Home Network Setup

I felt like putting this here for some reason. If you’re so curious as to my home network setup, and what I run on my network, now’s the chance to know!

Listed on this page is the hardware used on my home network, and then extra details pertaining to the hardware.

 

Last updated: September 2019

 

Networking Setup:

The networking setup that I have is an enterprise-grade SOHO style setup, using Ubiquiti equipment.

The main router on the network is the EdgeRouter X. While it has its flaws, the ER-X still is a very competent Gigabit router for $59 (price went up), and has been performing without issue on my network.

Even though the EdgeRouter X is a great router, I do have some complaints about it:

  • Hardware offloading has to be enabled to get any decent performance out of the ER-X
  • DPI is a no-go unless you like max speeds of ~200 Mbps on your network
  • Upgrading firmwares is a pain in the neck due to 256 MB of storage
  • Custom packages are a no-go with the limited 256 MB of storage – The ER-4 or ER-Lite is much better served for the task since they have 2 GB of internal storage

 

For the Wi-Fi component of the network, I’m using Ubiquiti’s UAP-AC-Pro access points, two of them to be exact. One in the house, one in the office extension ($149/each), these access points do the job quite well – although their maximum throughput is limited to about 400 Mbps on a good day. I’ve had a few reliability issues with them however, so keep that in mind. Additionally, roaming between the two access points is pretty much seamless. I’ve had some issues however with devices locking on to a signal from the office AP in the house, even though the AP is intentionally pointed away from the house.

I do wish that I went with the nanoHDs when I made my network, as for about ~$40 more you get more throughput, and even a stronger signal. Regardless, I once performed a 30-device speed test on my network, and each device finished with about 2-3 Mbps of bandwidth. Impressive stuff!

When I first set up the Home Network with Ubiquiti, I only had one AP to cover the house & garage office, and this turned out to cause massive range issues. Unfortunately, I can’t run Ethernet to the office, so I had to come up with a solution.

To get internet up to the office, I decided to use Ubiquiti’s NanoStation 5AC Locos in an ultra short-throw link (about 40 ft). While the NS-5ACs are very good for what they are (300-400 Mbps capacity on a good day), they have very limited mounting options, which require you to get pretty creative. Right now, I have the one in the router room sitting in a tissue box on top of my modem, and the one in the office mounted to a pole that’s part of a movable shelf.

I plan to get nanoBeam ACs, which have a ball pivot for easy alignment (yay!!), plus easy wall mounting (double yay!!).

 

Additionally, at some point before I head off to college I plan to upgrade to a USG (or UniFi Dream Machine if they come out), a UniFi Cloud Key Gen2, and a UniFi Switch that has built-in passive 24V PoE. Pretty expensive, yes, but the single-pane network management will work wonders when I’m away.

 

The Home NAS:

My home NAS was formerly my main desktop, a Mac Mini 2012. It presently runs FreeNAS 11, with these specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 3615QM
  • RAM: 16GB DDR3 (previously 8GB). 16GB of RAM does wonders for FreeNAS, especially considering ZFS is really RAM-intensive.
  • Boot drive: 120GB Kingston SSD (it’s overkill for FreeNAS, but I prefer running the boot drive on an SSD instead of a flash disk)
  • Additional storage: One 2 TB WD Blue Hard Drive running on USB 3.0 (I’ve planned on getting the dual drive mount for a while but USB 3 works fine, it can saturate a 1Gbps connection easily)

FreeNAS runs great on the Mac Mini, and I have SMB and AFS shares set up for all users (although I’m the only one using the server). In addition to personal shares, the NAS also features some public shares, such as the Home ISO Share. It’s a collection of dozens of .iso files on the NAS that I update on a monthly basis, so that when I need to fetch a .iso file for whatever reason, I can use the Home ISO Share instead of using the internet.

The NAS runs about as stable as a rock, so I have no complaints about FreeNAS.

 

Home Server 1:

Home Server 1 is an eMachines EL1852, with these specs:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium E5800
  • RAM: 3 GB DDR3
  • Boot drive: 256 GB Samsung SSD

Although it no longer runs UrBackup, it’s a nice machine around to host VPNs and other services that require fast disk access.

Home Server 1 is running Ubuntu Server 18.04 LTS, with the Lubuntu desktop installed, which in turn is based off of LXDE. The software running on the server includes:

  • SoftEther VPN Server: SoftEther is a dead-simple way to set up a VPN server, and I’ve been using it for years now. It can run L2TP/IPsec & OpenVPN, along with its own SoftEther VPN protocol that runs on port 443 – great for bypassing filters. It runs very well, and I’ve had no issues with it.
  • UNMS: UNMS is basically the UniFi Controller for the EdgeMAX and AirMAX line of products from Ubiquiti. It’s in beta, and while it’s not entirely useful at this time, I do see some potential in having a central place to monitor equipment. I run it on the network on this server as it’s not entirely essential to operations.

Unfortunately, this server has issues with booting up after being powered down for about 20-30 minutes, requiring a keyboard & mouse to boot. I’ve replaced the BIOS battery but with no luck, so as a result I host less important services on this server.

 

The Backup Server (Home Server 3):

After the big UrBackup storage problem occurred, I needed a solution to provide 2 TB of storage for UrBackup. As such, I commissioned a Dell Precision T3500 to the task. Here are the specs:

  • CPU: Intel Xeon W3503
  • RAM: 6 GB DDR3 @ 1066 MHz
  • Boot drive: 120 GB Kingston SSD
  • Additional storage: 2 TB WD Blue Hard Drive
  • GPU: AMD Radeon HD 5450 (It’s enough to run the Ubuntu GUI so I have no complaints)

The server runs Ubuntu Server 18.04. Here’s what’s running on the system:

  • UrBackup: I like to acquaint UrBackup to this: A wireless Time Machine server that works on any platform. While it may not have the fancy graphics, or ease of setup that Apple bakes in to Time Machine, UrBackup does what it has to do, and does it very well. I’ve saved myself at least a dozen times with deleted files and corrupted saves. My only complaint is that client setup can be a bit cumbersome.
  • Pi-Hole: As previously mentioned, the Pi-Hole is an awesome ad & tracker blocking tool at the DNS level. It’s been running on my network for over a year now, and I’ve had no complaints. It works like a charm, and it’s great that I can play ad-infested games without any ads (and without paying any money).
  • UniFi Controller: After having massive issues with running the UniFi Controller on the Raspberry Pi (random shutdowns, not enough RAM, database corruption issues), I’ve moved the UniFi Controller over to this more powerful machine for the long-term. Otherwise, the UniFi Controller is a great piece of software to manage a UniFi network. It runs well, has detailed statistics, and includes a guest portal for a guest network. Lots of customization options, and you can manage your network on the go easily as well.

 

 

And that’s my home network! It isn’t the most complex thing in the world, but it works for what I need it to do. I’ve tinkered around with different services for about a year now, even spending nights in a server room.

Additionally, there are servers that ran on my network, but that aren’t in use for a variety of reasons:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B+ – After having many issues with database corruptions & random shutdowns with the UniFi Controller on the Pi, I eventually moved all services off of it to prevent further network disruptions. It works great for lightweight services, but try to push the Pi somewhat and you won’t get very far. They’re better suited as a cheap and fun way to get into DIY engineering & programming.
  • Dell Dimension 4600 – With a Pentium 4, 1.25 GB of RAM, and an 80 GB HDD that’s annoyingly loud, plus 100 Mbps ethernet, I didn’t see any value in running programs on this machine.
  • iMac (2002) – With a PowerPC processor of all things, 512 MB of RAM, and Debian 6, it wasn’t up to the task of ever being a server, even a backup server.
  • Raspberry Pi 3B – Replaced by the Raspberry Pi 3B+. It’s now a dedicated Pi for DIY projects.