How to have a Linux home server on the cheap – PCWorld

Ask any Linux enthusiast, and they’ll tell you how awesome an operating system Linux can be. (Well, except Bryan Lunduke, who will say it sucks before he says it’s awesome.) For the desktop user, the freedom from worry about most viruses is a big plus, and not spending $100 upgrading Windows is a big plus too.

As awesome as Linux is for desktop use, Linux (and BSD for that matter) truly shines as a server. While providing web-based services is one of those server-y things Linux does really well, Linux can do a lot more than host a blog about family outings.

If you’re looking to host your own services instead of paying for or relying on those in the cloud, running your own home server is one of the best ways to keep your files private.

Choosing software

Choosing the specific Linux distribution for your home server can be daunting in itself since there are so many strains to choose from. Most of the time, I just roll with Ubuntu and recommend that first-time users do the same. The reason is simple: Ubuntu Server is easy to administer, well documented, and has a pretty low learning curve, especially if you’ve ever used desktop Ubuntu. (See these instructions for installing Ubuntu Server.)

The next big thing you’ll have to worry about is what programs to run on the server. There is a huge amount of free and open-source software you can host yourself, but finding it can be tricky. Luckily, a GitHub user named Edward D. maintains a list of self-hosted software that you can run on a Linux server. The list has everything from blog software to CRM. It even features some awesome meta packages (which let you bulk-install a group of applications) like sovereign.

Indeed, sovereign is a good starting point for users who are looking to be digitally self-reliant. With a couple commands, sovereign will install an email server, a VPN service, nightly backups, a CalDAV and CardDAV server, and ownCloud, just to name a few.

Once you have an idea of what you want to host on your server, the next step is choosing the right hardware.

Choosing hardware

old pcs stock image

Recycling: Free

One of the most common ways to use Linux in a home server is to install the OS on an old desktop.

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