The Pursuit of Homelabs, Part 2 – What Are My Options?

Buy/build a NAS and use my desktop – A NAS (Network-Attached Storage) is a small computer (not a lot of RAM, OK at best CPU) with a TON of storage. Most NASs come with 2 to 8 hard drives (or hard drive bays), are pretty energy efficient, and can be convenient for setting up home backups for your other devices and serving up files on your home intranet. Despite their traditionally tiny size, a NAS would take care of any storage issues I’d have and could probably handle one or two of the projects I’ve got on my list, but not much more. On top of that, pre-built NASs, even driveless ones, run a pretty penny ($600 or more, PLUS hard drives!). Since storage isn’t a problem with my current desktop, this wouldn’t solve any problems. The one upside is that you can run a stellar Plex server with high up time on most NAS boxes, so if you’re looking to just run Plex and have a second copy of your computers’ files, a NAS could be a good solution for you. Considering I’d have to engineer problems to solve with this solution, coupled with a high price tag, this also seems to be a no go for now.

Buy a new enterprise-grade server – The most costly of all the options, buying a new enterprise-grade tower or rack-mount server would certainly provide me with far more than enough resources to run everything I can imagine. The catch? I’d have to learn how to not eat or live without an organ to afford one. If only there was a cheaper way (see below).

Buy a used/refurbished enterprise server – This is the solution I’ve been leaning towards almost from the start. If I order smart, the right refurbished enterprise-grade server with a few extra parts would hit the sweet spot in terms of storage, processor horsepower, RAM, power efficiency, extensibility, and best of all, cost. Based on my projected needs and growth and research I’ve done, a refurbished rack-mount server will more than likely be the first major addition to my home lab. Through the proper use of software, I should also be able to leverage the same hardware running my VMs as my NAS, at less than the cost of a “pro-sumer” NAS or ground-up desktop build.

Thoughts?