Summer is coming, which means school is wrapping up for many students. Now is a good time to think about how to keep skills sharp (and have some fun) over the summer—with a homelab!
A homelab is a home environment for experimenting with technology. Many students already have a homelab in some form—if only a few virtual machines in VMware Workstation. More advanced setups will contain actual server hardware, often purchased on eBay or other venues where companies are offloading end-of-support equipment on the cheap (there are entire guides on how to hunt down some of these deals). Want to develop your networking skills? Pick up a Cisco router and an Aerohive access point. Web design? Build your own linux webserver on the old desktop you were thinking of tossing. Cloud technologies? Spin up an Azure account, or go all out and install ESXi on old server hardware (remember, students get a lot of this software free!). The unofficial spot for homelab enthusiasts is the subreddit (and wiki) of the same name.
In addition to being a lot of fun (Plex server anyone?) an applicant with a homelab is very attractive to employers. Imagine the question “what do you like to do with your free time?” comes up during an interview. What better way to set yourself apart from other candidates than to bring up the LackRack you have in your basement?
A parting note: homelabbing, like any other hobby, can be addictive. You have been warned!