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Build Your Own Homelab


When I began my research to purchase hardware for a homelab, I wanted to purchase enough parts for two complete systems that could mirror each others data. The primary goal is to have enough storage capacity to hold all of my data and reduce the odds of losing data in the event of hardware failure or user error. Although RAID6 itself provides some redundancy, it does not provide a backup.  By having the data stored on two independent file servers, a complete backup of all files is maintained. For example if I accidentally delete a file from one server, my backup server will maintain a copy of that file until the next time the drives are synchronized. A secondary goal is to use the server to reliably host a number of useful services at my home within a DMZ that can be accessed remotely.


Since I am running the servers as headless GNU/Linux boxes, it is very useful to have IPMI for initial setup and maintenance. I also was interested in having hot-swap hard drive bays so I could replace failed hard drives without having to power down or open the case. Noise and heat were also a major concerns for me because my homelab is located in my living room and I didn’t want servers that sounded jet engines or produced too much heat. Lastly, I am interested in the case being rack-mountable for flexibility in the future.

Server Hardware:

The SSDs are SATA rather than M.2 and a couple generations older than the rest of the system, but I used them because I already had them lying around. Similarly I already had eight 4TB HGST DeskStar NAS drives and decided to buy more to expand my capacity. With 7x 4TB drives in a software RAID6 array, each server now has 20TB of effective capacity. I initially purchased the X11SSH-LN4F motherboard intending to use it to avoid double NAT and act as a VPN gateway, but after some experimentation, I found that having my GNU/Linux server act as the router for my home network was problematic. For the second motherboard I purchased the X11SSM-F which offers additional PCIe slots at a cheaper price, but the downside to it is it is missing the M.2 slot. I chose the RAM based on the Supermicro tested memory list to avoid any incompatibilities. After a lot of research I decided to go with the 743TQ case based on its balance of price, “whisper-quiet” noise level (<28dB), compatibility with Supermicro motherboards, ability to stand on its own or be rack-mounted, and for it’s ability to expand to support 13 hard drives (with the purchase of a mobile rack that replaces the 3x 5.25″ bays). I purchased the additional PWM case fans to keep all the hard drives cool. Lastly the Xeon E3-1200 series processor is probably overkill for my use case, but it may come in handy down the road if I decide to do anything CPU intensive such as hosting many virtual servers. Although there were slightly cheaper models, I opted to pay a little more to get hyper-threading support and the higher CPU frequency. However, I did not get the most expensive models because of the diminishing returns on performance for the price.

Network Hardware:

Instead of using my GNU/Linux server as a router, I decided to purchase a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite and have been very happy with the price and performance of this product. To avoid monthly rental costs, I also replaced my Xfinity router with a cable modem that I own and control. I also reused my Cisco IP Phone that I’ve used for years for my custom home telephony service.