back to article Suggestions for a home IT strategy, please

I am looking for - sad though it may sound - a bit of an IT strategy at home. I host my own website(s), need VPN access to data on the servers, prefer routing with a dedicated server OS rather than a "hardware outer", want centralised storage of all my media, potentially like the idea of thin clients or LTSP clients for my ' …


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Home IT Solution

Keeping this simple and you'll need to know some IT details; I am a Netgear and Acer solution partner...hence their products; Gigabit network with cat5e (for pricing) wired round the house, Netgear 16 Port Gigabit Switch in loft, Netgear DG834PN 108mbps Router for wifi and internet access with child protection (word blocking), Acer EasyStore 2TB with RAID5 (1.45TB) usable, this stores loads - all the photos, divx movies, mp3's and DATA. Netgear EVA-8000 x2 (one in the computer/play room and one in the living room main one), this connects to the EasyStore plays back on HDMI and normal scart to any TV.

Plays all the above media and has USB input as well! In the kids bedroom i have a philips media mp3 player connects wifi to the Easystore and pulls mp3 music down (he has too much choice now!). The EVA has a follow me solution so if your watching a film and want to watch it in another room with another eva you can send it to that and continue to watch it...All Games consoles/laptops and pc's use the wired network or wifi as I see fit. I have a Satalite Triax distribution box in the loft which sends the satalite signal to every room through sockets also installed (ALL very easy to install just time consuming). The Triax has a CCTV camera feed, so i can see who is at the door on the lounge TV. The Triax also sends the signal of DVB-T (freeview TV) DAB Radio signal and FM as well as normal TV signal to the triple face plate in each room.

The Netgear EVA is the fancy bit of kit, my partner did not used to look at the some 18,000 digital photos we have. Now she can listen to ALL her albums and view the photos and have a chuckle looking at them, before they were on the computer collecting dust so to speak. I also use it to watch all my films.

On the Triax; with a Magic Eye and second remote you can watch and change sky channels in another room with no extra cost!....It's great having a house that is wired correct so any new toys simpley just plug and work great...

Total Cost about £1000 fitted for cabling, triax, switch and wall sockets...other costs...Router £100, Media Gateway's £160, Traix, £100, EasyStore £500, Gigabit Switch £89 Baby Patch Cabinet £100 and patching face plate baby comms room in my loft now...;-)

Wish all new houses came pre-wired alerady with the above...the installation guys didnt have a clue about the wiring they were laying, but i helped, and fitted the end to the face plates myself...once finished they were very jealous and said it was a better setup than some mansions they had done installations in.


update on the request

The router can be setup for VPN Pass-through, although it is great, secure and free...

The Acer Easy Store has built in FTP access so you can get to you data from anywhere. Although with BT and most ISP you would be stuck with 256kb/384kb try a couple of lads at work have it and get 16mb download and the more important 1.3mb upload so FTP and remote desktop is not ever going to be an issue...btw it only costs £24.99 and is unlimited....

Your Apple is my week spot, i know that OS X is fine for connecting to any of the devices i have mentioned... if needed...


VoIP Solution - Not Cheap but think of what you can do

Netgear Skype WiFi Phone - Retails £80 on amazon.

NO pc required and connects to virtually any Wifi conneciton*

So if you have a wifi at home and work take the phone with you and get skype calls at either hot spots?? no more expensive hotel charges....hmmm

Imagine a city with Wifi Hotspot - this phone would work anywhere! This is where the product of VoIP is going but your choice weather to go down it or not...



I use an old Pentium 200 with IPcop for a firewall/router. Works well and is free.


I'm a cheapie too......

I decided to setup my own home network solution about a year ago, and have been enhancing it ever since. Basically, I could afford a new gaming pc, and so reused my old desktop, along with several old carcasses I had hanging around.

I went for Ubuntu as the OS of choice, installed on my P4 2.6 with 1 gb DDR333. In there I have a SATA raid card with 2 x 400Gb drives, and an 80gb for the OS.

The server does the following:

Network storage (Samba)

VPN server

Web server

DHCP server

network firewall and router

Streaming media server

Mail server

SIP server

I have 3 client machines around the house and 2 laptops. All running windows of some sort. The samba server does its job dutifully and reliably. I have VPN access for when i'm on the road and need my files. Use SSH and webmin to administer the box.

I use a PHP script called "Kplaylist" which is excellent and lets me listen to my 80Gb+ of music wherever I am.

Throw a 5 quid modem in the box, and take your pick of SIP server software to route SIP calls through your low rate BT landline.

Currently, it does everything I need it to, and reliably too. ALL of the software running is open source or free, and the machine itself cant be worth more than a hundred quid. I generally use Kplaylist to stream music externally, or a media center of some sort on the local network. I cant decide on one, keep switching between the open source "Media Portal" and vista's media center. Media portal is excellent once set up, and has a myriad of options and plugins available. Vista's MC is a bit slicker and more polished, but with much less options. Personally, I hate the way it displays music, but its TV software is excellent. Personal preference on that one i think.

I have no issues streaming DVD rips from the server to the laptops wirelessly (802.11G), and so can plug my laptop into the nearest TV and have my films wherever I want in the house. I even have waterproof speakers in my showerroom with a 3.5mm socket outside for laptop / MP3 player to plug into.

Using Ubuntu as the firewall / router means I can monitor all network traffic on my circuit. This would be useful for parents, restricting what they can access etc. Personally, I find it amusing to browse my flatmates visited webpages occasionally!

I think the key to setting up a satisfying home server, is not the capabilities, but the execution. All of the services mine provides are relatively simple and easy to install (can do a complete re-install in a few hours). But if you have cables running messily around the house, or flakey hard drives, or even badly disorganised data, the usefullness and satisfaction of the server disappears. Focus on getting everything you need to make living with it a pleasure. For me, this meant having white plastic trunking to hide cables as i didnt fancy pulling my walls apart. Also, putting the server in my cloakroom eliminated the annoying fan noise. Lastly, I have recently installed a remote controlled power regulator. Meaning if (or when) it falls over, a simple access code in a webpage power cycles the system.

Hope to have been of help!

ps. Kplaylist is my most used service (beside mail server). It really is a nice script. Check out my implementation at:

"guest" and "password" ;-)

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