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Need help to build a small, low budget home server for backups and running one virtual machine


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Hi all.


I'm a programmer working from home and I often experiment or develop on virtual machines. As one of my hard drives is currently showing first signs of failing (damaged blocks), I'm worried to think about all the hassle to copy all my virtual machine images, movies, photos to a new drive, and it gets even worse when I think that hard drives these days can be considered in risk zone after three years of use, which means that sooner or later I'll have to go through all of that data copying hassle again. Of course, I have backups for most important stuff, but my virtual machines are not backed up, and some of them have entire development environment which I wouldn't want to reinstall from scratch.


So, now I'm thinking that maybe it is time for me to find a new machine which will be dedicated to storing & running virtual machines and also serving as a backup storage for my main PC.


I will not run it 24/7 but will turn it on/off as required.


It would be great to find an out-of-the box solution which is as close as possible to my requirements, but I could also assembly it myself, I have done it with my main PC which is working rock-stable for 4 years already.


Here are my requirements:


- small case with two 3.5" HDD bays, accessible without using screwdriver. Preferably hot swap, but not mandatory;


- mainboard - mini-ITX or close to that, with minimum required features: 1 NIC, 1 CPU socket, 2 RAM slots, 4 SATA ports, 2 USB ports (preferably USB 3);


- RAM - 8GB of your regular 2x4GB sticks. My main PC currently has 8GB and I find it is totally enough for my needs even when running a virtual machine;


- CPU - considering that my main PC currently has i3-2120 which I find adequate for my current needs, I'd say that I don't need anything better on my new system. I definitely need a CPU capable of running a virtual machine smoothly while creating a backup of my main PC in the background, but nothing more powerful than that;


- ability to install any OS I wish - no vendor software lock-in;


- power supply - anything that will provide enough juice for all the components above and fit into the case and won't be very noisy.


I'm from Latvia and I can buy from Amazon DE, Amazon UK, ebay or any other store which delivers to Latvia for a reasonable price, but I prefer Amazon DE because prices are in Euros there.


I really would like to keep under 250 EUR budget.


At first HP Proliant Microserver Gen8 (which costs ~200EUR) seemed like a good candidate but after defining my requirements, I think that maybe I can find some better solution. 


Here are the things that I don't like about Proliant Microserver:


- it has four HDD bays, which is redundancy for me. I'm sure I could do just fine with two HDD bays and some internal space for an SSD. And two bays should also be cheaper than four, right?


- it is picky about RAM - it officially supports only ECC unregistered RAM which is more expensive than your usual DDR3 sticks. So, I could bring costs down even more going with more "regular" RAM;


- it has only 2GB RAM by default


- it has Celeron G1610T CPU which might be too weak for running a virtual machine, but I might be wrong here. At least cpubenchmark.net ratings say that Proliant's G1610T is two times less powerful than my current i3-2120, so I'm afraid that this would be not enough.


- it has some features which I don't want to pay for, like iLO, two NICs, more USB and SATA ports than I need, RAID controller (I'll use scheduled copying instead of RAID) - I could save some money on all of this. Of course, it would be great to have Wake-On-LAN so I can start it remotely


So, is there any chance that I can find an out-of-the-box system or find the right components to build a system which provides more power than Proliant's G1610T but without redundant features and for about the same price?


Thank you for your patience reading all of this, and I really hope someone will have something to suggest.

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Yes, I have seen some reviews of N54L, but as I understand, it has AMD N54L CPU which is even weaker than Gen8's Celeron.

And N54L is somewhat harder to find these days (unless I pick a refurbished). And it would be great to have something smaller, with two HDD bays only.


I thought also about Microserver Gen8 with Pentium, but when looking at prices, they are twice as expensive compared to Gen8 with Celeron, even if the memory is still only 2GB.

Edited by midix
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But from the other hand, maybe Celeron G1610T is not that weak and I could run even a bit more resource-heavy virtual machine on it? I remember the days when I was using my Pentium 4 (641, Cedar Mill) 3.2GHz and just 4 GB of RAM to run two VirtualBox machines with Windows Server 2003, where one machine hosted Sharepoint and the other one - domain controller and SQL Reporting services.


Was it slow - yes, but maybe mostly because of just 4 GB RAM and not the CPU. And it was not unbearably slow, I still could do the development stuff and get the results.

Edited by midix
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It seems, I got as close to the target as I could, but only because I have a spare PSU to use.

I'm buying everything from Amazon DE and from single seller - Amazon SARL itself to minimize shipping costs (everything will be in a single delivery).


So, here is my current hypothetical configuration for price about 230 EUR:






EUR 41.41



Asus H81I-PLUS
(I hope they won't have old stocks with BIOS which does not support Haswell Refresh CPUs?)
EUR 79.89 
(ITX are overpriced, but size is important to me)
Intel Pentium G3258  (that famous overclockable chip. I won't overclock it, but even at stock speeds it is equal to my i3-2120, according to cpubenchmark website)
EUR 70.89
EUR 234.19 (including VAT)
plus shipping, about EUR 15.
I picked a case with 5.25" bay becasue I have a HDD dock in my main PC:
I've been using it even to hot-swap some drives using HotSwap! utility (write caching should be disabled if you wan't to be safe) and I intend to move the IcyDock to the new build because I expect to use it more often there if it becomes my main backup/data storage solution.
And I have a spare ATX PSU:
It should be more than adequate, and it should fit into the Sharkoon case.

Let's hope it all will work fine together.

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