Category Archives: Home Lab

Power Up Your HomeLab With PowerCLI


As a follow on to the shut down home-lab script, I have also written a power up script for when power is restored to your home-lab and you want to get it up and running again quickly.  This script will assume your hosts are powered on and waiting, but nothing else has happened yet.


The Script

The script can be downloaded below, make sure you read though it fully and understand how it works.  I am not responsible for anything going wrong.!

At the top of the script, you will need to change the settings to match your own home-lab.

[string]$vCenter_Server                   = "svr-vc"
[string]$vCenter_Server_UserName          = "administrator"
[string]$vCenter_Server_Password          = "********"

[string]$Known_ESX_Host                   = ""
[string]$Known_ESX_Host_UserName          = "root"
[string]$Known_ESX_Host_Password          = "********"

[string[]]$Critical_Servers_Startup_Order = ("live-dc","svr-dc","svr-sql", "svr-vc")


  1. The name of your virtual centre server
  2. The username you use to connect to your virtual centre server
  3. The password for the above username
  4. .
  5. The IP address of one of your ESXi hosts. This is explained below
  6. The username of the root account of for the above host
  7. The password for the root account
  8. .
  9. The servers in your critical folder, in the order they should be powered up


Starting from the known host (the same as in the shut down script), it will power up your critical servers in the order specified on line 9.  Once they are fully powered on (it checks that the VMware tools are available) it will check and wait for the VMware VirtualCenter Server service to be up and running.  Once running, the script will then start all the remaining virtual machines.



Download the script from the link below, and again, make sure you test it before putting it live.!


Shutdown Your HomeLab With PowerCLI


If you run a large home-lab like I do, shutting it down in an emergency can be a slow process, especially if you are panicking about your UPS staying up long enough.  You  DO have a UPS don’t you.!?

I had written a PowerCLI script for myself that was custom to my specific lab.  I have since made it more generic so that everyone can use it if they wanted to.  The script does rely on one specific criteria for your home-lab though.


Home-Lab Layout

vc-foldersWithin the vCenter VMs and Templates view, you can organise your VMs into folders to help separate them into logical groups.  This has no bearing on the VMs themselves, its purely for your information.

As you can see by this image, I have a folder called Critical that I use to hold my important VMs.  These are…

  • live-dc : The DHCP and DNS server for my home network,
  • svr-dc : The domain controller, as well as DHCP and DNS for my private lab network,
  • svr-sql : The Microsoft SQL server for my private network.  This holds all the databases for my lab,
  • svr-vc : The VMware virtual centre server for my home-lab.

This Critical folder is important in my script, as it controls which VMs are not shut down immediately, but must wait until the end and be shut down in a specific order.


The Script

The script can be downloaded below, make sure you read though it fully and understand how it works.  I am not responsible for anything going wrong.!

At the top of the script, you will need to change the settings to match your own home-lab.

[string]$vCenter_Server                    = "svr-vc"
[string]$vCenter_Server_UserName           = "administrator"
[string]$vCenter_Server_Password           = "********"

[string]$Known_ESX_Host                    = "esx1"
[string]$Known_ESX_Host_UserName           = "root"
[string]$Known_ESX_Host_Password           = "********"

[string]$Critical_Folder                   = "Critical"
[string[]]$Critical_Servers_Shutdown_Order = ("svr-vc", "svr-sql", "svr-dc", "live-dc")

[int]$Shutdown_TimeOut = 180 # Seconds


  1. The name of your virtual centre server
  2. The username you use to connect to your virtual centre server
  3. The password for the above username
  4. .
  5. The name of one of your ESXi hosts.  This is explained below
  6. The username of the root account of for the above host
  7. The password for the root account
  8. .
  9. The critical folder mentioned above (not case sensitive)
  10. The servers in your critical folder, in the order they should be shut down in
  11. .
  12. How long to wait for a clean shut down before killing power to a virtual machine


Specific ESXi Host Name

The reason for a specific host name in the script, is so that when you come to power on your home-lab, you will know exactly which host will hold your critical VMs.  The script will migrate all powered off VMs as well as your critical ones to this host before powering everything down.  If you have a number of hosts it’s helpful if you don’t need to check each one for your domain controller is virtual centre server.



Download the script from the link below, and again, make sure you test it before putting it live.!


Push Notifications With PRTG And Pushover


I was looking for a way for my PRTG installation to alert me whenever I was away from home.  I initially thought of using an “email to SMS message” service, and started looking into this option.  I was then pointed to an API push service called Pushover.

Setting this up to work with PRTG is amazingly simple.  The instructions and scripts I use are taken from this blog, just cleaned up a bit and with more screenshots.



A Pushover account,

Install Python for Windows onto your PRTG server.  Choose Python 2, not 3.

An Android or Apple device with the Pushover app installed,

store-google   store-apple


Pushover Instructions

Once you have created your account and verified your email address, you need to create an application in-order to get an API key.

  1. pushover - 1From your main home page,
  2. Next to Your Applications, click Register An Application,
  3. Fill out the displayed form, my entries were…
    • PRTG
    • Application
    • (blank)
    • This image (click to enlarge) – PRTG-75x75
  4. Tick the Terms Of Service check box and click Create Application.

Once the application has been created, you will be presented with an API Key.  You will need this later, along with your User Key.


Device Setup

Depending on your device, download the appropriate app and install it.  Log in to the app, and check the settings to see if you need to change anything, specifically the Edit Quiet Hours.


Python Scripts

Log on yo your PRTG server, and install Python.  This is a very straight forward installation…

python install - 1   python install - 2   python install - 3   python install - 4   python install - 5

Once done, we need to create two plain text files into the following folder…

C:\Program Files (x86)\PRTG Network Monitor\Notifications\EXE


File 1 – pushover.bat

Create a file called pushover.bat and enter the following code…

C:\Python27\Python "C:\Program Files (x86)\PRTG Network Monitor\Notifications\EXE\" %*

Change the listed paths if required.


File 2 –

Create a file called and enter the following code…

import httplib, urllib, sys
apiKey = sys.argv[1]
userKey = sys.argv[2]
priority = sys.argv[3]
title = sys.argv[4]
msg = ''
for count, arg in enumerate(sys.argv):
    if count > 4:
        msg += arg + '\n'
conn = httplib.HTTPSConnection("")
conn.request("POST", "/1/messages.json",
        "token": apiKey,
        "user": userKey,
        "message": msg,
        "title": title,
        "priority": priority,
    { "Content-type": "application/x-www-form-urlencoded" })
response = conn.getresponse()


PRTG Setup

Part one

  1. From your PRTG console,
  2. Click Setup > Account Settings > Notifications,
  3. Click the ‘Add New Notification‘ button on the bottom left,
  4. Add a name for your notification – PRTG – ALERT,
  5. Scroll down and check the Execute Program box,
  6. Choose pushover.bat from the dropdown,
  7. Enter the parameters as follows:

[api-key] [user-key] [priority] “%device – %name : %status” “ALERT/ERROR” “Msg: %message”

Example:  abcd1234efgh5678 ab12cd34ef56gh78 0 “%device – %name : %status” “ALERT/ERROR” “Msg: %message”

(For a list of priority values, check out the Pushover FAQs)

  1. Click Save,
  2. Click Test, and you should receive an alert on your device almost immediately.

 pushover - alarmtest

I have three alerts set up..

  • ALL OK


Part two

Now that we have an alert or three setup, we need to make sure your devices start using them.  For my small setup, I set my notifications at the top level, at the Local Probe…

  1. From the PRTG console, select the Local Probe device (or other device if you want more control),
  2. Select the Notifications tab along the top,
  3. Click Add State Trigger,
  4. From the new trigger then appears, choose the options that bests suits you and your environment.  The no notification drop down should list the alerts you setup above.

prtg notifications - 1

The values I have are shown below…

prtg notifications - 2


Errors / Issues / Troubleshooting

When I initially set this up the alerts were not coming though.  In order to troubleshoot this issue, I ran the script manually.  Do do this…

  1. Open a command prompt on your PRTG server,
  2. Type the following command into the window…
C:\Python27\Python "C:\Program Files (x86)\PRTG Network Monitor\Notifications\EXE\" [api-key] [user-key] 0 "Manual Test" "Ignore This Message"

…making sure to enter your API Key and User Key in the correct locations

  1. You should see no output if everything works OK.

In my case, I got SSL handshake errors.  To fix this, I just visited the Pushover API site ( in order for my server to download the SSL certificate.


More Pushover Configuration

I have added another post about using Pushover notifications with my Synology DiskStation and VMware vCenter Alerts.  Read about it here.

VMware Mobile Monitoring


If you want to quickly check on your virtual infrastructure and you’re not next to your PC/Laptop, what do you do.?

Well, VMware have released a tool that will allow you to monitor you hosts and guests.


watchlistVMware Mobile Watchlist

(Description taken directly from Google Play Store)

vSphere Mobile Watchlist enables secure vSphere infrastructure monitoring and remediation directly from your smartphone. With Watchlist, VMware administrators will be able to log in to a vCenter Server or ESXi host directly and choose virtual machines and hosts from inventory to create targeted views of objects and their properties. Remediate directly from the device with power and management operations, and delegation of tasks to onsite colleagues with linked relevant Knowledge Base (KB) articles.vSphere Mobile Watchlist brings the following key capabilities to vSphere administrators on the go:

    Search for and select a subset of VMs and hosts from your VMware vCenter Server and/or ESXi inventory to monitor in one or multiple watchlists.
    Review the status of selected Watchlist VMs and hosts from your device including state, configuration details, resource usage, health alerts, view of the VM console, and related objects.
    Alerts are linked to pertinent diagnostic information from the VMware Knowledge Base, as well as articles from the Web.
    Remediate problems directly from the device by powering on/off, resuming/suspending, connecting/disconnecting, or restarting VMs and/or hosts — or for situations where on-site remediation is required, share alert(s) along with recommended solutions in an email to team members back at the datacenter.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist is compatible with Android 4+.


Screen Shots

Below are some screen shots of my setup, showing my three hosts a a few of my running VMs…

Login Screen   Main Watchlist Screen (List View)   Main Watchlist Screen (Grid View)   ESX1 - Overview   ESX1 - Command Options   ESX1 - Task List



You can download and install it from the Google Play Store using the link below…




NTP Time Service


Network Time Protocol (NTP) is a networking protocol for clock synchronization between computer systems…  NTP is intended to synchronize all participating computers to within a few milliseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Taken from Wikipedia

Making sure you have a reliable and accurate time source can help with mitigating issues on your network.



One of my ESXi hosts was replaced recently, and using my automatic build script I had the new replacement up and running quite quickly.  What my script doesn’t do however, is configure the NTP settings with the host and because of this, it’s internal clock was about 6 hours ahead of the rest of the network.

My PRTG Network Monitoring system is a VM that, via DRS, can move freely amongst my three hosts depending on the current workload.  At 5:00 am the other morning, my monitoring server was moved to the offending host.  This screwed up its monitoring results.

As the VM was migrated to the new host, the time suddenly jumped forward by about 6 hours.  The OS then took over sometime after and jumped back to the correct time.  This time flip-flop caused large gaps in the monitoring results, and left me scratching my head for a while figuring out why.!


How to fix the above issues

There were two issues at play here, the host NTP settings were not correct, and the guest VM was set to synchronise it’s time with the host.


Configure Host NTP Settings

To enable configure each hosts time setting…

  1. Select your host (if you have more than one, you will need to do this on each one in turn),
  2. Select the Configuration tab along the top of the main section,
  3. Down the left hand menu, near the middle, select Time Configuration,
  4. Click Properties at the top right,
  5. From the first window that appears, make sure the NTP Client Enabled option is selected,
  6. Click Options,
  7. From the General item, choose the middle option, choose Start and stop with host,
  8. Select the NTP Settings item, click Add, and enter the IP address or host name of your chosen NTP host,
  9. Tick the option Restart NTP service to apply changes.


NTP-2   NTP-3

If you don’t have an internal NTP time source, the best option is to use, and  See the link below for more information, or for geographically local sources…


Disable ‘synchronise guest time with host’

I had my home-lab domain configured to use a specific time source, and to push that out to all the Windows machines.  This is a good idea to configure.  What I had done wrong, was allow the virtual machines guests to have their clocks synchronised with the hosts.  This is generally a bad idea.

  1. Right-click a virtual machine, choose Edit Settings…,
  2. Choose the Options tab along the top,
  3. Select the VMware Tools settings,
  4. Un-tick the Synchronize guest time with host option.

While you are there, it’s also a good idea to tick the other option : Check and upgrade Tools during power cycling.


If you have a lot of hosts to change, this is going to be a very tedious task.  Thankfully, there is a script that will handle this for you.

The script below will set both options for you:

  • Line 12: Check and upgrade Tools during power cycling,
  • Line 13: Synchronize guest time with host.

Save the script as a .PS1 file, and execute it within PowerCLI.  Remember to change the first line to enter your vCenter server name or IP address.


# Query for the VM guests
$VMGuests = Get-VM

# Loop through your VM guests, set the VM Tools upgrade checkbox and the Sync Time checkbox to true
ForEach ($VMGuest in $VMGuests) {
    $spec = New-Object VMware.Vim.VirtualMachineConfigSpec
    $spec.changeVersion = $VMGuest.ExtensionData.Config.ChangeVersion
    $ = New-Object VMWare.Vim.ToolsConfigInfo
    $ = "upgradeAtPowerCycle"
    $ = $false

    # Apply the changes
    $MyVM = Get-View -Id $VMGuest.Id

So, there you have it.  Make sure all your VM hosts and guest are using the correct time, and are synchronised with a reliable time source.

Access Your Synology With Your Own Domain Name


The Synology Diskstation NAS boxes are great.  I have a DS1813+ that I use for my file storage and VMware virtual machines.  They have a great function called QuickConnect that allows people to quickly and easily access they DiskStations from outside of their home network.

They even have a quick knowledge base tutorial on how to achieve this.

For this post though, I’ll be taking you though the steps to connect using your own domain name.  There are a number of steps, and we’ll be going back and forth between different providers.



For this to work, you will need a few things…

  • Your own personal domain name to use.  I’ll use in the screen shots and descriptions,
  • A free (or paid) DDNS service provider
  • Know how your router works, and how to perform port forwarding,
  • Optional, but recommended, a SSL certificate for secure communications.


Domain Names

Despite this blogs title, using your own domain name is somewhat optional.  You could just use a free Dynamic DNS service provider, and just leave it at that.  We will be using one later on anyway.  However if you do this, you can’t secure your connections with SSL, and security is important.

Domain names can be a personal thing.  Some people have just one, some people have lots.  Whatever you choose, make sure you can remember it.  I use a UK domain name registrar called for all my domain name needs.

Once you have thought of a domain name and checked to see if it’s available, you can buy it.  You can buy the domain for however long you think you need it (1 year, 2 years, etc).  I have had one of my domains for over 10 years.!

Now that we have a domain, we can start to configure a few more things.  Firstly, make sure any emails sent to this domain are forwarded to your own email address.  This should be fairly easy, just set up a catch-all email redirect.  We will come back to the domain settings later, as we need to configure a new DNS entry to point to a DDNS service provider.


DDNS Service Provider

We will need a service provider that the Synology can talk to automatically, so that when your external IP address changes (whenever you reboot your router), the domain name forwarding will continue to work.

How DDNS Works (very basic overview)

  1. The Synology DiskStation updates the DDNS service provider when an IP address change is detected,
  2. A client computer (you) requests a connection to your domain name,
  3. The domain name is forwarded to your DDNS service provider,
  4. The DDNS service provider returns to the client the IP given to it by the DiskStation,
  5. The client computer (you) connects to the DiskStation.


Service Providers

syno-ddnsAs you can see from the image below, there are a lot of service providers that Synology can automatically update.  Pick one from the list that you feel comfortable with, and sign up for a free account – if they have one.  The provider I use is  They have a free service, however, you need to renew the account every 30 days (by just clicking a link).


During the sign-up, you will be asked for a host name to use, I find it easier to use the domain name I registered above.  Also, make sure you use a very strong password.


OK, we now have a domain, and a DDNS hostname.  Go back to your domain name registrar and edit the DNS settings for it.  For 123-reg, they have an advanced panel, this is most likely what you will need.  You need to create a new DNS entry for your domain name.  I called my sub-domain NAS, but you can use what you want. The DNS type for this is a CNAME.  It will redirect to your DDNS service provider hostname.


This may will take between an hour and a day for any changes to replicate around the internet, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work straight away.


Port Forwarding

Before you start port forwarding, you will need a few things…

  • The IP address you have assigned to your Synology DiskStation,
  • The Port you use to connect to your DiskStation,
    • The defaults are 5000 and 5001 for HTTP and HTTPS.
    • I’ll be using the default of 5001 for the demo, but you really should change this port number – I’ll show you how later on.  If you are going to use a different number, pick any number between 1024 and 65000.  Remember it.
  • Of course, the username/password for your router.!

Every home router is different, and some corporate ones require more than just a couple of steps.  I’ll point you to a web site I used to use; be warned however, it has a lot of adverts – you are using an avert blocker right.!?

This is a link to an old router I used to have, a Netgear DG834.  You can try to find your own router from their extensive list if you like.  For more advanced routers you may need a few more steps.  For the specific router I use, a Juniper NetScreen 5GT, there are quite a number of steps required, in different areas of the device.

The basic overview is to add a rule to your router/firewall that allows all traffic coming into your home on the specific port (5001), to be forwarded to your DiskStation, where, your DiskStation will handle it.


Obtaining a SSL Certificate

For all my SSL needs, I use the free Class 1 certificates from StartSSL.  They are valid for one year, and can be easily renewed.  Did I also mention they are free.  No hidden charges, completely free.

You’ll need to signup for an account (I know, another one).  You will then need to validate the domain name that you want to create a certificate for.


  1. From the Control Panel, click on the Validations Wizard,
  2. Choose Domain Name Validation,
  3. Enter the domain name your bought above,
  4. Click continue past the email selection page,
    • This is why it was important earlier to make sure all emails are forwarded,
  5. Wait for an email from StartSSL to arrive.  It will contain a verification code, enter it in the box provided,
  6. All done.

Once validated, you can now create a SSL certificate.

  1. startssl-certwizFrom the Control Panel, click on the Certificates Wizard,
  2. Choose Web Server SSL/TLS Certificate,
  3. Create a Key Password
    • Make sure it’s a long one – use the maximum allowed
  4. Change the Keysize to 4096
  5. Make sure Secure Hash Algorithm is set to SHA2,
  6. Copy all the text, and save it as a plain text file in notepad.  Call it SSL.KEY,
    • This is your encrypted private key, do not give it to anyone,
  7. Select the domain you want to use this SSL certificate for, if you have more than one domain,
  8. Enter a sub domain of NAS, or whatever you used for the CNAME above,
  9. Click Continue past the message, then wait for an email from StartSSL (it could take a while, but it’s usually quick)
  10. While you wait for your certificate to be generated, go back to the Control Panel
  11. Select Decrypt Private Key from the menu,
  12. Paste in the encrypted private key from step 6 and the Key Password from step 3,
  13. When you click Decrypt, the key will be decrypted and presented to you
  14. Select all the text, and save it as DECRYPTED.KEY,
    • This is you private key, do not give it to anyone.
  15. Once you get this email, go back to the StartSSL Control Panel and select Retrieve Certificate,
  16. Select the correct certificate from the drop down list (if you have more than one),
  17. Copy all the text, and save it as a plain text file in notepad.  Call it SSL.CER,
    • This is your certificate,
  18. All done.


Synology Configuration

We are almost done.  We have a domain, with DDNS forwarding, and port forwarding (on a custom port).  We just need to add the certificate to the DiskStation and optionally change the port numbers…

Enable DDNS Settings

  1. Open the Control Panel,
  2. Go to the External Access section,
  3. Select the DDNS tab,
  4. Click Add,
  5. Select the service provider you picked earlier (NoIP in my case),
  6. Enter the DDNS hostname,
  7. Enter your DDNS username and password,
  8. Click Test Connection to make sure everything is working fine.
  9. Select the Advanced tab,
  10. Enter your domain name in the Hostname or static IP field.

Enable HTTPS and Change Connection Port

  1. syno-httpsOpen the Control Panel,
  2. Go to the Network section,
  3. Select the DSM Settings tab,
  4. (Optional) Change the HTTPS port number to the one you picked earlier,
  5. Tick the Enable HTTPS connections tick box,
  6. Tick all the other options on this page too.
  7. Click OK,

Install SSL Certificate

  1. syno-importcertOpen the Control Panel,
  2. Go to the Security section,
  3. Select the Certificate tab,
  4. Click the Import Certificate button,
  5. Select the two files you created above,
    1. decrypted.key,
    2. ssl.cer,
  6. Once you click OK, the DSM should reload and connect you on a HTTPS connection.


Testing It All

You should now be able to connect to your Synology DiskStation via your newly bought domain name.

Home Lab Network



If you have been following my Intel NUC As A ESXi Host series, you will notice that I have two networks, one called “Live” and one “Private”




My “Live” network is everything that can potentially contact the internet: laptops, servers, printers, etc.  This network is on the range – like almost everyone’s home network.


The “Private” network is the one where most of my home lab virtual machines live.  They don’t have internet access, and in fact, can’t interact with anything on the “Live” network.  Their IP range is

One of the reasons for this split, is to make sure anything I do on my home lab servers will not affect my home equipment.  For example, changing DNS entries, forcing group policies to computers, etc.

Management Network (VMware)

The Management Network seen in the screen shot above, is the management IP address of your ESXi host.  If you have a host with more than one NIC card (and really you should if you can), then this IP address is the one you use to connect to your host.


 Servers On Both Networks

I do have a few virtual servers that belong on both networks.  For example, my PRTG Network Monitor server can monitor both my “Live” and “Private” networks.  My Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server can provide updates to both networks.


Adding More Networks

You can have as many networks as you like, I just need two for my purposes, but you can create more.  To do this, follow the steps below…

Since my NUCs only have one network port, I am using a vSphere Standard Switch, not a vSphere Distributed Switch.  Because of this, you will need to replicate the steps below on to each of your hosts…

  1. Open the vSphere Client and connect to your host (if you have one, or your vCenter Server if you have one of those),
  2. Click the Configuration tab, then click Networking on the left menu,
  3. If you used my automatic configuration script, you’ll see something like the screen shot above,
  4. Click the Properties link above the network card, not the one top right,


  1. Click Add and follow the wizard selecting the options below…
    • Connection Types : Virtual Machine
    • Network Label : [whatever name you want to have]
    • VLAN ID : [a number between 2 and 4094]

esx-networking-2   esx-networking-3   esx-networking-4

  1. Click Close when you have added all the networks you want.

When you create a new virtual machine, or edit the properties of one, you will now have all your networking options listed for you…



IP Range

Once you have created your networks, you can use whatever IP range you want within them, they will be separated within your home lab.  As I mentioned above, my “Private” network is using the range, and for that I have a DHCP server handing out addresses just for that network.  More on my virtual machine setup in a future blog post.



Before you start using VLANs between hosts (if you have more than one) on your network, make sure that you have a managed switch that can handle VLANs.  If you don’t have a managed switch, you won’t be able to them.  A managed switch is one that has it’s own IP address that you can login to.  The managed switch I have is a HP 1810-8G (J9802A).  This allows me to not only enable and use VLANs, but also IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation for my Synology NAS.

If you do have more than one NUC, you will need to make sure they are tagged in your switch to handle the VLANs.  On my particular switch..

  1. Go into VLANs > VLAN Configuration,
  2. Tick the Create VLAN box, and enter the VLAN ID number (as we did above),
  3. Click Apply,
  4. Go to VLANs > VLAN Configuration,
  5. Select the correct VLAN from the small drop down list,
  6. Select each of the ports your NUCs are plugged into, making sure they have the “T” mark to designate Tagged.
  7. Click Apply.

And that’s it, your virtual machines should now be able to talk to each other across hosts on whatever VLAN and IP range you configure for them.

Intel NUC As A ESXi Host (part 7)


Now that ESXi has been installed, and you can manage it will the vCenter client, you will notice that your ESXi host is in maintenance mode, as it should be.  We set this at the end of the automatic script.


Table Of Contents

This will be a multi-part post, as it covers a lot of topics…

  1. NUC Specs, and build information,
  2. Building a custom ESX image that includes drivers for the NUC’s network card and SSD,
  3. DHCP, PXE booting and automatic installation scripts,
  4. Synology configuration for VMware datastores,
  5. Networking, VLANs and getting it to work,
  6. Installing ESXi,
  7. Any other configuration,
  8. Final (random) thoughts.


Other Configuration

You should also notice that the Storage and Network sections are also populated correctly with the settings you configured in the automated script.  You may need to rename your storage datastores if this is the first ESXi host.  The will have long “weird” names that are no use to anyone in a home lab.

Host Cache

Since I am using a 30Gb drive, and the ESXi installation only requires about 10Gb, I can use the remaining space as a host cache.  This is useful as it may help speed up your virtual machines.  To learn more about Host Caches, check out the official VMware documentation, and this great post by Duncan Epping at Yellow-Bricks.

Duncan’s Blog also gives the instructions for enabling the host cache, but I’ll give them here too, with screen shots of my system.

  1. Select your host (if you have more than one, you will need to do this on each one in turn),
  2. Select the Configuration tab along the top of the main section,
  3. Down the left hand menu, near the bottom, select Host Cache Configuration,
  4. You should see only one drive listed in the SSD Datastores list.  Notice my free space says 19.60GB,


  1. Right click on the drive, and select Properties,
  2. In the next window, tick the box labeled “Allocate space for host cache“, and select the top radio button “Use maximum available space (19 GB)“.  Click OK when done.


  1. The ESXi host will then create the host cache files required.  They are all 1Gb files, so in my case 19 of them will be created.  Once done, the host cache space and free space columns will change to show the correct values…


If you then browse to the local datastore, you will see that there are indeed several files, all 1Gb in size…




There will be more configuration settings coming soon.!

Synology Diskstation


My home lab relies on having a fast reliable iSCSI storage for both the virtual machines disk and the ISO images that are used to build the VMs.  This storage is being housed in a Synology Diskstation DS1813+ NAS box.


For the iSCSI storage, I am using four old 1.5Tb Seagate spinning disks, all of which have a few bad sectors.  Ideally, I would replace them with solid state ones, and I may do at some point.  The speed increase would be a great boost for my VMs.


Disk Station Manager (DSM)

DiskStation Manager (DSM) is an intuitive web-based operating system found on every Synology NAS. It’s been designed to help you manage your data: documents, photos, music, videos and all other important forms of digital assets. With DiskStation Manager, it’s more than just storing data. DSM offers a various range of applications and services to bring more entertainment to your home life as well as better productivity at work.

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Not only are the Synology NAS boxes very good at being storage devices, supporting a wide range of features, including iSCSI, IEEE 802.3ad and VAAI, They also have a large array of packages that can be used outside of a Home Lab. (not all models support all features)


There are currently (at time of writing) over 70 packages that can be installed and used on almost every Synology device.  These packages include…

  • Audio Station – allows you to access the music library on your Synology DiskStation,
  • Cloud Station – allows you to easily sync files between your Synology products, computers, and mobile devices,
  • Photo Station – an online photo album integrated with a blog for you to easily share photos and videos,
  • Surveillance Station – a web-based application that can manage IP cameras to safeguard your home or office environment,
  • Video Station – an ideal video organizer of your collection of movies, TV shows, home videos, and TV recordings, allowing you to watch videos on your computer and other devices.

Check out the full list of packages, some of which I am sure you will find useful.


Online Demo

If you are still not sure you want a Synology NAS, they have an online demo of their DSM, ready for anyone to login and use.  Go to the following page and login with the credentials below…

Demo Site :
Username : admin
Password : synology

Take your time, have a play and see what you think.

It would be silly of me to try and list everything that the Synology devices can do, it’s just so much.  Instead, I would redirect you to the Synology site where their marketing people can convince you buy one.

PRTG Network Monitor

Paessler PRTG Network MonitorIntroduction

If you want to monitor your home lab, and the devices connected to it, printers, switches, routers, etc, you can’t go wrong with the monitoring solution from Paessler, called PRTG Network Monitor.



The PRTG software has a few licencing levels, one of which is a free 3o sensor licence.  Not a free time limited demo, a free forever licence.

30 sensors might sound like a small amount when you find out what a sesnor is…

The licensing options are based on the number of sensors (not on the number of devices or IPs). We define one (1) sensor as any particular, individual monitoring entity. One sensor monitors one network service, one URL, one network connection, one port of a switch, one NetFlow export stream, one CPU load, one disk drive, etc. Please have a look at the list of supported sensor types. Monitoring one item from this list counts as one sensor.

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…however, I find that 30 is enough for what I want to monitor on my network.  There are some sensors that “bundle” more that one metric into them.  I could use more if I had them though  🙂

Network Port Monitoring

For example: monitoring a single network port counts as one sensor, but that port could return several metrics.  The HP switch I use returns the following information: Downtime, Transmitted, Packets, Broadcast Packets, Multicast Packets, CRC Errors, Undersize Packets, Oversize Packets, Fragments, Jabbers, Collisions, Packets <= 64 Byte, Packets 65 – 127 Bytes, Packets 128 – 255 Bytes, Packets 256 – 511 Bytes, Packets 512 – 1023 Bytes, Packets 1024 – 1518 Bytes, Drop Events.

That’s a lot of information from one sensor, but expected for a network port.

ESX Performance Monitoring

Another type of “bundled” sensor is the ESX Performance Monitoring one.  This gives much more useful and varied information: CPU usage, Datastore total ReadLatency, Datastore total WriteLatency, Disk read, Disk usage, Disk write, disk.deviceLatency, disk.kernelLatency, Downtime, Memory active, Memory consumed, Memory consumed, Memory swap used, Network received, Network transmitted, Network usage, Power

This is a varied collection of useful information, all collected in one sensor.  It covers the four main metrics: CPU, Memory, Disk, Network.  All of these metrics are available in graph form too, so you can see the history of this information over various time periods, from as little as the last two hours, up to a year ago.

You don’t even need to see all these metrics either.  If you are not interested in the “Power” metric for example, a few clicks later and it’s gone from all your graphs.  The data is still being collected, just not shown to you.


My Home Network Monitoring

I use it on my home network to monitor and graph the throughput of my internet router, my wireless router, and my Synology Diskstation 1813+ NAS.  I also have monitors for my three NUC ESXi hosts.

With all the data, this tool collects, you might think it’s hard to find what you are looking for, or just want a way of displaying the data to make it easier to look at.  For this, PRTG has Network Maps.  Below is my network map for my home network…


The data shown in the graphs are updated every 30 seconds or so (depending on your settings).  You can see that one of my ESXi hosts is offline at the moment, and that some of my critical virtual machines are listed.

The network map layout can be in almost any layout you can think of.  It doesn’t have to be as pretty as mine.