Anyone using a powerful desktop/server and using a laptop to remote in as your setup?

JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California KidMod Posts: 2,829 Mod
I've been having trouble deciding on a solution for power computing and labbing. I've always used fairly powerful laptops as my primary computer because I hate being stuck sitting in my office when I want/need to do anything. Sometimes I like to sit on the couch or on the dining table, out where everyone else is. The laptops I've been looking at are the Lenovo P Workstation, Dell Precision Workstation, Dell XPS, and Alienware. Problem is spec'd out laptops are anywhere from $2500-$3000+. But even at those prices it's still not as powerful as a desktop costing a lot less than that.

I started thinking that maybe I should just build a powerful desktop and get a much cheaper laptop (i3 or i5, 16GB RAM, 17" 1080p screen) and remote into the desktop. Also possibly a lower spec'd SP4 which would give me a ton more flexibility to use standalone for general things, and also remote into the desktop. Is anyone here running that type of setup? Benefits, drawbacks?
Have: CISSP, CISM, CISA, CRISC, eJPT, GCIA, GSEC, CCSP, CCSK, AWS CSAA, AWS CCP, CEHv8, CHFIv8, ITIL-F, MS Cyber Security - USF, BSBA - UF, MSISA - WGU
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Comments

  • TheFORCETheFORCE Senior Member Member Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I'm running in to this issue currently at my job. I'm running the management console for one of our SIEM's from my desktop but it is becoming extrmely slow and hogging memory resources as I'm adding more and more items to monitor. I'm thinking of remoting to the sever and just running the console from there instead but that would mean that I would have an RDP session open way more often.
  • philz1982philz1982 Member Posts: 978
    Yes,

    I am running the following:

    i7-4770k @ 4.1 GHZ OC
    32 GB Ram
    250 SSD EVO Pro
    2 3TB SSD 7200 in Raid
    2 390X's
    ASUS Formula 7 (i think it may be formula 6) Motherboard

    I remote in via teamviewer and I locally connect via RDP. I also have a team foundation server setup for .net code management, and I run my OS's on virtual box (Server, Linux, ect).

    Forgot to mention,

    Don't get the maximus boards. Someone clearly failed in QA Testing. My CMOS died and you have to cut through the water cooling shield to replace the CMOS battery. Um ok....
  • JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California Kid Mod Posts: 2,829 Mod
    @TheForce: At my previous job I had one or multiple RDP sessions open pretty much every day. I worked on my laptop docked to two monitors and I had a desktop with no monitors that I remoted into for dev stuff, or tinkering around, and then I also remoted into whatever servers I needed to work on. It worked out great and seemed native, so that's actually what got me thinking to do the same at home.

    @philz1982: Those desktop specs are close to what I'm thinking of. So much more value and flexibility in a desktop.
    Have: CISSP, CISM, CISA, CRISC, eJPT, GCIA, GSEC, CCSP, CCSK, AWS CSAA, AWS CCP, CEHv8, CHFIv8, ITIL-F, MS Cyber Security - USF, BSBA - UF, MSISA - WGU
    Currently Working On: Python, OSCP Prep
    Next Up:​ OSCP
    Studying:​ Code Academy (Python), Bash Scripting, Virtual Hacking Lab Coursework
  • coffeeluvrcoffeeluvr Senior Member NCMember Posts: 734 ■■■■■□□□□□
    @philz1982: Nice desktop setup
    "Something feels funny, I must be thinking too hard. - Pooh"
  • powerfoolpowerfool Senior Member Member Posts: 1,649 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I would say that if you are doing 16GB of RAM in your laptop, going with 32GB on the desktop will be fine for, but make sure you have some flexibility to upgrade to 64GB or 128GB in the future (128GB desktop MBs are out there now).

    My laptop is a Core i7 w/ 16GB RAM and a SSD (Lenovo T530). I got a drive caddy to replace my DVD ROM with another SSD and I put my VMs there... that makes a big difference for me, so I am waiting on building a rig like this, but it has been my intent for a while. Jeff Guillet (Microsoft MVP) is currently on his Gen6 for a recommendation on such things: EXPTA Gen6 Home Lab Server Builds and Parts Lists | The EXPTA {blog}
    AZ-204 [ ] AZ-400 [X] AZ-500
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  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    I've always been of the opinion that laptops are very likely to get broken so it is best not to spend too much on them and instead get an additional decent desktop PC that you can upgrade if needed - lots of disk space & memory so you can install virtual machines galore on it.

    This way you never have much running on the laptop so it is always snappy, you can remote in to the VMs or the desktop and you have full control of your own environment and don't need to worry that losing the laptop will cost you a fortune and you will lose all your files/VMs. Your PC can be locked away somewhere safe with its own UPS so you escape the limited life of a laptop when on battery power.

    The only thing you need is a network connection, but in this day and age no self-respecting office or home will be without high speed access.

    thanks
    Iain
  • NOC-NinjaNOC-Ninja Member Posts: 1,403
    I have dell XPS. I think i spent $1500 for it. I use it for labbing. icon_thumright.gif
  • gumpwaregumpware Member Posts: 13 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I have couple of servers and a gaming/lab desktop. I set up SSL VPN using Sonicwall firewall and have Remote Desktop Manager installed at my work PC to access my home lab. I also have Wake-on-LAN and iLO configured to remotely power on the workstation and the servers.
  • nascar_paulnascar_paul Member Posts: 287 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Without question you're greater value will be to build a powerful desktop (future proofing is actually even more important than raw power in my opinion) and buying a cheap(ish) laptop and adding RAM to it will also give you your best bang for the buck. You'll end up with great compute power available (via the desktop) and a lighter, more portable interface.

    In my experience you should make sure of a couple of things:

    1. Make sure to get the biggest display that you can afford on the laptop. The laptop's power won't really matter much, but RAM will because you'll mostly be connecting to the MUCH more powerful desktop that will support higher resolutions. Most remote access technologies (Teamviewer, RDP) can compensate for the differences in resolution, but it will look funky if you're not sporting at least a 15" laptop display.

    2. Laptop RAM is cheap. If you can find a discounted base model with a BIG screen, grab it and upgrade the RAM off of amazon for maximum cost effectiveness.

    3. Invest in a newer router that will support segmenting your lab and home networks (or build one if you’re so inclined) to simplify your setup and support higher rates of data transfer between the machines.

    4. Consider buying a couple of cheaper, older servers to host your lab so that you can configure some high availability and redundancy options. Two old PowerEdge servers with 16 Cores and 64GB of RAM between them can go for as little as a couple of hundred dollars.

    Good luck, and let everyone know what you decide!
    icon_thumright.gif
    2017 Goals: 70-411 [X], 74-409 [X], 70-533 [X], VCP5-DCV [], LX0-103 [], LX0-104 []
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  • ClaymooreClaymoore Member Posts: 1,637
    Buy a cheap laptop and run your lab servers in the cloud.

    AWS has a limited free tier for a year, but after that it's still cheaper than building, upgrading, and maintaining a lab server.
    1. How much time do you actually lab a month?
    2. Only power on the servers when you need them, then don't pay for them when they're off
    3. Use spot instances for AWS to get the cheapest price - but beware your servers may be terminated.
    4. We have a client demo lab that runs 4 servers and costs $4.23 to run for 6 hours
    5. My AWS account cost me $3.99 last month
    6. Set billing alerts if you're worried about budget
    7. Remote in to your lab from anywhere in the world
    Most important, you are gaining cloud experience and that is a requirement now.
  • kohr-ahkohr-ah Member Posts: 1,277
    I use my MSI Apache Pro to run VMs i need for network sims and quick VM setups and it only has 16 Gigs of Ram in it but if I need to do server work I bought a Nuc 4th Gen i5 series with 16 Gigs of RAM and I run currently 12 VMs with no issues on there for firewalls, linux boxes, etc and it uses no power compared to a XPS series but it is no beefmaster5000 either.
  • JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California Kid Mod Posts: 2,829 Mod
    Thanks for all of the responses.

    The reason the laptop choices themselves are so expensive is that I want to be as future-proof as possible, but it's not just for labbing but also photo/video editing, CAD, home design software, and some other stuff, and I'd prefer it to have a decent graphics card and top of the line specs.

    After feedback, and doing more detailed research on my options and cost comparison, I will forgo the expensive laptop option, and will build a nice desktop and get a 17" laptop with at least a 1080p screen and will support 32GB RAM.

    Claymoore wrote: »
    Buy a cheap laptop and run your lab servers in the cloud.

    AWS has a limited free tier for a year, but after that it's still cheaper than building, upgrading, and maintaining a lab server.
    1. How much time do you actually lab a month?
    2. Only power on the servers when you need them, then don't pay for them when they're off
    3. Use spot instances for AWS to get the cheapest price - but beware your servers may be terminated.
    4. We have a client demo lab that runs 4 servers and costs $4.23 to run for 6 hours
    5. My AWS account cost me $3.99 last month
    6. Set billing alerts if you're worried about budget
    7. Remote in to your lab from anywhere in the world
    Most important, you are gaining cloud experience and that is a requirement now.

    You're spot on with that recommendation actually. I just went and created my AWS account. I'll look into a cost comparison between running a server at home for labbing and AWS. I would say right now the amount of hours in a month that I'm labbing is probably 10/month right now, but will pick up later this year towards 20/month.
    Have: CISSP, CISM, CISA, CRISC, eJPT, GCIA, GSEC, CCSP, CCSK, AWS CSAA, AWS CCP, CEHv8, CHFIv8, ITIL-F, MS Cyber Security - USF, BSBA - UF, MSISA - WGU
    Currently Working On: Python, OSCP Prep
    Next Up:​ OSCP
    Studying:​ Code Academy (Python), Bash Scripting, Virtual Hacking Lab Coursework
  • NetworkNewbNetworkNewb Member Posts: 3,298 ■■■■■■■■■□
    I like Claymoore's suggestion as well, I might have to try that one out!
  • aftereffectoraftereffector Member Posts: 525
    @Claymoore - that is very intriguing! I was about to spec out a VIRL-capable desktop but now I think I might evaluate AWS instead.
    CCIE Security - this one might take a while...
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