Cover image for Should I Build A Homelab?

Should I Build A Homelab?

forstmeier profile image John Forstmeier ・1 min read

I'm becoming increasingly interested in hardware and I love the stuff that I see on r/homelab and r/battlestations.

Working on a homelab of my own is something I'd like to start (and a battle station eventually) - ideally something small like a Raspberry Pi or maybe cannibalize my old laptop (if it has any components that would make sense to reuse for this project). I definitely need some input as to where to I should start.

I'd like to use it as a platform to:

  • play with self-hosted software (e.g. IPFS, Git, personal projects)
  • learn more about networking (e.g. architecture, traffic, security)
  • tinker with hardware components (e.g. 3D printed pieces, chips, playing with a soldering gun if possible)

This area is totally new to me so any thoughts, guidance, or general input would be much appreciated!



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DO IT!!! I check out /r/homelab on Reddit as a good place to get started. I bought a Dell Poweredge R720 for 700 dollars, installed Proxmox (Debian based hypervisor) and when I have free time plan to work on my DevOps skills and host a private cloud.

It's a mess right now, might be moving soon so didn't want to spend too much time perfecting things.

My mess of a homelab


Nice! Do you have specific projects/goals in mind for what you'd like to do with it?


I want to learn Chef (or maybe Ansible or Saltstack, but Chef is most intuitive for me so far) and learn how to automate a lot of sysadmin tasks. I'd also love to learn how to set up a build server for all of my projects and begin learning to containerize programs. I might also put in a few more HDDs and make it double up as my NAS.


I used to do the home lab thing - and the home-based hosting thing. Used to have a repurposed VAX cabinet full of old commercial UNIX gear (plenty of Sun servers and workstations, a few SGI systems and even an IBM Power4 system ...plus an IP-based RS232 multiplexer so I could recover broken systems without having to journey down to the basement).

Over time, I noticed that my electric bills had gotten ridiculous and there were getting to be more and more co-location and then virtualization options to take advantage of. Plus, I'd taken a travel job which meant running things from home became problematic if a storm system came through and knocked everything offline. Walking your (non-tech) wife through telnetting to the Portmaster and then performing a system recovery from three timezones away gets old quick!

So, I switched to using VPSes and then services like AWS, DigitalOcean and the like. The savings in electricity more than offset the cost of pay-by-the-minute technologies ...and I have even more to play with.

...But I'm more software oriented than hardware.

P.s. Go Lions; go Flyers/Eagles. ;)


Absolutely go for it! I started with a few raspberry pis and a little box (NUC/BRIX/etc). If you gut your old laptop, you can likely use the RAM/SSD in the NUC and save a chunk of money. Now I have 5 NUC-like machines, 1 ITX build, and 5 rpi3 running as a cluster. Just keep an eye out for big sales and craigslist listings. Debating getting a proper NAS or connecting external drive bays to the ITX machine.

Added bonus: I'm moving and these little machines are quite easy to pack and haul.


That's awesome! What do you typically use the homelab for? I'm interested in both the tinkering with the hardware side and what types of projects to work on utilizing the hardware.


Originally, I was using it to learn k8s. That's a bit heavy for rpis, though. I migrated the cluster to docker swarm and I have a few things running on it: gitea, drone, minio, cockroachdb, traefik, docker registry, plex, pihole, and odd side project testing.