you stuff inside.

My initial build though was to collapse all of the devices I had and condense them into a single box instead of 5-7 different devices. This trimmed down the network devices from router/AP, DVR, NAS, switch, and others. Back then AC WIFI was the best option and I simply picked up a Qualcomm based QNAP card and turned it into an AP using hostapd. This covered the WIFI side of things and allowed for dropping the crappy consumer router from the equation.

Just having more space inside a traditional PC case allowed for picking up a HDD and slapping it inside to act as the NAS portion. Enabling Samba is all that was needed to make it available on the network as a NAS. I added Plex to the system and directed it to the HDD for recordings. At one point I picked up a NUC for processing Plex into better file options but, that was kind of an inefficient method so it got sold. For awhile I was running conversions on my laptop as it had more efficient processing abilities but, the program I was using converted to a limited license / subscription model so I dumped it in favor of just running Hand Brake on the server itself in the past 6 months or so.

Having cabling for your APs helps in making more options available. Switching them to AP mode only shouldn't be much of an issue once you have a box up and running for the route/switch/dhcp/firewall functions. The FW functions in Linux are simple if you just use IPTables it will feel about the same as Cisco. My IPT's is a simple 15 line file that keeps everything out and only lets in session based streams that originate from the inside.

For a VPN anything Wire Guard based is more efficient. It can also hit line speed where OVPN chokes beyond 600mbps no matter the HW.

With a more open source option of Linux expanding things is easier to add more disks w/o ripping apart the volume to do so. Using MDADM to manage it for Raid is simple. If you skip the parity and just do R-10 w/ EXT4 it drops the power needed to have redundancy that you get hit with when using a raid 5/6. Not that it should be much of an issue with a decent CPU.

For drives... Seagate does suck. I used WD Red's for several years before recently converting to all flash and switching to U.3 drives. U drives are NVME in a 2.5" format like a laptop drive. Some brands run cooler than others like Kioxia. They have different tiers of R/W speeds depending on the focus but, they have value compared to M2's. 8TB M2 would run ~$800 where a U is only $400. The U drives also go beyond 8TB up to 60TB but, you can get a 15.36TB for ~$1000.

As for all of the backup/sync stuff.... there's options out there that should be easy to implement. I'm not an Apple person though so I'll avoid that minefield completely.

Switches / POE... it's all pretty standard stuff there. Buy what you need and either go managed or uplink to a managed or uplink to the core box and put it in its own VLAN or configure the FW rules to exclude them from calling home.
 

ForcedInduction

New Member
Mar 25, 2024
2
2
3
Not an expert in all of it, but know some good chunks of what you're seeking clarity on. Feel free to PM me a few questions before engaging for paid services. :)
I certainly will, thank you Samir!


I see you've done your homework and just are in analysis paralysis at this point.

Well, most would say split the router function off on its own. I run a box that has it all in one and just use Linux as most of the other options are a bit finicky about HW and well, they've also gone to a subscription option @ $150/yr.

Since you're good with CLI options it's not difficult to get Linux working as a router and just need a box to put it on. You can get cheap boxes with multiple ports or you can go DIY and customize things in different tiers. I've been revising mine since 2015 though using off the shelf parts from Intel / AMD. If my concern was electricity costs then a small box would be more ideal as they can get under 10W of power draw depending on the model and how much you stuff inside.

Having cabling for your APs helps in making more options available. Switching them to AP mode only shouldn't be much of an issue once you have a box up and running for the route/switch/dhcp/firewall functions. The FW functions in Linux are simple if you just use IPTables it will feel about the same as Cisco. My IPT's is a simple 15 line file that keeps everything out and only lets in session based streams that originate from the inside.
Analysis paralysis is 100% how I feel right now!

Just to confirm I understand correctly, seems like splitting the router into its own individual lightweight machine is better?

While I understand CLI - I certainly don't have much experience using it, although I can certainly research and learn.

From what I understand, most people use pfSense for this specific application more often than not, right?




My initial build though was to collapse all of the devices I had and condense them into a single box instead of 5-7 different devices. This trimmed down the network devices from router/AP, DVR, NAS, switch, and others. Back then AC WIFI was the best option and I simply picked up a Qualcomm based QNAP card and turned it into an AP using hostapd. This covered the WIFI side of things and allowed for dropping the crappy consumer router from the equation.

Just having more space inside a traditional PC case allowed for picking up a HDD and slapping it inside to act as the NAS portion. Enabling Samba is all that was needed to make it available on the network as a NAS. I added Plex to the system and directed it to the HDD for recordings. At one point I picked up a NUC for processing Plex into better file options but, that was kind of an inefficient method so it got sold. For awhile I was running conversions on my laptop as it had more efficient processing abilities but, the program I was using converted to a limited license / subscription model so I dumped it in favor of just running Hand Brake on the server itself in the past 6 months or so.

For a VPN anything Wire Guard based is more efficient. It can also hit line speed where OVPN chokes beyond 600mbps no matter the HW.

With a more open source option of Linux expanding things is easier to add more disks w/o ripping apart the volume to do so. Using MDADM to manage it for Raid is simple. If you skip the parity and just do R-10 w/ EXT4 it drops the power needed to have redundancy that you get hit with when using a raid 5/6. Not that it should be much of an issue with a decent CPU.

For drives... Seagate does suck. I used WD Red's for several years before recently converting to all flash and switching to U.3 drives. U drives are NVME in a 2.5" format like a laptop drive. Some brands run cooler than others like Kioxia. They have different tiers of R/W speeds depending on the focus but, they have value compared to M2's. 8TB M2 would run ~$800 where a U is only $400. The U drives also go beyond 8TB up to 60TB but, you can get a 15.36TB for ~$1000.

As for all of the backup/sync stuff.... there's options out there that should be easy to implement. I'm not an Apple person though so I'll avoid that minefield completely.

Switches / POE... it's all pretty standard stuff there. Buy what you need and either go managed or uplink to a managed or uplink to the core box and put it in its own VLAN or configure the FW rules to exclude them from calling home.
Really good information, thank you.

That's one thing I forgot to include in my initial post. Should I consider using an LGA1700 socket for a 13 or 14th gen Intel processor so I can take advantage of quicksync for Plex? ( https://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/1354pps )

Since, my understanding is that Xeon processors do not support quicksync - or should I be considering installing a GPU into this machine to support transcoding and the like?

Really good to know about WireGuard performance over OVPN because I have a 1 gig fiber service to take advantage of, thank you.

The U drives seem to be very expensive in comparison to a traditional 3.5" HDD, is the performance that much better?

So it seems I should get a switch I can manage? Or should I rely on the router to do this functionality?
 
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Tech Junky

Active Member
Oct 26, 2023
348
119
43
Just to confirm I understand correctly, seems like splitting the router into its own individual lightweight machine is better?
Some prefer it if there's a lot of users so they can play with the machine w/o disrupting everyone.

While I understand CLI - I certainly don't have much experience using it, although I can certainly research and learn.
I usually just edit them in notepad++ vs doing it all in CLI. I can then just save the doc and run a quick command to replace it on the system. You can also do it similar with nano within a terminal as well instead of running the one liners for FW rules.

From what I understand, most people use pfSense for this specific application more often than not, right?
There's a handful of router oriented specific OS options that present a pretty GUI but have their pro/cons for each. Just using something like Ubuntu/Debian/Mint gives more options. Also, BSD options tend to throw issues with some HW you may want to use and lag behind on adding HW due to a smaller community of people submitting patches.

LGA1700 socket for a 13 or 14th gen Intel processor so I can take advantage of quicksync for Plex?
You could but, the better bang right now is AMD and just add the Arc GPU like I did for $100. In either instance the GPU is a good investment. Right now I'm watching something that is using hwaccel w/ the A380 and it's just plugging along at 1.2% CPU using a 7900X.

Really good to know about WireGuard performance over OVPN because I have a 1 gig fiber service to take advantage of, thank you.
Before ditching cable for 5G I had a gig plan and was able to hit 1200/35 w/ WG. 5G though doesn't move fast enough for me to max out testing though but, I pay less than $40/mo now w/ no caps and dropped my phone service to save another $15/mo and just pop the sim into my phone when needed. Otherwise phone is using Google for $0/mo.

The U drives seem to be very expensive in comparison to a traditional 3.5" HDD, is the performance that much better?
U = NVME Flash - I get 6.5GB/s with the Kioxia
3.5" = Spinning rust max 225MB/s typically unless you get higher RPM 10K drives or hybrid dual actuator drives that can hit ~500MB/s

So it seems I should get a switch I can manage? Or should I rely on the router to do this functionality?
Router = sits at the edge of the network and connects your ISP to your LAN and provides FW/NAT

Now, if you plan on a single ISP you could do something a bit higher end with 2 ports / one for each side
If you want to detail things out a bit you could get several ports and assign each one to a single VL and then connect it to a dumb switch
Or if you want a single pane of glass to manage multiple ports then get a managed switch.

The $$$ will follow which direction you go. If you go managed the $ will be higher but admin might be simpler.
If you want to add ports to the "router" typical NIC cost is low depending on speed. I have a 5GE quad port that I picked up for $200. dual 10GE cards might run the same unless you scavenge around and add the price of SFPs.

Linux though you can do all of the VL's / FW etc it's just not as pretty as what you might use at work. It's just not as click and set as most of the public can figure out. It takes some knowledge which is posted all over the internet if you look for it or read the manpage descriptions. If you want to dual WAN / failover you can with a simple quad port nic. You can assign 3 ports to LAN and 1 to WAN or the opposite just by putting them into a "bridge" / "bond" grouping. By using the groupings it makes the FW rule changes quite simple as well.

That's the thing about networking is there's 100 ways to get the same result. All depends on budget and creativity.