Let’s start at the beginning. What’s a home server? A home server is a computer that is used to store all your personal media such as music, photographs, video, TV recordings and documents. It may also run applications to stream that media around your home, delivering your music to different rooms, photographs to your television and more.
Home servers come in different shapes and sizes. For example, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) is a simple home server that primarily stores media, while a fully blown server can also be built from scratch using operating systems such as Windows Home Server, Linux or Mac OS X.
What are the advantages of storing media, and particularly music, on a home server?
1) Cheaper. Rather than having a desktop computer powered on 24/7, serving your media a home server typically consumes far fewer watts.
2) Capacious. Home servers make it easy to add new storage so you can store more music of a higher quality.
3) Safer. Most NAS servers allow online backup.
4) More flexible. You can access your media from anywhere in the home: computers, televisions, hi-fis and more.
What about the ‘cloud’?
It’s worth discussing the advantages of storing music and media online, in the ‘cloud’, as it has become known. Services such as Spotify and Grooveshark allow you to stream music, and Amazon and Google are now offering services to upload your media and store it on their servers rather than your own.
The advantages of this approach are that you save time in setting up and maintaining your own home server. The disadvantages are that, being online, if you lose your Internet connection you will lose access to your music. This could be frustrating if you are hosting a party at the time! Furthermore, there are certain constraints to storing music in the cloud: practical ones such as file size, which constrains sound quality (lossless music sounds better than lossy) and also the lack of control you have over your music collection. Maybe you want to recategorise your music within certain genres, for instance.
Ploughing The Home Server Furrow
So let’s say you’ve decided a home server is for you, perhaps for some of the reasons above. Now let’s concentrate on music. Your first priority is to grant access to the music for your music players around your home. Subsequently, building and maintaining a music collection is an ongoing process. At some point you will want to change how your music is organised. For instance, you may want to update album art to higher resolution versions or you may want to re-categorise the genres for your albums.