Budget for my Cloud Server
Before I can narrow down and prioritize the goals I need to assess my budget. This will all vary based on your excess spending cash of your income, what you can do without for a few months for extra money, and how long you are able to wait. At the time I was able to save up $225 per month for two months by cutting out some of my personal other expenses like my entertainment budget ($50/mo), my eating out budget ($25/mo), and my miscellaneous spending money for whatever else I want to buy ($150/mo).
My expenses vs my income was not very high at this time so it was easy to set aside the money I needed. If you have lots of excess already saved up you may not have to budget monthly income to buy it. However if you are not in a rush I recommend saving a bit per month anyway for at least 2-6 months so your savings can keep growing. If on the other hand your finances are much tighter you may have to delay the project a few months and cut back on your overall specs. If possible $100 per month would not be bad. Then in a few months you would be able to build your cloud server! If you cannot save a lot of money very fast don't worry you can always upgrade your server as time goes on. At this point I have upgraded my server 4 times already to make it even better. If your really on a tight budget and have an old computer lying around with okay specs you can use that. If you got some old stuff lying around that's worth money you could also try selling it online to get some extra money.
So after two months with my budget I had my money set aside with a budget of $450 in order to build my cloud server. I would like to not go over this amount but if needs be I can use the $25 extra in my wallet to cover the difference. So my preferred budget is $450 or less and my max budget is $475. If you don't want to invest quite so much I have found some nice alternatives that are much better specs for less then $200. See my upcoming part on alternative hardware suggestions.
Goals vs Budget
Now that you know how much you have available to spend and your goals its time to make some compromises to your goals with what you can reasonably afford. The best way is to weigh your actual needs right now and for the next 3-6 months and go from there. Your needs a year or two from now may be much different. I know mine were, but that is also harder to predict so lets stick with 3-6 months of the easily foreseeable future. So taking my list from before what are the must have high priority items and which are low priority which are desired but not required? Lets see...
- Must be accessible through the internet so I can access my files anywhere.
- Must have a minimum of 2TB though 4TB is preferred.
- Should have an uptime of 90% at minimum (which equates to a downtime of no more than about 75 minutes per month).
- Should have SSL support and good security without too much constant work.
- Should have plugins to make it expandable with things such as being a media server for future projects.
- Should require minimal maintenance to keep it working on a regular basis.
- Must have file redundancy to protect against a hard drive failing and taking all my files with it. I would like to store important backups on there as well.
- Should be able to sync not only my desktops but mobile devices as well.
- Ability to be mapped as a network drive on wind
- Should use less electricity so there is no big spike in my power bill.
- Should be able to fit out of the way on a shelf in my workshop.
- Should be able to handle usage spikes when I am transferring lots of files at the same time without major slow down.
- Should be reasonably quiet so as not to annoy me when working in my workshop.
- Should not generate too much heat so no additional air conditioning is required.
- Should be able to do basic upgrades such as more hard drives if needed.
- Being able to link to my Dropbox™ and Google Drive™ services would be a huge plus.
- Should make checking system usage rather easy, especially with graphs.
- Should be able to email me critical alerts so I know of issues without always having to login and check.
- Should be easy to add and remove hard drives without lots of extra work.
As much as I would love it to have super fast specs with tons of storage space and be capable of running multiple virtual machines I cannot afford that so I will look for the best specs in my price range. Some compromises I made were: a much lower CPU speed with less cores to keep costs and power usage down (bad plan in the long run), lower speed hard drives to increase capacity at a much lower cost (this works out okay), and a much less expandable case to keep costs down as well as height and width below a certain max size due to my free shelf location size (if possible put up a bigger shelf instead so you can make future upgrades easier and cheaper). If you have a higher budget you wont have to make a few of these compromises to keep costs down and can go with a case that can support more hard drives like 6 rather than three like I chose that only supports 2x 3.5" and 1x 2.5" without additional tweaking.
As time has progressed I have upgraded my server multiple times and many of my low priorities became high priorities. I will elaborate more in a future portion of this project.