How to Build a Server

In today's increasingly connected digital environment, access to a server is an indispensable component of many businesses. So much so, that many business owners are choosing to build a server of their own instead of relying on a professional hosting platform. Not only does this add an additional degree of accessibility and security, but it can also help save money over the long term.

How to Build a Server
Image Credit: shapecharge/E+/GettyImages

The idea of building a server may initially seem intimidating. That said, the steps required to build a server can be completed by most individuals with just a working knowledge of computers and electronics. If you are committed to creating your own web server and are comfortable working with computer components, you can do so without much effort on your part.

Tip

Building a server can be accomplished relatively easily if you are prepared to research and explore all the hardware required thoroughly. Your specific needs will directly influence the hardware you purchase for your server.

Finding the Right Design

Depending on your budget and time frame, you may decide to either retrofit a pre-existing computer in your home or business or build your server from the ground up. If you decide to build a server from scratch, your first step is selecting the appropriate chassis. The size of the chassis largely depends on your intentions with the server. For example, if you are planning on creating an extremely powerful server setup that is capable of virtualizing hardware, you need a large chassis, most likely a 2u design.

However, if your goal is to build a less powerful server that can be completed by additional hardware at some point in the future, you may benefit from a 1U design. As a rule of thumb, a 1U chassis can host approximately four disks, while a 2U chassis can hold anywhere from 10 to 12 disks.

It is worth your time to develop a tentative layout of your server before committing to a chassis. You will save an immense amount of time and effort if you aren't forced to change chassis in the middle of your server-build due to poor planning.

Selecting Your Motherboard

The motherboard you choose for your server has a profound impact on general performance for the life of the server. With that in mind, you should make it a priority to maximize the performance of this particular hardware while staying within your budget.

The primary considerations you should explore while shopping for a motherboard include RAM capacity, the number of available sockets, socket types and integrated NICs. Given the fact that each of these factors directly influences the daily operation of a server, finalize these details before you begin shopping for a motherboard.

CPUs and Small-Business Server Design

The socket type you select for the motherboard directly influences the type of CPU you can use. Given the fact that socket designs change on a recurring basis, it is in your interest to find a motherboard and CPU that are both relatively new in order to ensure that you won't have to replace one or either piece due to technology becoming obsolete.

If your server is primarily intended for use in a home or small-business setting, you can purchase processors with adequate power and performance for relatively affordable prices, particularly if you are willing to purchase a CPU that is one or two years older than the most current releases. Keep in mind that specific CPUs may require certain RAM. This is common among dedicated server CPUs, which commonly require ECC RAM in order to function properly.

RAM and Motherboards

Constructing the best home server for your needs can become somewhat complex given the various technical requirements of the hardware you want to use. For example, the type of motherboard you purchase for your server also directly influences the type of RAM required for use.

Some motherboards may require ECC RAM to function properly, while others do not. Further requirements include the use of DDR3 / DDR4 RAM. With these ideas in mind, it is definitely worth your time to identify all the RAM requirements for your preferred motherboard before moving forward with a purchase.

The amount of RAM you choose to purchase for your server will largely depend on the specific tasks you will be managing. Draw up a clear list of functions you intend for your server to execute before making your RAM purchase to ensure that you don't overspend on this particular facet of your design.

Powering Your Server

The Power Supply Unit, or PSU, is an often overlooked element of server design, most likely due to the fact that it doesn't actively contribute to performance in a way similar to the CPU or RAM. For most servers, a low-wattage design is ideal and cost-effective. In the event that your server will be using powerful Graphics Processor Units, or GPUs, you may need to seek out more robust PSU designs. Ultimately, reliability is the most important benchmark for performance when it comes to selecting the right PSU for your server.

Finding the Perfect Storage

When building your server, you may be at a loss as to whether you should invest in solid state drives (SSD) or more traditional hard drive stacks. In reality, a combination of an SSD as a boot drive and traditional hard drives for storage may be the most cost-effective and reliable option. Although SSDs are considered to be a more long-term solution when it comes to storage for servers, this reliability comes at a price.

Given the fact that you will be able to purchase significantly larger amounts of storage on traditional hard drives, it ultimately comes down to your own preferences and budget when determining whether a complement of SSDs is right for you. In either scenario, you should be able to benefit from reliable performance and storage for the foreseeable future.

Other Considerations to Explore

Although the core components of the server build have been discussed, various other peripherals may catch your attention. As mentioned previously, a powerful GPU may be required if your server will be used for any media-rich applications. Many individuals begin considering building a server to complement their gaming needs, which consequently requires a relatively new and high-performance GPU.

If you make the decision to implement this hardware into your server, keep in mind that it may also affect other hardware choices as well, such as your PSU or a fan or liquid cooling system. As always, it is in your best interest to research your choices as thoroughly as possible before committing to any purchases to ensure that you find the best possible hardware options for your own needs at a price that stays within your budget.

Some estimates come in at less than $1,000 to build a server on your own, depending on your needs and the parts that you can find. But you'll also need to take into account the cost of the energy needed to run it as well as any upgrades you may need every five years or so.

Building your own server shouldn't be rushed, because you could put your electronics at risk, potentially creating an even more expensive situation. So make sure that you feel comfortable with everything involved before choosing to build a server. But one you've got a plan laid out and feel good about it, then it can be a rewarding experience.

references