Jake Charman

Resident Geek of Nitrous Junkie Racing

The Use Case For My New Server…

Fri 29 Sep 2017

I recently built a low-cost, low-power server mostly from parts I had around already. It’s now time to go over the use case.

I’m now moved into halls at Sheffield Hallam University meaning that I no longer have access to the physical hardware to reset the machine or repair issues. The only access I now have is via SSH, this was the reason for the requirements I originally had relating to reliability. So far, the machine has worked flawlessly. I’m currently using it as an off-site backup for my work here at university. Every piece of work I create here is now stored in at least 3 locations. The first being the machine(s) it was created on, the second being an external hard drive I have stored in a locked box in my room and the third and final location being my storage server over 200 miles away protecting my data from physical theft and other disasters such as fire. One tip I’d have for anyone starting university is to keep good file backups. If all universities are like mine, they are not kind when it comes to deadlines and will heavily penalise you for missing them, in some cases meaning you could fail a module or course because of a late assignment.

I chose to run NextCloud on the server mostly due to its flexibility and scalability. Flexibility especially is proving to be a greatly useful feature at this point. I can mount the server as a remote location on both my Windows and Linux PCs using WebDAV (this will also work on Mac should I go insane and buy one) and access files on my phone and other mobile devices using the app at the small cost of £1. I can also access my files on any other machine I may be using (I anticipate this being used mostly in the university’s labs) via the web interface which is familiar to anyone who has previously used Google Drive or Dropbox. One upside, however, when compared to Google Drive is the ability to mount the storage as a remote location. This means that storage on the PC itself is irrelevant as files are not synced locally and are instead accessed remotely by WebDAV. This performs the very important (especially for a lazy person like me) task of making backups simple. It’s easy to save another copy and even work on documents directly from the server using WebDAV which means I’m far more likely to use the backup than I was previous, more involved solutions.

Overall I have no issues with this system so far and would recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap way of building a backup server. Just be sure not to use a setup like mine as your only backup since most of the components I used are desktop components that are over 10 years old so may well be prone to failure.