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24/7 Home Notebook Server

Is it smart to run a 24/7 home server off a laptop computer? Ten years ago, the answer would be, unanimously, "no"! Back in those days, running a server on a notebook computer is like shooting yourself in the foot with a shotgun. Laptop computers cost several times more than desktop computers. Even at that price, the laptops performed at half the speed of desktops. All of the laptop parts were proprietary, costly, and are not hot-swappable.

Today, the computer industry is quite different. A low-end notebook computer can be had for around five hundred dollars. It is just as fast as low-end desktop computers that cost almost as much. Utilizing standard components--RAM, CPU, and external devices--laptops are now more affordable to maintain. Standard interfaces like USB, firewire, PCMCIA, and ExpressCard make many Components hot-swappable.

If you ask the earlier question today, conservative folks will still gave you same answer. I, on the other hand, think laptops would make great servers. Nowadays, they are so reliable, I have wondered if they'd ever fail. My Sony VAIO SuperSlim PCG-505TS notebook, for example, is still running today, after eight years of service. Other than the hard drive, it has no moving parts. The CPU has a small heat sink with no fan. But reliability isn't the reason I want to run my server off a notebook computer. The following are the real reasons . . . Reason 1: quietness. Reason 2: portability. Reason 3: space. Reason 4: low energy consumption. Reason 5: heat dissipation. Reason 6: built-in UPS.

Reason 1: quietness. Yes. The ultimate reason comes down to quietness. Notebooks are built for travel. Therefore, they are built to avoid disturbing your neighbors on an airplane. A desktop PC, with its CPU fan, its power supply fan, and its high RPM hard disk, will put a constant hum inside your home office. If you've ever tried to build a quiet desktop computer, you'd know that by the time you are done, it'd cost more than a low-end laptop.

Reason 2: portability. Some of you might go, "huh?" Why would you need portability when you are running the notebook as a server? If any of you have ever been a system administrator for long, you'd know that every once in a while, you'd want to take the server off-line to deal with hackers and perform computer forensic. Yet, you got to get another replacement server running to take its place as soon as possible. A notebook server allows you to swap in another server and allows you to take the original server with you. It's really convenient if you want to do your forensics on the kitchen counter rather than trying to squeeze in the same space as your replacement server.

Reason 3: space. Ever thought of building a distributed web server? Have you consider how much space five desktop computers would take up? Maybe you'd need a rack. Now image five notebook servers. All neatly stacked up on the corner of a desk. Need I say more?

Reason 4: low energy consumption. Don't want to rack up a large electricity bill? Notebook computers can help you do that. Most notebook computers are built with low-energy components. After all, you'd want to watch a 3-hour movie on a plane flight, right?

Reason 5: heat dissipation. Notebook computer generate less heat than desktop computers due to all of the low-energy component they use. And due to the small size constraint, the engineers are forced to provide a more efficient heat dissipation design, rather than the brute force method of fans. Lesser heat means you can have more servers in one room with less cooling. Therefore, lower electricity bill.

Reason 6: built-in UPS. Those of you with servers all know that uninterruptible power supply is an essential component in your set-up. You wouldn't want a power surge out outage to take out a hard drive. Plus, rebooting the server takes time, which means your audiences might be twiddling their thumbs wondering what's wrong with your server. Guess what? Notebook computers have built-in UPS's--their batteries! And while a desktop computer depletes a standard UPS in fifteen minutes, your notebook computer can last hours on battery power. So even if power is out in your area for an hour, you can still serve your web pages. Just remember to put your modem/router on UPS.

I am currently running my server on a very thin Averatec 3120V notebook computer; you can follow up with my long-term report.

When I started on this article, I had three reasons. I ended up with six: quietness, portability, space, low energy consumption, heat dissipation, and built-in UPS. The prospect of using a laptop for server duty looks even better after writing this article. If you ever become interested in running your own server on a notebook, take a look at my "How to Choose a Laptop for Server Duty" article, which I am now inspired to write.

Chieh Cheng
Wed, 03 Jan 2007 15:40:43 -0800

how do i make laptop as a web server?

nurul ezaila
Sun, 21 Jan 2007 22:52:14 -0800

Some notebooks will not power-up with the lid closed. To use these types of notebook as your home server, you either have to keep its lid open or have to disable the lid switch. For an example of disabling the lid switch, take a look at the "Sony VAIO power-up protection hack" article.

Chieh Cheng
Sat, 18 Oct 2008 23:55:37 +0000

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Title: MSi Wind U100 is an Excellent Notebook Server
Weblog: GearHack
Excerpt: After a disaster with my MSi Wind U100-279US netbook, I have learned that it is an excellent notebook book server. It is fast enough for most purposes. It has a build-in ethernet board to be connected via the reliable wired network. The hard drive is more than big enough for most server situations. . . .
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