Finally – a new file server!

Back in 2015, when I transitioned to using a laptop as a primary computer, I also transitioned my previous desktop computer, Clementine to the role of being a file server. I felt it was a better approach to have a computer that was dedicated to being powered on all the time, with software oriented around making my data useful and safe — media streaming, automatic backups, private cloud, and so on.

Clementine was fine as a first file server, but had three primary drawbacks: 1) Physically, Clementine was a large desktop computer, which limited options for placing her out of the way. 2) Clementine was overpowered for this use case, and leaving her powered on all the time meant a lot of electricity was being wasted. 3) Windows is not a great operating system for servers — it reboots frequently without warning, and many programs can only run within a user account, not as a system service, so after a reboot it was necessary for me to manually log in so that those programs could start up.

My plan all along was to replace Clementine with a machine more optimized for this purpose, but it took a long time to settle on the right approach. I considered simple hard drive network adapters, dedicated NAS devices such as Synology, and even a completely different approach of utilizing cloud services. In the end, I decided on a custom-built, small PC, running Linux.

Which brings us to Iris. Iris is a Mini-ITX form factor (just 10 inches tall), but still with room for two hard drives — one fast but small SSD for the OS and applications, and one big mechanical hard drive for data. She’s built around an i3-6100 CPU, which provides surprisingly good performance (enough to handle media transcoding in real time), but at a low cost and with low power consumption. And she runs Ubuntu Linux, which is a stable, powerful, reliable operating, where every piece of software I use can be set up as a system service. Thanks a large amount of planning, the transition to Iris went very smooth, with almost no downtime — the only challenge was cable management in this new, small case. Iris is capable of doing everything Clementine could do, but more reliably, in a more power efficient way, and while being physically out of the way.

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