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Server build, in progress, help with OS

#1

I have finally begun to build what will be my server. Using old pc parts the server, as of now, is going to haev an i5 3570k, 16 GB of ram, an ASUS 1155 board, a 128GB SSD.

Here is my question. The use case is going to be for file storage/LAN sharing, running Plex over LAN, not outside of the LAN. Additionally it will host up to 2 minecraft servers, an Ark server at times, as well as other tinkering projects.

I have been trying to figure out what OS is best suited for this type of workload. I am most familiar with windows, hardly with Mac, and not much with Linux, but am willing to learn some if need be. Plex/ file sharing/ Minecraft all are pretty useable across multiple operating systems, but Ark is what is hanging me up.

Is this use case something that Windows Server would be capable of? Or is this something that I need to go down the linux route. Any info or advice is appreciated. Thank you

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#2

Ark dedicated server should work for either. It seems to have decent Linux support according to this page-
https://ark.gamepedia.com/Dedicated_Server_Setup

As far as I can tell either would work for your requirements. I personally would go with Linux, due to it being FOSS, and also having multiple better file systems.

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#3

I am somewhat Linux naive, what do you mean by FOSS? And would you have any recommendations for specific distros? I know Ubuntu has a large community and lots of support available, but not sure if thats the ideal for a server environment such as this. Thank you for your help!

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#4

Free and Open Source Software.

Ubuntu has a very solid server image that you can use. I haven’t touched it in a while (I’m a CentOS guy) but it’s a great place for someone who, as you mentioned, is a bit inexperienced.

If you’d like an in-depth overview of Linux distros (admittedly from a desktop perspective), have a look at this guide.

My top 3 recommendations for newbies looking for a server distro are:

  1. Ubuntu
  2. Debian
  3. CentOS
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#5

I agree with Sgt. A. Sauce’s general purpose distro recommendations.

Since this is going to be a fileserver/NAS type system, FreeNAS deserves a mention.

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#6

I have heard a lot about Freenas in the file server setting, but does it work well with additional tasks?

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#7

See more info here-

It is hard to go wrong with Ubuntu. I also second @sgtawesomesauce’s recommendations.

I personally use OpenMediaVault for my storage server, it is Debian with a web page to manage the system from another computer. https://www.openmediavault.org/

FreeNas is very good if you want to use ZFS as your file system, and basically only use it for storage(also Plex works great on it). But since it is FreeBSD based you might need to run a Linux VM on top to run your other servers, which takes extra resources.

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#8

I do not think to start that I am knowledgeable enough at the moment to be runnings VMs on top of each other. Ubuntu thus far seems like I can run it all from a relatively familiar setting, being a desktop with applications, and have a lot of support to do so. Within Ubuntu I will be looking into what programs are best suited. I will report back once I have made some progress.

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#9

There’s no reason to use FreeNAS over OMV now that ZFS 0.8 is out with trim and native encryption, but that’s pedantics.

You’d be surprised how simple VMs are, but I understand that it can be daunting.

Let us know if you have any questions!

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#10

Thus far I have started looking into Samba to see if that seems like a good starting point. One question I came across tho, would Windows Server 2012 be something that would work also? Or does it not function as simply as I would hope it does.

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#11

FreeNAS has a pretty good virualization system which would work well to run your minecraft system on another linux distro and a native plex plugin.

Theres a few caveats/gotchyas with it though

  • The plex plugin can do hardware decoding but not on nvidia gpus and your cpu is too old for newer codecs
  • its based on freebsd so if you dont have at least some knowledge of linux even it might be confusing to setup and configure
  • running a VM on top of your freenas box just to run a minecraft server or 2 isnt ideal because you’re running more overhead

Samba can be a little bit of a headache to configure initially but it works great once its set up.

You could totally use windows server, but I cant advocate for paying the licensing fee and I’m not going to get into other nefarious activation methods.

Its not as low in overhead for the OS so for things like your minecraft server it will be less capable overall IMO. If its not mission critical that it have super up time or that the data stored on it is backed up, windows desktop has everything you need. Admittedly its downfall is the worse than windows server in the overhead department.

Ubuntu server would be my suggestion to you as a lot of tutorials are already written for it.

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#12

I would actually be able to get a Windows Server license through school, thats the main reason I mentioned it to begin with. I used to use an old win 7 desktop as a file server but has since figured moving onto something more reliable would be better. I am going to take tonight and dive into Ubuntu and see what I come up with. Probably best to get an Ubuntu VM going and try some things out.

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#13

server is a bit different from desktop in that it doesnt have a lot of things installed by default and the installer is a little different. I run it for my pi-hole server and at work. Its pretty good. I’ve had some issues with it during release upgrades though. CentOS is really a great server distro too. I just happened to be more comfortable with ubuntu when I set mine up.

One thing you should probably do before you get too deep into your setup is figure out how much the data you want to put on your server means to you. Then figure out how/if you’re going to back it up before you put anything on it.

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#14

Fedora Fedora Fedora Fedora. Imagine the ease of use of Ubuntu but actually stable. Since you are new to Linux I assume you will be wanting a Desktop Environment you can throw any DE you want on Fedora just as simply as Ubuntu. Plenty of documentation/support and software/packages available.

I’ve ran it on all my laptops and servers and never had an OS related issue. Ubuntu will give you headaches with outdated guides, broken packages that fuck your kernel left and right and a myriad of other issues.

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#15

Arch Linux

Its like Fedora except you have AUR so its better.

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#16

Using the link I will paste below. Is Samba REALLY that easy to setup and get going with? Does it work as flawlessly with Plex as one may hope?

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#17

Yes and Yes.

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#18

Samba is good, but CPU heavy. If you’re streaming HDR or 1440p or higher your CPU is going to bottleneck pretty fast, especially if you’re transcoding AND using samba. Use NFS instead. Plex is trash and doesn’t support GPU transcoding (last time I checked). Emby does support GPU transcoding and is opensource(? they may have gone proprietary its been a few years since I checked up on them). Pick up a cheap old 290x on ebay, and you can offload the transcoding of video onto the GPU and then you’ll be able to get away with using Samba comfortably. But you won’t be able to do both Samba + transcoding of high quality/high bitrate video without either a GPU or NFS or both.

Of course most of this really only matters if you plan on streaming video offsite/WAN. If you’re just using your LAN you can beam 30mbps streams around no problem. Although you still probably want to optimize the stream for the viewport since 1440p or 4K video on a iPhone or Pixel screen doesn’t make sense. You’ll suck up all the WiFi or LAN bandwidth pretty fast on just one or two videos if you aren’t trasncoding.

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#19

I’d actually seriously consider FreeNAS. In fact, i actually run it for similar stuff. Initially purely as a NAS, but it can do other stuff.

Why?

  • ZFS - with an easy to use GUI for it
  • boot environment snapshots
  • easy config backup
  • jails
  • virtual machines
  • plex is a simple plugin

You should be able to get away with 16GB of RAM, but if you can fit another 16 you’d probably see an improvement.

But i do plex + ZFS + time machine backups, etc. on a little HP N54L microserver. with 10 GB.

If you’re not a Linux guy, FreeNAS will probably be easier IMHO because it has good documentation and a friendly gui for it all, plus snapshots of pretty much everything.

edit:
Re transcoding. My little N54L is far too weak for transcoding. But its not a big deal if your devices that are streaming off it support the codecs you have your videos encoded as. Transcoding is only a problem if you are streaming from format X to a device that does not support it. So… “don’t do that” and you’ll be fine. Save/offline transcode your files into a format all your devices can play and transcoding isn’t an issue.

I believe that minecraft server can run in a FreeBSD/FreeNAS jail instead of a full fat linux VM, if resources are tight.

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#20

Plex is more stable than Emby and supports GPU encoding.

They have.

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