Server upgrade

I spent the last couple of days replacing my network server, which was long overdue. Everything was running single old decrepit PC, which is less than ideal from both a security and stability point of view.

The old box was a re-purposed desktop PC with a P4 CPU and 1GB RAM. It ran noisy and hot, so I wanted to get something smaller and fanless. I initially considered buying a couple of Raspberry PIs (or similar), but the lack of a 2nd LAN port for the router/firewall ruled them out. After browsing a multitude of small-form-factor and overpriced embedded/industrial PCs, I stumbled across a bunch of used MSI WindBox IIs for sale on eBay. They were comparable in price to a RasPI (once you include a case, power supply, storage ...), and better suited to my needs.

The seller was offering the WindBox PCs with new DC power adaptors, so the only other likely point of failure was the HDD. The servers don't really need much storage, so I bought some small/cheap SSDs to replace the mechanical disks. The swap was pretty simple. After removing a dozen or so screws, the two halves of the case could be separated to reveal the innards.

Photo of server innards before HDD swap

There were a further two screws holding the HDD caddy to the board, which slid out easily after they were removed. Then it was just a matter of reversing the process to put in the shiny new SSD.

Photo of server innards after HDD swap

Here's a side-by-side comparison with the old (dusty) server.

Comparison with old server box

The software-side took much longer... The OS install itself was pretty painless (minimal network Linux install off a bootable USB thumb drive), but took a while to download everything. I then split apart the functions between multiple servers, and re-jigged my web/mail server software so that it runs a bit more securely.

Finally, here's a fun fact... Running Linux on the WindBox uses significantly less power than running Windows 7. Yeah, it's probably because I'm running in console mode and the GPU doesn't have to do any work, but that doesn't sound as impressive. :-)