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Simple ideas can get complicated quickly. For example, just using the 5GHz band on your router takes a little know-how. In my case, I purchased a refurbished Netgear WNDR3400 v1 router, installed DD-WRT, configured the 5GHz band as a wireless client bridge from my main home router, placed it next to the home media center, and use a wired connection from it to bring the network to my main home entertainment center.
The cost for the router was $37.00 DD-WRT was free. Today, the same refurb costs around $25. DD-WRT is still free.
That was in 2011, more or less. Ages ago in internet years. At that time, it was impossible to find home routers with secure (WPA2/AES) client bridge features built in. You used WDS to bridge routers and WEP or no security, you bought a dedicated media bridge for a lot of money (assuming you could even find one at 5GHz), or made it into a home project. Now it’s a little easier and there’s a better selection of alternatives.
In 2015 I upgraded the home network significantly. It’s now more wired than wireless. The full downstairs is wired with cat6. Several rooms have multiple outlets. A router I built using a fanless motherboard and an Intel J1900 processor hosts pfSense. It protects the system using snort and pfBlockerNG. It also hosts dual OpenVPN servers; one bridged and one pass-through. A Netgear R6400 router serves as a wireless access point. A refurbished Netgear R6300V1 hosting DD-WRT serves as a wireless bridge for where I couldn’t string cat6 wires. A spare laptop is a Plex Server and more. Comcast provides excellent internet access – 150/20 now (Aug,2016) for slightly more than what 25 Mbps cost a few years ago – and some used lifetime Tivo equipment provides low cost Comcast TV services (it’s a big savings to own your equipment). A smart TV and some smart devices provide internet TV.
Before this upgrade, the network was mostly wireless. It used a manufacturer refurbished 802.11ac Netgear R6300 V1 as the main router. DD-WRT replaced the stock firmware. Various secondary routers supported wireless bridge duties over time. DD-WRT offered superior OpenVPN services for secure access to the internet over public wifi. Ooma continues to provide inexpensive landline services. A QNAP NAS still supports file sharing.
Microsoft wants you to replace Windows Home Server 2011 with Windows Server 2012 Essentials. They have priced it aggressively, allow 25 users or 50 devices to connect without the need to purchase client licenses, and they promote a lot of user friendly features. Is the upgrade a good idea for you? Maybe yes, maybe no. I tried using it as a desktop replacement for Windows 7 Professional and discovered it to be relatively functional in that role, providing you plan to let it run 24/7 and have industrial strength needs. Windows Server 2012 Essentials is designed to capably power a small business while filling all your needs for DLNA.
A large number of manufacturers make network attached storage devices that are almost as fully functional as stand alone computers. Some are powered by Atom processors. All one and two drive models draw little power relative to a desktop PC, and most draw less than a typical laptop computer. One of these may be all the home server you need.
A lot of routers provide a usb port so a spare usb drive can be used for shared storage and DLNA serving. These work well and might be perfect for you. Several manufacturers make network devices that attach to a router using a RJ45 wired connection. They have usb ports so you can use an old drive for a new purpose.
Do you want to transfer files to and from your hotel room without worrying about security or eavesdropping? This calls for a virtual private network. VPNs come in several flavors, each of which configures differently and each of which provides different levels of service and security. PPTP and SSL variants have bubbled to the top and are fairly common today. Many vendor solutions offer proprietary virtual private networks that support their products and install with no significant effort on your part.
Do you want a lot of capability without spending a lot? This blog can help, but it will also take a lot of effort on your part. This site provides a lot of material. The internet offers the rest.
This is a place for motivated beginners and beyond.
I wish everyone the best and hope that you benefit from my experience.