Home Media Servers: Backing up and Sharing Files Made Easy

Greg G. writes:

I have a question about home servers. I am interested in making a media sharing server as well as a file management/back-up server. Right now I am in college and I’d like to access files when I’m home and at school. I’m wondering what would be the best option for hardware as well as software. I have seen your videos in the past about servers and home servers, but I’m curious how you would recommend doing both media and back-up.

iTwinHaving your own home server is a great way to gain the knowledge of systems and security that you might need to take your passion to the workplace. IT professionals often set up their own mini corporate network in their homes in order to perfect their trade and make the most of their hardware.

Fortunately for the average user, cloud-based storage solutions like Dropbox and SkyDrive have made online storage and access from multiple devices easy. For media hosting, Google Music and iCloud do an exceptional job of keeping you in touch with your content.

What you appear to be looking for here is a solution you can base entirely in your home and access from anywhere. There are a few solutions that will make this easy, but perhaps the best way to do it from the ground up would be to create a server from an old desktop PC you have laying around. Ubuntu is a popular choice, especially among users who want to know more about Linux without the steep learning curve associated with command-line based server software. Windows 7 and 8 have excellent integrated server capabilities through IIS. IIS has undergone a lot of improvements over the past few years, and it might be worth a look if you feel most comfortable in a Windows operating environment.

An excellent stand-alone device for a personal cloud is Pogoplug. This device plugs directly in to your home network via wired or wireless connections, hosts media files to mobile devices and other desktop computers, and gives you the option to use a variety of external drives to give you maximum flexibility in storage capacity. There is no fee associated, and the content is encrypted for better security.

iTwin is another useful product for users who have a remote Windows PC located elsewhere in the world. It creates a privately shared folder that acts like a USB drive. You will need to have the iTwin drivers loaded on both PCs for this to work, but once it does, you have instant 256-bit encrypted access to your files located at home without having to open a server to the outside world. It’s a pretty useful gadget.

However you decide to get your media backed up, the writing is on the wall that indicates the future is in the cloud. Your slower home connection will only get you so far compared to a cheap (or free in some cases) server located in the cloud.