Home Network Infrastructure

Ideally you want a wired Ethernet backbone reaching throughout your home and plug in dedicated WiFi Access Points at the correct places to properly cover all your real estate. I will get into more details later on.

Why wired? Because WiFi is spotty and low-bandwidth. Don't get fooled by the latest buzzwords about WiFi, it will never be as good as wired. So if you can lay down a good Ethernet cable scross your home, do so.

My internal server and ISPs routers are located at one side of my home. From there a CAT-6 Ethernet cable runs to the home hub which is a 8-port Ethernet switch connected to the various WiFi Access Points. I need a total of five APs to properly cover the entirety of my home because i have thick (50cm/1m) stone walls that mostly block both 2.4G and 5G signal. Again, more on this later on.

I have identified a pretty entry level AP from the OpenWRT Supported Hardware table and purchased them all identical, then switched to OpenWRT to enable Fast Transitioning. But, again, more on this later on.

Internal Server Hardware

Your home server should be beefy enough to host and support all your services. Once you figure that out, the added overhead to manage the NAT, the tunnels and the reverse-proxy will be negligible.

You might want to split your services on more than one device, but there are some considerations to it:

  • More servers might mean higher energy consumption
  • More servers means higher probability of one going down
  • More hardware means higher rate of hardware failures

On the other hand, more servers means that not all of your services might go down at the same time.

In general, you want something low-power and you might want something battery-protected to prevent strain on hard drives due to loss of power. You might also want something not too loud unless you plan to place everything in a secluded place (but watch out for heat buildup!)

My choice is an oldish powerful workstation-type laptop:

  • it has one wired Ethernet NIC, for the internal network
  • it has keyboard and monitor, for those local access needs, without requiring a dedicated monitor wasting space
  • doesn't reboot when there is a power loss at home
  • It is less power-hungry and less noisy than a tower pc

Some drawbacks are that:

  • I had to add USB-C based ethernet NICs to connect to my two ISPs
  • It has limited internal storage capability (only one NVME SSD and one SDD 3.5“ slot)

For this reason, i added a RAID JBOD solution connected via USB-3 with a conspicuously sized SSDs RAID array, and i plugged it to a cheapo low-wattage battery backup to keep the RAID array running in case of power-loss. The use of SSDs means low noise and low power consumption, great to be protected by a small home UPS, even if it's more expensive than using good old mechanical HDDs.

The use of USB-3 JBOD does not create issues with disk transfer rates as all the data usage required by the server is basically video streaming, that even in 4K is still way below the USB throughput, and in any case even direct file transfer happens mostly via WiFi, again well below the USB throughput. One note, tough, purchase an expensive USB JBOD, do not go with cheapo USB enclosures ad they are not designed to run 24/7 and your SSDs will drop at some point.

The same applies to USB NICs. Don't go cheap, and you might have to try out a few before you find a really good and stable one. Of course USB-C is better than USB-3, both speed wise and stability wise, but the number of USB-C ports is usually limited, and you definitely want to spread out your devices on as many USB controllers as possible, so using both is a good idea.

One last note on UPS. You definitely want one. The risk of an unintended power-loss could be too much to risk. Using a laptop and a small UPS to keep your SSDs running is usually enough. Unless your power grid is highly unstable, power-losses are usually a brief moment of a few minutes at best.

External Server Hardware

The remote server can be a virtual server or a physical one, doesn't matter, it will run nothing except tunnels back to the internal server.

So go ahead and rent whatever fits your bill.

I rent a physical server since… forever… before VPS started to be affordable. But some 8GB of RAM and 128Gb of storage are more than enough here.

You want to pay attention to the bandwidth and data caps tough, as you don't want to run out of traffic to/from your home services when you are traveling outside home.