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Taking a Stab at Self Hosting

2021-05-21


I'm not a total stranger to self hosting as long as you count the occasional game server (this capsule I don't think counts since it's hosted on DigitalOcean). Still, over the past week or so it's something that I've been diving deeper into. I've been needing to organize my thoughts on it so here's a post about what I've managed to do so far and my plans from here on out.


Why


The driving force for this whole experiment is the old Dell office machine that I've got just sitting around. Its specs are pretty modest for a personal PC but it would be more than capable as a home server. There's so much that it could be used for that I almost can't rest until it's no longer just sitting there useless, wasting space.


Is this how it starts? Sure I'm just repurposing an old machine now, but am I going to be in a perpetual state of spinning up a new project after this?


Anyway, I recently moved and must have forgotten to bring a keyboard with me to the new place. I didn't feel like trying to find a way to go through an OS install without one, so I ordered one (my first mechanical btw) and decided to experiment on a VPS in the meantime.


Nextcloud


One of the projects that I've had my eye on for a bit is Nextcloud. There's something seriously appealing about a FOSS project as versatile as it is.


I'd never used it before but decided to dive in headfirst by installing it on a fresh VPS. And wow, the process could not have been any easier.


I followed DigitalOcean's guide on setting up Nextcloud on Ubuntu with the snap package (linked at the end of this post). It wasn't more than 20 minutes or so before I had a fresh Nextcloud install that I could login to. After a few initial performance hiccups, things seemed to settle down after the first hour and it's been running smoothly for a few days now.


I started playing around with installing useful looking apps and customizing the install. I've got to say I'm impressed. My biggest worry going into this experiment was that I just wouldn't get enough use out of Nextcloud -- but I'm beginning to realize that this could end up being a daily tool of mine. I typed up a draft of this post in markdown using the note app. I've imported my RSS subscriptions to the news app and have started using that. I still need to look into a solution for collaborative office document editing though since that's a huge feature of other cloud services -- but there seem to be a few options for that based on the little research I've done so far.


VPS VS self hosted VS other services


I've learned recently that my apartment has me behind a carrier grade NAT, so self hosting something publicly accessible isn't going to be straightforward. From what I can tell, my best option is to set up a VPS with a VPN server which I then connect to from the machine that I want to host from. But then I'm getting a lot of the costs of using a VPS without any of its benefits like added reliability or easy automated backups that I don't even have to think about.


If I have to use a VPS in my self hosted solution anyway then I may as well just rely fully on it and take advantage of things like backups, right?


And as cool as Nextcloud is, I'm still not completely sold on switching away from something like Google Drive. I think there's two kinds of FOSS users out there: those that treat FOSS as a means to an end and those that treat FOSS as the end itself. I'm the former. I use FOSS really just because I think most of it is genuinely great, simple, powerful software. But switching to FOSS isn't necessarily my end goal -- at least right now. If I see a better value in a proprietary solution and I more or less trust the company behind it, that's where I'll go.


Now Google Drive isn't great. They're known to scan the contents of your documents and disable sharing on them if they deem them inappropriate. You can also find the occasional horror story of someone getting permanently locked out of their account and being unable to contact support for help. But their storage options are dirt cheap (suspiciously so) compared to setting something up yourself.


My Plan


I think for now I'm going to just settle on turning that old machine I've got into a NAS. I'll keep my Nextcloud VPS up and running at least for the next few days and try to see if there's any interest in joining it from friends and family. If not, I'll probably just stick to Google Drive (*gasp!*). I still get the feeling that a whole Nextcloud install for one person is a bit overkill, however useful it might be.


In any case, it's been a fun experiment and I'm not done with it yet. I'll probably post another update or two in the coming weeks as I play around a bit more.


And if you're a self hoster or Nextcloud user and noticed an error or oversight anywhere, please correct me! I'm still a noob at this self hosting thing and I welcome feedback (even if it's just to yell at me for using Google Drive, haha). My contact details are on my homepage.


- moddedBear


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DigitalOcean: How To Install and Configure Nextcloud on Ubuntu 20.04 [web]

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