If you’re anything like me you have a few old laptops and desktops lying around the house from past builds. Historically I have tried to build a home lab by rigging together a series of seven raspberry pis. The novelty of this quickly wore off and I was unimpressed with the performance and slightly higher difficulty to manage so many machines. Just as I was going to give up on the idea of having my very own home lab, a friend at work introduced me to unRAID. It was just the piece of software I needed. It had a lot of GUIs to make common tasks easy, had data redundancy for drives and has a giant community behind. This blog post is a small record of my adventure, notes if I ever build another and hopefully saves someone somewhere some time.

While doing a project for fun or learning is a valid enough reason, here is a list of actual problems that my server has solved for me. If any of these are shared problems, your own personal home server may be a worthwhile project.

  • data redundancy
  • data backups (following the 3-2-1 rule)
  • network wide ad blocking
  • media streaming
  • leveraging more powerful hardware from a remote laptop
    • I’ve been specifically practicing data science and machine learning through remote Jupyter
  • personal data “cloud” (think dropbox or google drive)
  • bookmark saver (think your browser’s bookmarks or something like Pocket)
  • centralized password manager
  • personal CRM (this is a stretch lol)
  • learning about
    • Docker
    • web servers
    • reverse proxies
    • DNS
    • SSH tunneling
    • virtual LANs
    • Grafana

Now some of these you might already have solutions for, or not even care about, but the beauty of this particular project is you own all of it. Its all self hosted. No company can discontinue their project or go bankrupt and box you out.

The best part of all is there is a thirty day free trial, and the licenses you purchase are for lifetime!

That all being said, if you’re more of a “do it for me” kind of person, products like a Synology will “just work” for data redundancy and will allow you to install other applications.