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How to Choose a Laptop for Server Duty

This article is a continuation of the "24/7 Home Notebook Server" article. If you haven't read that article, you might want to do it now.

Now that you've decided to run a server off a notebook computer, you'd have to think about what notebook to use. Ultimately, you'd take your older notebooks to use as your server. The nice thing about using your older notebook is that they were at one point your primary notebook computer. You were satisfied with its performance. And you'd know it inside and out. But sometimes, using an older notebook is not an option. In either case, there are several things to consider before you pick one.

One, the notebook you use should have a built-in Ethernet port. If not, it'll need a PCMCIA slot or an USB port where an Ethernet port can be installed. Even though the craze is to buy notebooks with built-in wireless capability, you wouldn't want to trust your web server on an unreliable wireless link. Even if you have the wireless link established with a strong reliability confidence today doesn't mean your neighbor can't set-up a wireless access point tomorrow that happens to conflict with your wireless network tomorrow.

Two, don't pick the latest and greatest notebook with the most powerful processor and graphics card. The graphics card is going to be a waste, because you won't be looking at the screen much at all when it is being used as a server. The most powerful notebook is also consumes the most amount of power. It is going to use more energy, generate more heat, and require bigger fans. Pick a notebook with a CPU that is just adequate for the job. An apache web server doesn't require much. My web server was happily running on a 700 MHz desktop before the CPU died from summer heat. The only bottleneck was the network bandwidth, not the CPU.

Three, the notebook should have a battery that last as long as you wish. One that lasts half an hour could bear through several power surges. One that lasts a few hours could easily handle a long power outage. As notebooks get older, battery starts to lose its capacity. You might want to pick up a new battery.

Four, pick a notebook that is the quietest. It's going to be on 24/7. The less you hear of it the better.

So far, I've thought of four factors when picking a notebook to use as a server: built-in Ethernet port, a CPU that is just adequate, long-lasting battery, and a quiet one. If you find a notebook that meets all four criteria, you'd be pretty happy using it as a server. Can you think of any other notebook server criteria?

Chieh Cheng
Wed, 03 Jan 2007 16:34:17 -0800

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