Home Lab Beginners guide (Hardware)

In general, a lab is a place where you can safely perform experiments.

Until recently, and for well over the past decade, my wife and I have been nomads. Moving from the Caribbean to Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Vancouver, and now back home. This has meant that for many of those years, my home office basically comprised of a few laptops and screens. These days, we are more settled; my wife has completed her studies, now works full time, and my full-time job remains remote, via a home office supporting Linux servers and hosting them.

Last week, after a short trip to Antigua, I had a brief meeting with a tech friend of mine, Yves Ephraim. He was an Engineer with Cable & Wireless for 20 years (until 2003). Yves left C&W shortly before I started there in 2004. He’s a champion of the internet and technological developments in Antigua & Barbuda. We sat in his home office, where he told me a bit about his current projects, as well as his dabbling with IPv6, web hosting, mail, BGP4, among other things. Most of which he does via his very capable home lab.

Think of a home lab as a place where you can fail in the privacy of your own home. As Thomas A. Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I consider myself an expert at failure. But seriously, I would like to fail a lot more, and a home lab will create endless opportunities for me to fail. Of course, all the while seeking success, but you got that already.

In general, a lab is a place where you can safely perform experiments. Most of you reading this article are techies and sysadmins. As you know, trying out new things on production equipment never ends well. Shush… it’s OK, I know, I know, you didn’t think that one command would take everything offline. This risk is the reason why we build ourselves a sandbox environment to dabble, test, and fail in, all from the comfort of our own homes.

To date, I host my test labs on servers in North America and Europe. I’m creating a customized network and server home lab; to fill those areas where I would like to become more familiar. I will also be using my home lab for remote backups, network monitoring and alerting of remote servers, and wired UAP APs, among other things.

As I told Yves, our chat had me revisiting the idea. In fact, I think my exact words were, “Yves, I see your home lab, and I’ll raise you mine.” As always, I’m certain there’s a lot more to learn through discussion. In light of this fact, I wanted to share this journey with you, starting with the hardware selection process for my home lab.

Of course, over the years, I’ve had equipment lying around, but that stops today. Well, sort of. So, if you have ever been interested in building a home lab or if you already have one, then let’s mingle, share and dabble together.

Where do we begin? Not to sound cliché, but let’s start from the ground up, or wall forward. What I’m trying to say is, we need storage space, physical storage space, for our new home lab.

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For my lab, I’m going to build it out in my home office.