Hardware advice for new user

Hello! I have a couple of Mac OS X Servers using Mac minis for email and file serving in small offices. Apple are ending OS X Server so I thought NethServer may be a good replacement. Looking at the docs makes me think NethServer will be easy enough as it has a GUI and most things look familiar.

But I’ll need some hardware! I’d quite like something small and quite like the Mac mini, maybe an Intel NUC? Or a small tower into which I can add the file serving hard drives? I think Dell make something like that.

I have no idea how powerful a processor I need. As I say it’s mostly email and file serving.We also have a Calendar and Contacts service but there aren’t many users, half a dozen or so. All the server users are using Macs.

I’d like to get a PC of some sorts, install NethServer to test and learn before replacing the working Macs. Any advice?

To test and learn, you don’t need dedicated hardware at all–install VirtualBox on one of the Macs, Neth in a VM, and go to town.

As far as the hardware to actually run the production system, it would depend a lot on your needs, but I’d focus more on storage speed and RAM than I would on CPU.


Thank you danb35, now I understand the references to “VM” in the forums! I’ll try as you suggest.

As for hard drives, I would always use an SSD for the OS although we have a large amount of files to share so those will be on spinning hard drives. And for RAM I tend to fill a machine with as much as it can take.

So not to worry about processor, i3, i5, or i7. Any will be fine. I wonder if i7 over the top for a server though. Lastly, do I want/need more cores than less?

Thanks again.

I will be more worried about bandwithd and its backup (do you have a multiwan) when you want to host an email server at home/office, rather than a cpu. Some of people here use raspberry, ok it is for a really limited number of users.

But if you fit your need, you can imagine to put a NS in a hosting environment


It really depends on what services you plan to use. If it is only file/print server and email, you can do with relative simple hardware. I don’t know if there is a reliable ‘rule of thumb’ for the amount of RAM for filesharing and email services, but I doubt they will be very big.
However, Firewall/Gateway/DPI etc will use a lot of CPU and RAM, but what I get from your post, those will not be done by NethServer.
So, for a small environment, I would go for an HP Gen10 microserver (or Gen8, but that one is quite dated). I ran NethServer for a long time on a Gen7 microserver. But I have to mention that was just a tiny home server with next to none useage.
A Gen10 microserver has 4 slots for 3,5" satadisks so you can add enough space for your shares. RAM (default 8GB) and processor (AMD Opteron™ X3000 Series) should do great for a small environment.

As @stephdl mentions, you could consider using a small VPS for your mail. I have my mail on a very overdimensioned VPS at contabo. They offer very cheap VPS’s.


No doubt this comes from my background with FreeNAS, but if you’re going to be dealing with data that’s at all important, I’d strongly encourage ECC RAM and a system that supports it. On the CPU side, that means G-series Pentium, i3, or Xeon. It does probably preclude the tiny, Mac Mini/NUC form factor, though.

How much is “a large amount”? Because setting up Neth to use a separate disk for data, while do-able, does take a bit of doing.

One server has a 1 TB drive for data, another has JBOD drives attached using FireWire, 8TBs and 6TBs. Other drives act as off-site backups between locations. At the moment for example an 8TB drive is connected to the Mac mini and using Mac OS X Server divided into two different shares. That’s virtual, only those with permission can see one or the other or both. The drive mounts as a single volume on the Mac mini. Mac OS X Server is Unix underneath somewhere so I’m guessing/hoping I can set things up in this sort of way.

So how hard to have external hard drives serve files?

That doesn’t really answer the question (big disks doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being utilized), but let’s assume it does. In that case, yes, you’d really need to use spinners, or a whole boatload of expensive SSDs. In short, then, the setup is going to be that have the SSD as your boot device, and your second volume mounted at /var/lib/nethserver. That volume would store all the data–email, file shares, web sites, etc. The OS goes on the SSD.

As to how to accomplish that, you have a few options:

  • Using the installer, you can set up your partitioning scheme; partition/format the spinner there and tell it to mount at /var/lib/nethserver. This is probably the simplest way to accomplish this.
  • Install as usual, then partition/format/RAID the spinners afterward at the CLI and mount them in the right place. Move any data that was already there onto the new volume.
  • Install as usual, install OpenZFS on Linux, create a ZFS pool on the spinner(s), and mount that pool in the right place. Again, you’ll need to move a small amount of data over.

My preference would be the third option. It isn’t the simplest, but it gives you a ZFS pool for your data. That provides data integrity benefits (all data is checksummed, so corruption can be detected and fixed at the filesystem level), and also makes it trivially easy to expand the pool when it gets full.

Brrrrr single and external drive for data? IMO, that is screaming for dataloss or at least a lot of recover trouble.
I would strongly suggest to have disks at least as RAID1 in a proper case (like the HP Microserver) or if you have the funds, “real” servers from proven brands like Dell, HP or (a bit cheaper) SuperMicro.

…and those funds don’t have to be very much at all. The best deal I’ve recently seen ended last year, with a HPE Proliant ML10 with some flavor of i3 for under $200, but there are other good deals available. The Dell PowerEdge T30 is on sale on Monday for $329 in a pretty nice configuration (E3-1225, 8 GB ECC RAM, 1 TB spinner)–but expect quantities to be very limited at that price.

Again, it isn’t going to be the tiny form factor you’re looking for, but that really isn’t conducive to stable storage.

Please may I suggest that what ever hardware is considered, it has “out of band management”. Dell have iDrac, HP have iLO and SuperMicro have a generic IPMI system. I have SuperMicro hardware with their IPMI system and it works very well. Please note that iKVM (being able to access the boot console over the network) is a paid for addon with Dell and HP systems, but not SuperMicro. I vote +1 for a SuperMicro based system :slight_smile:


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I have some SuperMicro gear and like it–but I don’t think you’ll get a brand-new Xeon server from them for $300.

Edit: Should also say that I agree completely about the value of out-of-band management, and particularly iKVM, for a server–it makes it far easier to do the initial setup without having to scrounge a monitor and keyboard for the thing. But if I were in the market for a small server within the T30’s capability, I’d be hard pressed to pass it up.