If you’re the techie tinkering type, you don’t even have to purchase a new home server unit. It’s easy enough to convert an old desktop PC into a home server with very little additional investment required. You may want to upgrade the machine’s hard disk to something a little larger, but the fact that you’re using an older and presumably slower machine won’t matter much; a server doesn’t have to be as fast or as powerful as a desktop machine that you use to run real-time apps. If you can save a few bucks by reusing an old PC, all power to you.
Another approach is to use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, such as those sold by hard drive and networking manufacturers such as Netgear and Cisco/Linksys. A NAS device looks more like an external hard drive but connects and functions much like a home server, although maybe a little slower. You typically don’t have a fancy operating system with a NAS; the NAS is more storage oriented than server oriented. In addition, some NAS units don’t offer the option of multiple or swappable hard drives, which limits expandability. But a NAS does serve as centralized storage for all your networked media and backup filesand typically for about half the price of a full-fledged home server.
However you do it, the point is to centralize your media and backup files for all the connected computers and devices in your home. That’s what makes a home server essential.