A Raspberry Pi makes a great solution for so many computing projects. From learning programming to remote controlling a car, or even building a basic stop-motion animation studio, the Raspberry Pi is ideal.
But did you know it can also run as a server? Here are several nifty ways you can use your Raspberry Pi as a server and do more than just the basics.
1. Raspberry Pi NAS File Server
First, let’s consider the most common understanding of a server: a computer that stores data that you need to access. It might be a server in your home, or at your place of work. Thanks to the internet, that server might be remote. As long as you can access it, however, you’ll be able to view the files you have permission to access.
Domestic servers are far more affordable these days thanks to technologies like network-attached storage (NAS), which are server boxes with multiple hard disk drives often arranged in a RAID setup for better performance and data protection.
Want to connect a HDD to your Raspberry Pi and use it as a file server? Our guide to building a Raspberry Pi NAS file server is a great place to start.
2. Raspberry Pi Web Server
Amazingly, the Raspberry Pi can be used as a web server, perhaps as a local server for intranet pages or a remote server hosting web pages on the internet. Apache can be installed, either standalone or using LAMP (that’s Linux + Apache/MySQL/PHP). This is ideal for most remote web server uses, from running a static web page to a full-on dynamic site.
However, for more specific uses, you might need a more specific solution. For instance, the WordPress alternative Ghost can be installed on a Raspberry Pi. Google Coder can also be as a web server, with perhaps the simplest set up of all options.
3. Raspberry Pi Game Server
Enjoy gaming on your Raspberry Pi? Not only can you use a Raspberry Pi for running a Minecraft server, the Raspberry Pi is suitable for use as a server for a number of other open-source games too.
Quake, OpenTTD, Terraria, Windward and even Doom can be run as servers on the Raspberry Pi, with almost all of these titles suitable for running as clients on the little computer too. See our full list of Raspberry Pi game servers for further details.
Note that you’ll need to dedicate a Raspberry Pi’s full resources to the task if you’re going to run a game server. The newer the Raspberry Pi model, the better the performance.
4. Raspberry Pi Media Streaming Server
Want to stream video and music to other devices around your home? The answer is with a media server, and thanks to the Raspberry Pi, you have at least three options to make this happen.
Kodi is the first option, which can be used as a media server by configuring the DLNA/UPnP settings in the Settings > Services screen. Similarly, Plex can be installed on the Raspberry Pi as a server, but you’ll need Plex running on a client on other devices to view. OpenMediaVault, meanwhile, has support for a range of filesystems, RAID, and even use with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
Our guide to using the Raspberry Pi as a media server explains all of this in more detail.
5. Raspberry Pi Home Automation Server
Thanks to the completely open-source OpenHAB home automation platform, you can turn your Pi into a home automation server. Requiring a Raspberry Pi 2 or later, Ethernet cable (for reliability), and suitable smart home hardware (e.g. smart lights), you can configure OpenHAB to control everything in your home via a mobile app.
Meanwhile, IFTTT features a number of OpenHAB recipes, enabling you to set triggers for specific results. For instance, if a door is opened while you’re out, you may choose to receive a message to your phone. Or you might have lights automatically switched on if you wake up during the night.
Refer to our detailed guide to OpenHAB and Raspberry Pi for more information.
6. Raspberry Pi Print Server
Using an old printer without wireless networking? What you need is a Raspberry Pi to act as a print server. Any old printer can be used for this; USB is preferred, but even with a parallel-to-USB adaptor cable, you can connect the Raspberry Pi to your printer to enable networking printing.
With Samba installed on the Raspberry Pi, the CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) can be configured as a print server. It even includes the drivers you’ll need for your printer.
Via a browser-based console, you can administer your new wireless printer, while jobs can be sent from your PC wirelessly. Note, however, that you’ll need to set the printer up on your PC as a new device.
Need to print from a mobile device instead? Fortunately, it’s also possible to print from iOS and Android with Raspberry Pi.
7. Raspberry Pi Personal Cloud Server
Finally, you can even build your own cloud server with a Raspberry Pi. Simply attach sufficient storage, and connect the device to your router via Ethernet for reliability, and you can ensure your most important data is stored in a cloud only you control.
Creating a private, unlimited, and secure cloud solution is possible thanks to Resilio Sync (formerly BitTorrent Sync). This is a tool that syncs data between two computers using BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing technology. You might believe torrenting is always illegal; in fact, it’s not, although the technology has been widely misused to breach copyright laws around the world.
See our full tutorial on how to build your own cloud server with a Raspberry Pi.
Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Useful Server
With these ways to use your Raspberry Pi as a server, you’re really pushing the boundaries of what the tiny computer can do:
- NAS or file server
- Web server
- Online game server
- Media streaming server
- Home automation server
- Print server
- Personal cloud server
We’ve no doubt more server projects are out there for the Raspberry Pi. Looking for inspiration? Check our list of top Raspberry Pi uses and ideas or find out how you can install Windows 10 IoT Core on your Raspberry Pi 3.