So, you’ve got your projector, your stack of DVDs, a year’s supply of popcorn and want to get stuck in to some serious watching. But that’s yesterday’s way to do it. Why limit yourself to your DVD collection, and only in your house? This article is going to look at considerations you should make in setting up your own home server. Confused by ‘protocols’ and ‘NAT addresses’? Don’t know your ‘UPnP’ from your ‘ADSL’? Well, this article will explain the basics and lay the groundwork for you to be masterful at servers!
What Is A Server
A server is a remote machine that supplies data to a local one. In other words, it’s a machine that you’re not necessarily sitting at, that sends stuff to a computer that you are sitting at. The local computer is referred to as a ‘client’, and the remote computer as a ‘server’. Kind of like at a restaurant – the data is the food being served by the waiter to you. Clients can take many forms, from mobile phones to desktop computers, Wifi enabled TVs and tablets - but servers are typically low-power computers running a very basic Operating System. Why low-power? Because you need them to be ‘on’ in order to server you stuff (your waiter wouldn’t be very good if he were asleep). To help with this, servers don’t typically have a screen – but as they can be controlled remotely, this isn’t a big problem.
The person in charge of the server is called the ‘administrator’ – that’s probably you. ‘Admin’ for short, you should be the only person – or, in unusual cases, among the only people – who have access to the server to change bits about in it. For more on security, check my other posts on server security principles.
What sort of things can I do with my server?
This is what we’re going to be looking at over the next few articles. Let’s list what we’re going to look at here.
- Storing stuff that anyone can get at
- Housing your media library – music CDs, video DVDs or Blu-Rays in digital formats
- Remote Access – being a ‘computer without a monitor’ that you can plug in to wirelessly
- Searching across the web with greater privacy, or completely anonymously
- P2P (person to person) sharing of files and folders across the internet
- Home automation – controlling aspects of your home such as heating and lighting centrally or wirelessly
- Serving your internet sites to the World-Wide Web
- CCTV and security
- Keeping in touch with friends and family – for example, by hosting a shared photo library or calendar
- Getting a personal e-mail address
- Hosting your own online games.
What do I need?
You’ll need a low-power machine – numerous commercial offerings are out there, or you can build your own. You’ll also need a server-compatible Operating System. Again, you can pay for this or hunt your own down – a bit of Googling will yield treasure.