Raspberry Pi Zero W Practical Uses

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is a capable FTP/SSH server, but for field deployments, I would consider Compute Module 3 or Raspberry Pi 4.

This article is mainly about can be easily done with a Raspberry Pi Zero W vs. Compute Module 3.

Ranking key:

  1. Cannot Install / Not working if Installed
  2. Extremely slow, maybe single patient user only
  3. slow, but perhaps usable for patient 1-3 users
  4. adequate, may handle a handful of users (family, small club)
  5. great, handles multiple concurrent users, not so much slower than a 10-year old Pentium 4 PC

Groupware (email/calendar) server


Rank: 3

Citadel is an easy to install groupware server. Accessing features took a few seconds per click, and it didn’t seem that users would have the patience for Citadel on Raspberry Pi Zero.

FTP server

Rank: 4.5

Like SSH below, the Raspberry Pi Zero can handle a few connections at once, but is limited to less than raw Ethernet speeds due to:

  1. CPU: USB-Ethernet onboard conversion
  2. CPU: encryption (if using SSL/SSH, etc.)
  3. CPU: filesystem – if using external HDD with FUSE (NTFS,exfat,etc.)
  4. CPU: USB HDD – takes some CPU to manage the transfer from USB to external HDD
  5. SD card: read/write speed

Web LAMP server

The Raspberry Pi as an NGINX or other lightweight server can work fine–test if your application might need the Compute Module 3 vs. Pi Zero.

Desktop workstation

Rank: 2 - 2.5

The Raspberry Pi 4 and Compute Module 3 are fast enough for light desktop use.

SSH server (port forwarding, SSHFS, remote management)

Rank: 4 - 4.5

The Raspberry Pi Zero W does quite adequately in this regard – you will feel just a bit of the CPU limitation when using many sessions or high Ethernet bandwidth.

FM transmitter

Rank: 4.5

The Raspberry Pi FM transmitter works splendidly – the program can be modified to transmit narrowband (~ 5kHz) FM on the 2 meter ham band, and for a wide variety of software defined radio tasks.