As of today I have finally realized one of my very long term goals. Several years ago I decided the only way to get the flexibility I wanted for my home websites, email, file transfer, dvd database and numerous other things was to run my own Linux server at home. It was a fun and educational experience setting it up, and I certainly don't regret doing it, or learning how.
However, as time has gone on, running a server at home has become less of a convenience and more of a liability. For one - the version of Linux the server is running is pretty old now, as is the box it is running on. I have often thought of upgrading both, but the amount of work coupled with a lack of time has always put me off.
Having a home server was primarily a convenience for email - I wanted a central location (IMAP) where I could deal with my email from multiple computers - as a software engineer, using multiple computers throughout the day is just a fact of life.
I also ended up running an increasing number of websites on the machine (at one point it was running 6 different low volume websites on the same box). It also worked as a print server, FTP server, ran several PHP applications including a DVD database, and several other things that I have forgotten about now.
The risk has always been that power outages cause a lot of things to fail, and we get a fair number of them around the lake. On top of that, the version of Linux is old on there now, and hasn't had any security updates in a couple of years now. It is a testament to Linux that this box has never been compromised, but I have known for some time now that I am probably pushing my luck. One good hack, and 5 websites and much more would go down, probably taking hours or even days to repair.
The first step in moving away from having a server at home was getting a gmail account - I consider this solution superior in every way to the IMAP server I was using - and someone else has all the headaches of keeping it running.
Then I moved my blog away, onto blogger.com from wordpress which I was running at home - another great simplification.
Next up - my Bookmarks (oh yes - I had a php bookmark manager on there too) - that went to Delicious and I haven't looked back on that one either - it now syncs automatically with firefox, and I use the bookmarks far more than when I had the PHP app. It even integrates into my desktop search tools.
DVD Database? For this I found dvdspot - an amazing free service - highly recommended although the signup is a little quirky. Once you get signed in though, it is pretty much the ideal DVD cataloging tool, and ties in with all sorts of online services to get DVD details, price-compare for items on your wishlist, etc.
FTP and file transfer were taken care of by the excellent AMD vault online service - I blogged about this recently - it allows you to store up to 25 gigs of data with the free service, more for the for-pay options.
So - finally with the impending move to California to go and work for Google, I took the plunge and switched out the last thing my server was left doing - web sites.
For this, I went with the free services offered by my future employer - Google Apps for Your Domain - a brilliant service (I can say this after using it to transfer everything over for free today) that offers gmail, home pages, chat and calendar for any domain you own. I transferred all of mine over, including the one we run for another separate organization - I set them up with their own email site and calendar should they decide to use it.
As soon as the changes go through with my domain name service, I can finally turn the switch off on the poor little 200MHz P2 that has been doing this duty non-stop for the past five years. So long little Linux server, and thanks for all the hard work. Meanwhile, all I will say is it's amazing what you can find for free online these days.
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