Ideas for a low cost, low power, low noise web server/torrent box
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I would personally recommend buying a slightly older, used pc. Since it's a server, you won't need a monitor, 3D graphics card, sound card, mouse, etc. Actually, the cheapest method would to buy the basic parts, and build your own PC, (with only the minimal hardware you would need, i.e. networking devices, etc.) You could probably get it as small as a laptop.Then you could install a minimal distro, such as Slackware, Debian, Gentoo. Of course, you do need to know what you're doing. I don't know of any cheaper method that would work well for servers, and I would strongly advise against using smaller devices (like ARM devices). Of course, you haven't really specified how "low cost" you mean.
brazos(like e-350), i3, llano, and i5 could potentially do what you want. Also older/used/discount hardware like suggested above is an excellent choice if "really low cost" means say $100.
It's more of a price/preference thing imo.
If you check the website for DSL (Damn Small Linux) you will find links for the DSC (Damn Small Computer). This is basically a small low-power computer in a case the size of some home routers. Connections are network and USB, and you can have it pre-loaded with DSL as the OS.
From DSL you can run several simple web servers. For a web site and torrent links you only require static pages, and an external USB drive mounted read-only would suffice for your data. (You can easily load changes to your pages either by remounting rw, or during downtime by mounting it on another machine.)
I would prefer to re-purpose old existing hardware, but if that is not an option you might consider a cheap minimal system like this.
Damn Small Linux website has had the exact same Damn Small Computers listed for sale at the exact same price for the past 3+ years. The site is dead and not being updated, if you click Buy on one of these Damn Small Computers who knows if it even will be delivered? (And the prices are terrible by 2012 standards... $399 for 800mhz/512mb???) The OP can do better for his/her hardware needs; for example a Sheevaplug provides superior specs to DSC for about $99.
(Whether or not DSL is still recommended as an operating system is a separate topic; I personally would never use it as a sever because 1) it is abandonware; 2) therefore there will never ever be any security updates or bug fixes.)
I think I'm going to go with either a second hand Atom board or a sheevaplug. Not really seen the sheevaplug in the UK but I'm sure ebay can help.
DSL is a great distro but I only use it for a live boot environment on my usb drive. Its not as cutting edge as a standard desktop environment but I would't call it dead, that is a little harsh to DSL. I'll probably stick with either Debian or a Debian based distro on the server as that is where the install base and support communities are.
well actually i myself would be interested in how exactly you intend to provide a stable/reliable internet connection to host your websites on a home computer?
i believe you're aware that most ISP do frequently change their IP's and stuff (not to mention possible downtimes) ....in case you didn't get a fixed IP with 99.99% guaranteed uptime then you've a problem !
the rest is a piece of cake , either use some old P/P2/P3 computer or buy an intel Atom + a compatible motherboard + 512MB of RAM + HDD/flash drive + power supply (you could use a laptop AC adapter for an atom processor anyways always check the voltage,amperage and wattage values before doing anything)
and btw Ebay is your friend
alternatively , you could use your android phone (if you've one) as a webserver or torrentbox !!
install a couple of apps and you're running ......from technical perspective that would be the easiest !!