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The hardware / software

The Server

The Raspberry Pi server that hosts vervainglobal.com

This website is hosted on a private server hidden away in Suffolk, England. The machine itself is a Raspberry Pi 3B, running the open source Apache web server software. This tiny device is about the size of a deck of cards, and uses only 4 to 5 watts of power, making it perfect for a small scale web server that needs to be running permanently.

The current device runs Raspberry Pi OS (a Debian based Linux distribution), booting from an SSD. The Pi, firewall and modem are powered by a custom designed uninterruptable power supply (UPS) that keeps the server online during local power outages. As all of the equipment runs at low voltages, everything can draw power directly from the batteries. This setup is much more efficient than running everything through an inverter, and removes the requirement for complex switching circuits found in many conventional UPS modules.

A Short History

The concept of this site was born in March 2012, whilst I was spending a month traveling in the Philippines. It amazed me how effortless it was to communicate with my family in real time across the internet, even though they were over 8000 miles away. The flexibility and potential of the internet fascinated me, and I desired to learn more. At about the same time, I learned of the Raspberry Pi and its recent release back in the UK. I placed an order for one, seeing it as a great way to tinker without risking damage or destruction on my main PC.

Months later, the long awaited Raspberry Pi finally turned up at my door. I quickly pressed it into use running various pieces of software. A few weeks later, the small box was running a web server, and accessible to those with a link. The early devices were very slow due to running an unoptimised, ported version of Debian Squeeze. From about July onwards, it remained running 24/7 as a web server, and the domain name was purchased and pointing to it. During this time it was mainly used as a way to share files with friends. Finally in January 2013, I decided to build a website for the general public to access.

I began by removing the slow operating system and installing a lighter version containing software optimized for the Pi. By March 2013, the first articles were completed and published for the worlds viewing pleasure. In July, the server had spent its first year up and running, and four articles had been written & published.

The original Pi model B was replaced in January 2017 after nearly 5 years of service. A newer Pi 2B took over, bringing increased speed and reliability. At this time, it was also coupled together with an uninterruptable power supply. From this point onwards, the server maintained a near perfect 100% uptime.

In July 2020, the server was again upgraded to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ which booted directly from an SSD. To cope with the increased power needs, a second backup battery was added to the UPS, and a custom supply circuit was built from two transformers to provide the extra current for charging. A cooling fan was also added to circulate fresh air into the cabinet during the heat of summer.

In the same month, a larger x64 based machine was added to run CPU / RAM intensive applications, for example the Vervain's Arcadia Minecraft Server. This can be remotely powered on by the Raspberry Pi which is always running, meaning power can be saved when the large server isn't needed.

Raspberry Pi logo

To find out more about the Raspberry Pi computer, please visit www.raspberrypi.org