Home Servers are becoming more common and it is very easy for a newbie to get lost while finding the best home server software. We have described what a HTPC is and what it is used for. A home server on the other hand takes care of file serving, downloading, web serving needs, and more. A home server is typically ON 24×7 and hence it is important for it be energy efficient to keep costs low and be environment-friendly. In some cases, you can build a low-power HTPC NAS combo that can serve as both home media server and file/download/web server. You may have the best possible hardware but without the right home server software your needs may not be met. So let us look at some of the best home server OS in 2015.
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Home Server Software – 2015
Choosing the right or best home server operating system is nearly half the work in setting up a home network server. Home Server OS that fits your needs will make your life a lot simpler from the initial setup to the day-to-day maintenance. Before you begin, it might help to list down what your needs are. To identify your needs, you may refer to my post on most common Home Server uses.
1. Ubuntu Server
Ubuntu Server is at the top of best home server software list because, obviously, I am biased towards it. Really though, for those who know what they are doing and are comfortable with Linux, Ubuntu Server is like a blank slate where one can create their own customized image. You get the point? Ubuntu has been around for more than a decade and is right now one of the most common OS for home servers. During our 12 Days of Trusty Tahr event, we covered almost all the steps required in setting up a Ubuntu home server. One of the disadvantages with setting up a Ubuntu Linux home server is that you will have to manually perform all the steps, but our 1-click AtoMiC scripts can simplify the job. On the other hand, you can keep your server up-to-date as maintenance is in your hands and not the hands of a plugin developer. So if you know what you are doing then Ubuntu Server is the best home server OS (Fedora is good too).
2. Amahi Home Server
Some prefer a clean slate to create their own image, while others prefer a simplified framework to start building their home server. If you belong to the latter then Amahi is for you. Recently, we did a Amahi Home Server review, so I am not going to go into the details. Built on Fedora, Amahi (and FreeNAS) is probably the best free home server software currently available.
If you have the patience to get past the initial quirks, Amahi is a great newbie-friendly home server software with nice web-based administration interface. While the base system and some plugins are free, you will have to shell out a few bucks for some plugins. Also, plugin updates may be a bit slow to come.
FreeNAS, as the name suggests, is a free open-source Network Attached Storage software. FreeNAS is the other (along with Amahi) best free home server OS that I like. Originally built on FreeBSD, FreeNAS is the simplest and the lightest way to create a centralized and accessible home for your data through responsive web interface. FreeNAS can do everything listed in our most common Home Server uses and more.
Some of its features include data replication, protection, and encryption, data snapshots, and file sharing (SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP, FTP, and WebDAV). It can be extended by using plugins such as CouchPotato, SickBeard, SABnzbd, Maraschino, HTPC Manager, etc. With the Plex server (arguably the best home media server), it is probably one of the best OS for media server application. It supports MiniDLNA as well. [Read: The Ultimate Guide to Compile and Install MiniDLNA on Ubuntu]
OpenMediaVault is a PHP-AJAX based network attached storage (NAS) solution. It has a modular design and is built on Debian Linux. It is free under GPLv3 license and support services like SSH, (S)FTP, SMB/CIFS, DAAP media server, rsync, BitTorrent, and more. And modular design means it can be extended to do other things with plugins. The full list of features are listed on OpenMediaVault’s features page.
OMV has a very clean and modern looking web interface for home server management. The key thing to note is that OpenMediaVault is primarily designed to be used in home environment and small home offices. This core philosophy makes it one of the best free home server software that is worth trying. OpenMediaVault make is easy to test their product. Just head over to the OpenMediaVault demo page and play around to get it know it.