My server / home network has gone through many iterations over the last 6 years. I had previously dabbled in self hosted applications before like old WoW server emulators, IRC servers, Apache, or Mumble/Ventrillo servers. But those were all just for fun and never lasted more than a month. It wasn't until I was introduced to Plex that I was bit by the home lab bug. It blew me away because Plex was everything I wanted companies to provide but what companies did give us with our digital editions were terrible and unusable on a lot of personal devices.
My First Home Lab Setup
My first server was an Intel NUC running Linux Mint on an external Raid 1 array. It had 2x 4TB drives in it. Most of my applications at that time were hosted directly on the OS and my primary concern was just having something dedicated for streaming my ripped media that also had some kind of redundancy because I was worried of drive failure from an always on system. The external raid array is now collecting dust in my tech bin. The NUC has been recycled into our bedroom media PC and still runs (a freshly installed copy) Linux Mint.
Second Home Lab Setup
Pictured above I was still using the Intel NUC but we've added in some networking equipment. My wife and I had moved in with another couple who were close friends of mine and they agreed that anything tech was my domain. So what do you do when you move into a home with three other heavy internet users? You run ethernet everywhere. We didn't have a crawl space under the house so we just had ethernet stretched along the wall and alongside base boards with covers. I had also imagined having all of my tech wall mounted with the wires intricately laid out. It seemed awesome in my minds eye but turned out to be the mess pictured above.
The box pictured above leads us into what's pictured below.
Third Home Lab Setup
My third home lab setup was a huge leap from my second and first. I received an old PC from work with 6 drive bays that would replace the Intel NUC as my media server. Just before receiving that PC we had also purchased a rack to get everything off the wall and better organized. I had been dabbling in containers already and when deciding an OS for the PC I decided to go with Unraid which was an amazing choice. Unraid made things super simple with my labs and exploded the amount of projects I wanted to work on.
Fourth Home Lab Setup
My fourth home lab setup, home sweet home. My wife and I moved into another house and we both have our own office space. The server was moved into my office along with my gaming PC. Again with moving into a new house I had to run ethernet everywhere. This time we were lucky and had both an attic and also a crawl space under the house. I didn't even have to drill holes because the house was so old that old ISP technicians had a bunch of holes all over the place from coax installations haha. With this setup I have the main Unraid PC but we also have another hand me down PC that is for labbing. We also moved to Ubiquiti equipment for our network except for the switch which is still our original unmanaged Cisco switch. When I can justify the price that switch will also be changed to a managed Ubiquiti switch.