Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Have you ever thought about a setting up a home server?
Sure, it’s not necessarily the most straightforward process in the world (depending on the type of equipment you’re using), but it’s a fun way to put your old hardware to use or to further develop your computing skills.
And besides, if you create your own server, there are some cool things you can do with it. If you’re thinking about building a personal server of any kind, keep reading to learn more about the benefits.
1. Make a Server, Control Your Data
We know what you’re thinking—why have a home server if you can just use a service like Google Drive or Dropbox?
The most critical difference between home servers and third-party cloud services is the control of data.
Contrary to some beliefs, Google Drive et al. do not own the data which you upload to the cloud. The companies do, however, retain a license to reproduce, modify, and create derivative works from your files.
Here’s the relevant snippet from Google Drive’s Terms of Service:
You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through Google Drive, you give Google a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute such content.
The cloud providers can also share your data with domain administrators, legal entities, and with affiliates. Once again, you’ll find disclaimer to that effect in the companies’ privacy policies.
If you create your own server, you will still be able to enjoy the benefits of on-the-go file storage, without needing to worry about your privacy and security.
2. Setting Up a Home Server Is Inexpensive
This is slightly subjective.
If you were so inclined, you could go and spend several thousand dollars on market-leading equipment to make your own server. And after the upfront costs, the ongoing electricity costs for all the units and cooling equipment would be significant.
In reality, anyone can make a home server using nothing more than an old laptop or a cheap piece of kit like a Raspberry Pi.
Of course, the trade-off when using old or cheap equipment is performance. Companies like Google and Microsoft host their cloud services on servers that can handle billions of queries every day.
Your 10-year-old laptop can’t come close to that level of performance. If you only want to be able to access a few files remotely, it might suffice. But if you want your personal web server to act as a central hub for your whole family or small business, you might find that you still need to invest in dedicated hardware.
If you’re wondering which Mac makes the best server, take a look at our helpful guide.
3. Create a Dedicated Gaming Server
Did you know that half of the top 10 most popular games on Steam let you run the game on your own dedicated server? In truth, gaming is probably one of the best things you can do with a server at home.
Using a dedicated gaming server has a few benefits over rented servers or playing on other users’ servers:
- You can control and customize all aspects of gameplay.
- You are in control of game updates rather than waiting for another person/business to install the latest version.
- Increased stability and reduced risk to other players in the event that your gaming machine needs to reboot in the middle of playing.
Some popular games that you can run on your own server include Minecraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress, and Call of Duty.
4. Keep Data Backups on a Home Server
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of making backups of your data. If your computer’s hardware were to die or it were involved in an accident, you don’t want to lose access to many years’ worth of data.
In an ideal world, you should have one offsite and one onsite backup. Your offsite backup will typically either be a cloud storage provider or a specialist third-party online backup provider. For an onsite backup, many people use external hard drives, USB drives, or NAS drives.
It’s possible to argue, however, that a running personal server is better than all those options. Compared to the most similar alternative—NAS drives—home servers are more customizable and (if you already have old hardware you can use) cheaper.
On the downside, it is more complicated to make a server than it is to set up a NAS drive. Depending on the size of your server, it could also use more electricity.
Note: We’ve written about the warning signs that your hard drive is about to die if you would like to learn more.
5. Make a Home Media Server
Another reason to create a home server is to act as a central hub for all your media.
We live in the streaming age—most people consume media through services like Spotify and Netflix—but many people still have extensive collections of locally-saved music and videos.
If you want to be able to access all your local media on any device in your house, a server is one of the best solutions. To make the process even easier, you can use a service like Plex, Kodi, or Emby to manage your media and control playback.
Plex and Emby will even let you access your content on your server when your away from home with just a few simple clicks. Setting up Kodi for the same purpose is possible, but significantly more complicated to achieve.
Make Your Own Server
Setting up a home server is fun, cheap, and offers a host of benefits. Of course, there are many more advantages than the five we have discussed in this article, so make sure you leave your opinions and reasons in the comments section below.
And if you’re curious about other ways you can put your old hardware to good use, check out our articles on how to re-use your old hardware like a pro and how to up-cycle your old devices with a Raspberry Pi.