We see them advertised all over the Web. Buy this media center, install this home server, it’s going to make everything better! Give me a break. What most of these ads don’t tell you is that more often than not, you’re about to buy more than you need, with the wrong approach in mind. Take trying to build the best home server for example. Sure, storage is a serious factor. And yes, it’s also true that some people will benefit from having access to a home server software suite that allows for easy viewing of videos and Web content.
What most people won’t tell you is that if you’re buying this software for a home server, you’re making this entirely too complicated. Remember, there is indeed a world beyond owning a Windows MCE box.
For media – XBMC
If the goal for your home server is to contain video, music, and other related (legal) media, then I highly recommend looking into XBMC. Bundled with a nice little IR remote control for your newly created XBMC server box is going translate into a pretty sweet experience. Now there are some things to be concerned with here. Among the first is that you might find it terribly inconvenient to have a potentially noisy server sitting next to your living room TV. And regardless of your gender, chances are the non-geek spouse in your home isn’t going to get why it’s “so cool” that you have this overly lit-up computer box droning away in the background just to watch video content. A match made in heaven, this isn’t.
Luckily, iPhone owners can rely on the XBMC iPhone app remote control to give you the option of just connecting to an older Xbox. Because of its size, it’s taking up a lot less room, while allowing the loud server to run happily in your home office, thanks to the wonders of networking. It’s for these reasons that I like to think that XBMC makes a great media server over a lot of the other alternatives I’ve tried.
This said, there can be a bit of a learning curve. But it will run on Windows, Linux, and OS X.
All hail the file server!
Windows or Linux? These are generally the first choices you must make before diving into this head first. In terms of ease, I am going to say that generally Windows file server situations are going to feel more familiar to most of you. As for stability and remaining on for months at a time, Linux owns this space lock, stock, and barrel. Even better, how about FreeBSD?
With this in mind, I find that Windows Home Server is a good starting place for the Windows enthusiast, while going with something like FreeNAS is super stable running FreeBSD. Those who’d prefer a Linux solution might want to look into using Ubuntu Server Edition. Any of these options will provide you with great access to music, pictures, and video content you might happen to want to share with other parts of your home.