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Thread: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

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    Question Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Hi all,

    I'm fairly thrifty when it comes to electronics, so I've been getting by with using a decent-spec (2.4GHz Intel Dual Core w/ 2GB RAM) tower running Ubuntu Server 12.04 as my multi-purpose home server. Right now, its main duties consist of hosting a handful of low traffic websites (2 WordPress and 1 PHP-driven specialized site. Collectively, they never get more than 120 views per day), BitTorrent box, and general-purpose file server. I'm thinking about eventually adding backup server and media server to that list. It's been chugging along quite nicely with those jobs for quite a few months, and I've yet to have any major problems. But lately I've been thinking about security, and I've figured that there may be some security risks when it comes to hosting multiple servers on a single system, especially when the files contained on that server are rather private (family photos, documents, etc).

    So my question to you today is: It it a good strategy to rebuild the server from scratch, separating the software into Xen-based virtual servers?
    I would probably end up giving Apache and any other WAN-facing software its own virtual server (and I'm thinking about installing an Ethernet card that would give that virtual server its own port), and then making another virtual server for LAN backup, media server, etc. My security reasoning behind this is simple isolation: if the hacker gets into the virtual server running Apache, then he's isolated from the rest of the servers and the rest of my LAN. Plus, I can experiment with any other services I want to use in the future without having to worry about messing up the rest of the system.

    I've played around with Linux and servers for a while now, but I've yet to deal with virtualization like Xen or OpenVZ. I feel like the virtual isolation (combined with firewalling and other good security practices) should keep me relatively solid. And my processor does support hardware virtualization, so I'm guessing the performance hit shouldn't be too bad. If you have any suggestions as to a better way to go about this (virtualization or otherwise), I would sincerely appreciate them.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by abyrne; June 5th, 2013 at 12:25 AM.
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Bump. Would this be better in a different section of the forum?
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Thread moved to server platforms.
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    I think you're being a bit too paranoid. Apache has been hardened over two decades and is not a likely target for successful exploits. Also unless you have online enemies, the chance that your machine would be a target is trivially small.

    Nevertheless if you'd like to try virtualization, I suggest VirtualBox. It's quite easy to install and use. Follow the installation instructions on the VB site for "Debian-based" distributions.
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Quote Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
    I think you're being a bit too paranoid. Apache has been hardened over two decades and is not a likely target for successful exploits. Also unless you have online enemies, the chance that your machine would be a target is trivially small.
    Thanks for your response! I was just using Apache as an example for any web-facing service, but you're probably right about me being paranoid. The more I think about it, the more I feel like virtualization may be a bit overkill.

    Does anyone else have an opinion on this?
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    I like using virtual machines like you describe more to avoid conflicts and to save me from myself.

    If you mess up one thing then it won't take everything else with it.

    If you go down the VM route it would probably be worth adding some more memory to the physical machine.

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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    If your not very bored, and dont want to deal with the commandline, but still want to try virtulization, try Vmware ESXi or Citrix XenServer (both free, but only with windows clients). Also, neither officially support software RAID, and support a limited set of RAID cards. Otherwise, for KVM, use Proxmox, which has a web interface with java-based consoles for VMs. Its based on debian, so anything that can be done on debian can be done on the host.

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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Quote Originally Posted by trundlenut View Post
    I like using virtual machines like you describe more to avoid conflicts and to save me from myself.

    If you mess up one thing then it won't take everything else with it.

    If you go down the VM route it would probably be worth adding some more memory to the physical machine.
    This is another benefit that I have been thinking about. What's your setup like? Do you just have a "Production" VM and an "Experimental" VM?
    Also, how's the performance hit? I know RAM might be a bit tight, but how does the CPU usage fare in your situation?

    Quote Originally Posted by sandyd
    If your not very bored, and dont want to deal with the commandline, but still want to try virtulization, try Vmware ESXi or Citrix XenServer (both free, but only with windows clients). Also, neither officially support software RAID, and support a limited set of RAID cards. Otherwise, for KVM, use Proxmox, which has a web interface with java-based consoles for VMs. Its based on debian, so anything that can be done on debian can be done on the host.
    I don't mind the command line at all, and I'd prefer not to use Windows on a server platform. After a brief glance at their website, Proxmox looks pretty promising. Is there any reason to use KVM over Xen?
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    Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Quote Originally Posted by abyrne View Post
    This is another benefit that I have been thinking about. What's your setup like? Do you just have a "Production" VM and an "Experimental" VM?
    Also, how's the performance hit? I know RAM might be a bit tight, but how does the CPU usage fare in your situation?


    I don't mind the command line at all, and I'd prefer not to use Windows on a server platform. After a brief glance at their website, Proxmox looks pretty promising. Is there any reason to use KVM over Xen?
    You dont really use windows on a server platform - you see the interface that controls the server is windows-based. The server itself runs on a modifed verison of linux.

    Generally, all virtulization platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages. Ive never used Xen itself because KVM has always been stable, and Proxmox provided a nice web interface that supports clustering.

    Some benchmarks (KVM vs Xen): http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag..._preview&num=2

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    Thumbs up Re: Multipurpose Home Server: Use virtual servers?

    Quote Originally Posted by sandyd View Post
    You dont really use windows on a server platform - you see the interface that controls the server is windows-based. The server itself runs on a modifed verison of linux.

    Generally, all virtulization platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages. Ive never used Xen itself because KVM has always been stable, and Proxmox provided a nice web interface that supports clustering.

    Some benchmarks (KVM vs Xen): http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag..._preview&num=2
    Oh yes, thank you for clearing that up. I think I'll look into Proxmox a bit more. And thank you for the link as well!
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