With the hardware sorted out the next choice is what operating system you want. One choice thats definately worth considering is Windows Home Server. I didn’t want to pay for an operating system so I moved on to Linux. There are an awful lot of linux distros – just check out distrowatch to see. Most of the main linux distros are fairly interchangable in terms of the functionality that I want – the server will be terminal only so a pretty front end doesn’t really matter. I thought about the following distro’s to some degree:
What I really want is for the server to be rock solid stable. This essentially rules out Ubuntu, Suse and Fedora. While the release schedule they maintain makes them very credible as desktop systems, rushing into the latest version of everything, and major upgrades every 6 months is not ideal on a NAS. ClearOS is a CentOS derivative aimed at more novice users. A large chunk of the box can be controlled though a web interface. If you are not comfortable with Linux this would be a great choice, but I suspected that I would end up in the terminal upgrading things – it’s downstream of CentOS, which in itself is fairly behind the times. This left Debian and CentOS – they both have 2 year support cycles and are rock solid stable (with the disadvantage that some things run older versions). In the end I plumped for CentOS – mainly as we use Red Hat at work. The package system is well supported, there are repositories out there with all the stuff I need. The one issue is the version of php – anything below 5.2 is not ideal for modern apps – but external repositories can cover that too.