If you have a network of computers in your home, with files, and folders that are shared amongst all users, then you know how sharing these individually from one computer to another can be tedious and time-consuming.
This is why you need a home server – a computer that has a hard drive, is connected to the internet, runs 24/7, and acts as your physical file storage system.
A home server thus allows each computer in your home network to access shared files and folders easily, and at any time.
Like any other computer, a home server needs a software to operate, and in this article, we describe some of the best home server software you can buy to get you started.
Best home server software to use on Windows and Linux
- Robust media streaming capability
- Image-based back up of every computer daily
- It’s easy to manage your server
- You can restore single files or your entire PC
- Full remote support on your desktop
- Upgrades are not simple
- Users outraged over the removal of Drive Extender
- Not free
This server software by Microsoft makes accessing your files and media from any computer in your home, whether you’re there or away.
Designed for homes and home-based businesses with multiple computers, this software helps you protect, organize, and connect all your media files in a central location.
With Windows Server 2019, you can also increase your storage capacity owing to its 64-bit functionality, which means you can add external hard drives, or install add-ins to fully utilize your home network.
This home server software is designed for small spaces such as your home or small business.
One of the advantages of Amahi is it comes with one of the largest app stores, through which you can extend your server to do anything you so wish with one click.
Amahi is powerful, simple, and lets you stream and share your media files to all your devices, and screens.
If you prefer creating or building your home server from a simplified context, then Amahi is your best bet.
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Available in over 20 languages
- Has a large media app and web app store
- It is a pre-built operating system
- You have to buy some plugins
- Only supports PCs with a 64-bit processor
Ubuntu Server Edition is one of the top home server software worldwide and provides support for all your remote backup, file serving and media streaming needs.
It is known for its ease of use, an automated installation that makes it easier to install its components, rather than doing it yourself manually, and comes with a host of applications to integrate your home server with your home network.
Through the Ubuntu Advantage service program, customers get their problems resolved fast and have direct access to Ubuntu experts through their world-class support system.
- World-class support
- Ease of use
- Deploys anywhere
- Speed and simplicity
- Agile and secure
This home server software is an operating system that creates a centralized portal for easy access to your files and data.
FreeNAS can be installed on any hardware platform and is used with ZFS – a highly flexible, enterprise-ready open source file system that eliminates most of the shortfalls of legacy file systems.
Some of the salient features of FreeNAS home server software include:
- File sharing: FreeNAS offers file sharing support such as SMB/CIFS (for Windows), NFS, AFP, FTP, iSCSI, WebDAV, among others.
- Data protection: Together with ZFS, which is designed for data integrity, and offers single parity blocks that repair corrupt data, FreeNAS provides protection for your data so you can rest easy knowing your files are secure.
- Encryption: With FreeNAS, you can create passwords for extra protection against loss or theft.
- Snapshots and Replication feature: With FreeNAS, you can also get snapshots of the whole file system, and see them anytime. Snapshots help you access your files just as they were at the time the snapshot was taken, plus previous snapshots can be accessed or duplicated to recover the data from file systems – just like local backups.
- Web interface: FreeNAS has a user-friendly web interface that is simple, and makes complex administrative tasks easier to handle for just about anyone.
- Backup services: FreeNAS offers back up support services for Windows and other operating systems.
- Plugins: With FreeNAS, you get a myriad of plugins including support for Bit Torrent, Couchpotato, Gamez, and Plex, among others. However, you can also write and distribute plugins for whatever you want like media streaming or web applications – it’s limitless.
You can use FreeNAS home server software at home to protect, backup, and store all your data.
- User-friendly web interface that can be used by anyone
- It is free
- It is a pre-built operating system
- You can run it from a hard drive, optical disc, or even a flash drive
- Improves workflow
- Flexible system
- Uses little RAM requirement (96MB)
- No storage limits
This open-source platform integrates free open source technologies in order to deliver a simple, low-cost hybrid experience for your home network.
Free open source technologies mean you get to enjoy the ClearOS home server experience, but only pay for products and services you really need.
What makes ClearOS home server software special, is this element of integration, but it also provides a user-friendly, easy to use, and intuitive web-based graphical user interface for fast, easy setup and installation.
It’s built-in, growing online app store – Marketplace – delivers over 100 apps and services, so you get to enjoy a free collection of apps while paying for, downloading and installing only the apps you really need.
- Available in over 80 languages
- Easy to set up, install and use
- Comes with a free downloadable version
- You only pay for apps you really need
- Growing online app store
This brings us to the end of our list. If you still haven’t decided which tools to install, read the description of each software again, and select the one that best suits your needs.
If you’ve used other home server tools that you think we should add to our list, let us know in the comments below.
FAQ: Learn more about home server software
- What do I need in order to run a home server?
First thing’s first, you’ll need the server machine, which can be even an old PC that you’re no longer using. Next, you’ll have to deploy server software on it and make sure it’s connected to the Internet (if you want to use it online).
- What can I do with a home server?
You can use a home server for several purposes, including but not limited to hosting a website, storing files if your local space is not enough or, create your own VPN server.
- Why choose a server instead of a desktop?
For their purpose alone, servers are more powerful than desktop workstations. Generally speaking, server machines should have more processing power, so you can run multiple virtual machines on them without significant performance loss.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been since revamped and updated in August 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.