The Cloud™, a Homelab, & Canadian Bush Internet™

I’ll be nice and put the TL;DR first:

  • I want to build some sort of virtual/simulated small office network (router[pfSense?], Windows servers & desktops, linux servers & desktops) for learning and testing. Basically a homelab.
  • I live in The Woods™ in The People’s Disunited Republic of Canadistan and pay >$100/month for ~20GB of cellular bandwidth. There are currently no other options. This makes simple things like downloading ISOs and updating Windows impossible.
  • I have no physical space for a homelab.
  • I’m playing with the idea of renting some Cloud Things™(bare metal w/esxi or proxmox?, or a bunch of Vultr VMs?) and creating my homelab there, as remoting in should use a negligible amount of my precious bandwidth.

Expanded Version:


I used to have a homelab, lots of stuff changed and happened, now I don’t but I’m back in the tech world 8 months later. I’d like to have one again. Ideally I’d like to have virtual servers, desktops, and a router doing router things as if it’s all on a rack next to my desk.


Mostly me, but I’d love to be able to spin up copies of my environment for others to use. I may be teaching tech on a part time basis in the near future, and to be able to set up a copy for a student to learn on would be awesome. Yes, I could have them learn to do this themselves, but I foresee wanting to be able to skip right to, say, a Windows desktop where they can practice configuring Windows 10 network settings (after I’ve intentionally broken them).


Yesterday would be best, tomorrow is most likely, today will have to do :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I live in Canada, and so I like Canadian things, and am reasonably familiar with OVH. But As Cheap As Possible™ would be best. Not looking for database performance or even 24/7/365 uptime. As long as it functions okay most of the time. So it really doesn’t matter to me who or where the host is.


Last time I checked, we pay more for communication in Canada than anywhere else in the world. And if you live outside of a major metropolitan area (or even in certain/older parts of a major city) you can forget getting >1mbps upload or >100GB of bandwidth. In my case, the only two options are satellite or cellular. And satellite is unfortunately a combination of crappy, expensive, and physically not an option where we live. So cellular it is. Normally you can get a cellular modem with 500GB of bandwidth and about 70/10mbps, but a couple offices in our area got private access government funded fiber runs, so the telco has declared our area as “serviced by fiber” and taken cellular “home” service off the menu. Now we’re all stuck with crazy expensive tethered cellular data. Happy to discuss more, but would be better done in it’s own thread. Many, many tinfoil hat rabbit holes on the subject of internet in our area…

There are ways around this. I’d recommend looking into WSUS offline for Windows. Do you have a local library or coffee shop that has wifi? Grab a laptop and a Flash Drive, get a coffee and start downloading the things you need.

I had this issue for a couple weeks after some idiot hit a box with his car and my ISP didn’t think it was high priority to get our service back up.

There’s a way to do this for Linux as well, I’m just not super familiar with it and the process differs per distro.

If you’re only doing SSH, that is probably the case. If you’re doing file copies and VNC/RDP, you’ll hit 20GB real quick.

Hate to say it as I like the idea of homelab’ing (I practice what I preach, damn u eBay), but to be honest for those that even do have the bandwidth and room at home it’s still a legit option to use aws, azure or at least rent rack space somewhere. I see those as your only option, but not a bad option. Just like I’m going paperback, cd, DVD etc free, it would be kinda cool I didn’t have so much physical hardware laying around but to just pay ‘rent’ in a cloud service to lab. Much less crap to deal with if I have to move.

Yes, but their speeds suck too. I haven’t had a bandwidth discussion with them yet; I may do so and see if this in an option.

Hm. This would kill my idea pretty quick. Might spin up a cheap Windows instance somewhere and run some tests. I found an old post somewhere from 2008 quoting an average of 25MB/hour, but that doesn’t smell like very good science to me…

This was one of the reasons I got rid of almost all my gear. I cleared out so much…crap…stacks of old RAM modules, parts I had saved for theoretical projects I knew deep down I’d never get to… If it’s in The Cloud™ it’s not on my desk :grin:

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I can’t say for sure how much, but maybe someone who has access to a Windows box could run some tests? (yeah, I’m calling for help on this one)

It’s going to heavily depend on what you’re doing and how much the display is changing.

Sounds like Starlink and OneWeb will be welcome ISP alternatives when they begin serving customers here in the next couple of years. The articles I’ve read over the last couple of days indicate that Starlink may even start offering service to the northern US & southern Canada before the end of the year (if they can get 6 successful launches in by then). They haven’t announced pricing yet, but if it’s reasonable, you may want to consider it as an option. I have extended family in rural Michigan and rural Idaho that would welcome a speedier alternative.

Most things I read are pretty positive about potential speed and latency characteristics in rural areas. In urban areas, however, the performance would be terrible simply because there wouldn’t be enough EM bandwidth to service everyone. Of course, in urban settings, you are also more likely to have a decent landline option. This article has a good overview video in it. I’m hoping it turns out as good as has been promised.

Yeeeaaahhh Vultr! Got me an instance spun up and am testing now.

Yup, that’s the ticket right there.
Played around with some Windows settings for ~10 minutes = 4MB.
Played ~15seconds of YouTube = 20MB.
Screwing around with LibreOffice for 10-15 minutes = 7MB

Also, this is at default Windows RDP settings at 1920x1280. I’m going to try a bit now at a lower resolution and see if there’s a noticeable difference.

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I’ll add this to the list of potential long-term solutions, but for right now I’m stuck with what I got.

Changed the resolution to 1024x768 and dropped the colour. Better performance (less tearing with high speed changes / animations), but samesies on the bandwidth usage.

This should be low enough for my uses. Now I just need to figure out how I want to do the networking part. Individual VMs are great and all, but If I want to play with, say, file sharing between Ubuntu and Windows or setting up pfSense to log certain traffic between machines on it’s network, I’m gonna need something else.

That’s interesting. Never would have thought that would happen by dropping color and resolution.

There probably is a measurable difference, but I didn’t test it for much longer than 20 minutes and was rounding to the nearest MB. Microsoft release info for the last few versions of RDP claims increased efficiency, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ I could probably find a way to log it properly and match activities to a historical chart…bah, I talked myself out of it, that sounds too much like work :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

My own takeaway from this li’l experiment is that as long as you aren’t streaming anything, RDP is fine on limited bandwidth.

Maybe if I get bored I’ll log it properly and maybe test with VNC for comparison. I couldn’t find any recent data on VNC bandwidth usage either. I think most people out there are more worried about connection speed than monthly caps. LOTS of test data out there on that…

I still think local virtualization + some remote machine with a little bit of storage + sneaker net and various rsync/bdiff things would be better.

20GB / 1 month is like 64kbps cir. It’s not like you’d be downloading more than a gig or two of updates per month with wsus and/or whatever non-rolling Linux distro you go with, once you get going it should be enough.

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This is what I spent the night brainstorming. I may see if there’s someplace I can leave an RPi connected in the nearby town that I can use for remote downloads and just swap USB drives on it whenever I’m there for something. In theory it’s a massive security vulnerability/liability to have someone else’s random box siting on your network downloading things, but maybe for some $$/free IT and signed paperwork saying who’s box it is and what it’s doing a kind soul will take pity on me :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’ll update this thread with any testing I do and future configs.

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Idk, I can get up to 3gb of updates for fedora in a week. (though, I am on Nvidia drivers)

Updates are definitely a bandwidth concern.

Small towns tend to be friendly like that.

Worth a shot.