I see and get these questions a lot: Do I REALLY need one? What do I need to get my home lab started? Where do you get your hardware?
Good morning all and welcome to my channel. It’s been a while since I’ve put out a video. As you can see, I am in a new location. I moved and it’s taken me time to get the new office setup and operational. I finally feel like I am getting close to being able to start getting some videos put out. I’ve got my rack of equipment almost complete.
The fact of the matter is, there is no one size fits all when it comes to building out your home lab environment. Your lab can be as big, or as small, as you want it. I’m someone who is addicted to hardware, so naturally, my lab is rather…excessive. I also use it to create videos for my channel, so it doubles as more than a lab.
Do I need a homelab?
Answering the question of do you really need a homelab, I guess that really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what your goals are. I’ve never seen a job description that requires someone to have a homelab. It’s not required or needed in that respect. I do find, and this is my person opinion, that those who are truly passionate about IT and computers in general, often have some type of lab at home for learning. It could be as simple as a few virtual machines on a laptop.
Getting started with a lab, it is likely you can get away with a moderately powerful desktop or laptop running anything from Hyper-V, VMWare Workstation or VirtualBox. You can create a test environment on that alone. Start there and see if that does what you want it to do. If that covers works for you, great, if you decide you want more, you can always expand on your lab. A lot of entry level techs start out with an old laptop or desktop. It’s an inexpensive entry point.
For me, I will typically try to mirror, to an extent, whatever I am supporting at work. Obviously, within financial reason. I’m not going to go out and buy a $10,000 firewall or VM Host, it’s just not feasible. Your homelab environment can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. That is the great thing about having a homelab environment, you can build it the way you want to build it. It gives you creative freedom.
Where do you get hardware?
If you decide you want more, there are many places I look for used or “outdated” hardware. I do have some new equipment in my rack, but largely, the majority of my hardware has been acquired from employer’s or client’s e-waste piles. Companies typically have to pay to dispose of old hardware so they can be willing to give it away. It never hurts to ask. There are data security implications, so don’t be surprised if the answer is no or that you may have to leave the hard drives/SSDs behind. You may need to replace those items if they are retained. That cost is usually fairly minimal.
I’ve also been successful at leveraging eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Market Place over the years to source hardware. Reddit’s homelabsales subreddit is also another good resource. If you’re good at tinkering and fixing things, you can often find good deals on “broken” hardware and repair it. Broken could be anywhere from missing parts, not tested or not functional at all. I’ve done that in the past as well.
Another option, with the prevalence of cloud services like Azure and AWS, you could certainly get away from having any physical hardware in your lab if you so choose. However, there can be substantial costs with this method. While there are free tiers available, they can be limited depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
With all that being said, if you found this video to be helpful, please like and subscribe below and I will see you all in the next video. Check out my Instagram @ach_sysadmin