## Introduction

I am unhappy with the router options in the consumer segment. At home, I had a Netgear R7000, allegedly at the top of the consumer-grade routers pyramid.

Even after flashing it with DD-WRT, which multiplies the router’s capabilities, it couldn’t run a VPN client at a decent performance due to its unimpressive CPU (BCM4709A0). Furthermore, I never managed to get the VPN server to work on DD-WRT, and other aspects like DNS filtering felt very limited. Running anything else such as a torrent box on such tiny horsepower is a computational suicide.

I addressed the shortcomings of my setup with an RPi that I used to run a torrent seedbox, a local filesharing server, and a bitcoin node. The limitations of running these on the Pi were also obvious; the Pi didn’t have enough electrical power to drive the USB HDD attached to it. It also missed the mark on the CPU side – it couldn’t transcode video, so no Plex, and overall felt more like a toy and less like an actual production tool.

With all these problems, I started researching solutions, and I’ve developed a setup that I am delighted with and would like to share.

## Costs and Materials

This table summarizes all I used, where did I find it, and its price.

 Item Cost Server - Vault mini-PC $660 Switch - Netgear GS108PP$ 140 USB HDD - Seagate 4TB $93 Wireless AP - Unifi AP AC pro$ 133 PoE Camera - Reolink 4 x $50 Total$ 1226

## The brain

At the core of the system is the server, that is, a computer that will be on 24/7. Ideally, you want something that makes little to no noise, has a small form factor, and modest energy consumption, and at least 2 Gigabit ports.

Some go big and get an actual production server, e.g., a Dell PowerEdge R720. The problem is these are expensive, bulky, and use a lot of watts so that I wouldn’t suggest it.

Instead, I recommend going with a mini-PC. After some research, I ended up buying one from Protecli, in particular, the 6-port one with an Intel 7200U. These boxes are built like rocks and lack mechanical components such as fans or spinning disk hard drives. Mechanical parts are problematic in the long term because they end up breaking, require more power, and make noise.

Intel designed the 7200U for laptops, so it has a small energy footprint, yet it packs a decent punch. Since we will run it on DC as opposed to a battery, we can fully unleash its capabilities.

## Ethernet, WiFi, and cameras

So Pfsense is acting as a router, and we should have two ethernet ports respectively mapped to WAN and LAN. Our Protectli machine has many more empty ethernet ports, so you might be tempted to use those for other LAN devices. That is a bad idea, as the protectli box will have to use the CPU on every data transfer across local devices.

A much better solution is to buy a switch, ideally a Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) one. I went with the Netgear GS108PP, for about ~$120. It has eight ports, and all of them are PoE. PoE means that each of the ethernet wires can deliver 15 watts, enough to power a camera, or WiFi access point. I have a set of 4 (Reolink) cameras installed around the house, so I ran four ethernet cables from the switch to their different locations. Because I made sure the cameras I bought were PoE, the ethernet cable was enough for the data and power transfer. As for the WiFi, I found a Ubiquiti UAP-AC-Pro. A bit pricey, ~$150, but performant, and also powered by PoE.

## Other Services

You are set at this point, PfSense is acting as your router, WiFi served via the AP, and the cameras are connected to and powered by the switch.

While the basics are covered, your machine is capable of much more. To give you an idea, I run the following services: Plex to serve media around my house, Bitcoin node, filesharing, FTP server to store camera recordings, and a small python worker.

You should take this article as a starting point, and adjust this solution to your needs. Enjoy and comment if you like or have questions.

## Network Diagram

This diagram represents my home network and lab.

#### 1 COMMENT

1. There is way too much setup and maintenance for this to work safely and reliably. Proxmox is unintuitive at best, and pfsense is a nightmare. No way.

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