Looking to have total control over your cloud server environment? Then perhaps you’d like to take a leap of faith and create your own cloud server. Building your own cloud server is an honourable undertaking that will reap many rewards. You can have total control over your data, the best level of privacy possible (if you configure everything properly) and you can install whatever you like on your cloud server environment.
Perhaps you want to be able to access your private files while traveling and think that making your own cloud server is the best option. If you are keen on giving it a go, then this article is for you. I’ll give you all of the tools that you need plus a step by step guide for each solution to make the process as easy as possible.
While a cloud server is a virtual server, it’s still imperative to have hardware and software to create your own cloud server. Therefore, you’ll need to invest in either equipment or a virtual host. It’s not a process for the light hearted, so if you are not convinced you want to create your own cloud server after reading this article then check out our guide to the best cloud storage providers.
DIY Cloud Storage vs Professional Cloud Storage
Probably one of the most obvious up-sides to using a ready-made cloud storage solution is the fact that you’ll not need to buy hardware, or install any software. Normally you go ahead and buy cloud storage, and you’re ready to go. However, often there are restrictions on uploads, downloads and often there can be privacy issues with public solutions.
Consumers are often uneasy with the worrying trend of hackers gaining access to sensitive files on the cloud. However there are now decentralized blockchain-backed cloud platforms, where decentralization increases security. Perhaps in the future we’ll write another article about how to set up your own decentralized blockchain-backed cloud server.
But in this article we’ll get started with setting up a basic cloud storage solution that you can customize as you require. One thing that you can do with your own cloud is set it up so that it fully complies with your industries legal requirements, for example if you require solutions to adhere to HIPAA legislation.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to be quite technically adept to be able to setup your own cloud server. This step-by-step guide has been designed to make it as simple as possible and provides you with everything that you need to know to get your cloud server up and running. You’ll need to install server software and also download client software. We’ll discuss what software you need for all of your devices.
Benefits of Setting Up Your Own DIY Cloud
Setting up your own cloud storage solution is like having your own private Dropbox, where you are in complete control. To create your own cloud you’ll need the help of server and client software. There are several solutions that you can choose from, in this article we’ll discuss five of the best DIY cloud storage tools on the market. In order of best to worst (in my opinion)
What is Client Software?
A client is the device or software that is accessing the data on your server. For example, if you’re accessing the internet, then your device is the client – often referred to as “Client-side”. Client software works to sync folders. Sync folders are folders that you create on your pc or device that then coincide with the folders on the cloud.
There are a wide range of DIY cloud storage tools that will allow you to access your content remotely. One approach is to access your content using a browser interface. This is called browser-based software. Often it is easier to use this type of software, as you can then access your DIY cloud from any device, others can access your data if you allow them to have the credentials and you don’t need to install software on every device.
Minimum Hardware Required to Set-up your Cloud Storage Solution
In most cases these will be the minimum requirements for hardware spec. There is no upper level, the better the computer you have, the faster your cloud storage will perform. Here are the minimum hardware requirements, if you’re using you’re your home pc/ device:
- DDR2-era 64bit PC/laptop that can stay on 24/7 (or anything better than these specs)
- Home / enterprise grade server
- Raspberry Pi 2 / 3 that can run Ubuntu Snappy Core
Let’s now dive deep into the currently available DIY cloud storage tools, the pros and cons to decide what would be the best solution for you.
Nextcloud is similar to ownCloud, with a few differences. Nextcloud was created by duplicating (forking) ownCloud and then working on it to take it down a different path. Nextcloud is basically an upgraded version of ownCloud.
Nextcloud have an open source version that you can use for FREE. This is perfect if you’re just starting out, and it should have everything that you need. Their enterprise edition allows 50 to 10 million users – you pay more for additional users. Nextcloud offers some great collaboration tools for you to use on your DIY cloud storage system. They also offer smartphone apps that work on both Android and iOS.
Nextcloud Packages and Pricing
When upgrading to their premium plan the benefits seem quite scarce. Sure, you can add on additional users, which is great. However, the main bonus seems to be a faster support team response. They do have additional apps and features as you move up the ranks that will become more apparent as you get to know their tools. Here are the three enterprise packages from Nextcloud:
- Basic – 50 users, €1900 p/a
- Standard -50 users, €3400 p/a
- Premium – 50 users, €4900 p/a
Nextcloud Hardware & Software Requirements
You need to be running a version of Ubuntu that supports snaps – the latest version of Ubuntu would be preferable. The Ubuntu version that supports snaps is the most users friendly and easy to install. The snaps also allow for auto installation of the latest Nextcloud security updates.
- Step 1 – You’ll need to have your server in place (as described above), whether it’s a physical server or one that you have obtained from a third party cloud hosting provider.
- Step 2 – Download and install Nextcloud server environment
- Step 3 – Download Nextcloud desktop client (Windows, macOS and Linux)
PRO TIP: If you want to speed up the process you can buy Nextcloud Box, Spreedbox or Syncloud, which are all pre-configured to save you time.
Nextcloud has some nice collaboration features. You can share via email, links or social media. Most importantly you can password protect shared files, as well as set a date for the link to expire. After you share your files, the other user can edit them, even without an account. Which makes collaboration with clients that much easier. There are also reporting tools, so that you can view what has been shared.
Just about every feature that you might need to collaborate on your DIY cloud is offered via the Nextcloud software. External users can drop files onto your server, you can also restore, search and comment on files.
Nextcloud boasts a massive 162 apps (which is the most we’ve found) to make your cloud server your own. They offer apps such as – “Collabora Online”, as well as the ability set up conference calls with video, which makes your cloud storage solution look extremely professional.
Nextcloud has some powerful security features such as two-factor authentication. Nextcloud also supports the Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and single sign-on. They utilize a time-based One Time Password and Universal 2nd Factor hardware tokens, making their sign up secure.
Data is protected during transit with the SSL/TLS protocol and at rest with AES 256-bit encryption. You can also choose folders that you want to be kept on lock down by enabling end-to-end encryption. Finally they use zero-knowledge, so that nobody but the owner holds the keys to your data.
There are some securities flaws that you need to know about when thinking about using Nextcloud. For example they scan data to protect users, however I’m not sure how them scanning their clients data helps anyone. I suppose to check for viruses, but people don’t seem so sure that is what they are doing, just something to look out for.
So if you are looking for tight security, you’ll need to really trust Nextcloud, as they will have access to your server and might audit it, as and when they see fit. The reason they put forward for this activity is to scan for bugs, check that your server is up to date. One thing that is great about Nextcloud is that they are HIPAA compliant, which is perfect for healthcare providers.
- Lots of apps
- Enhanced security
- Great collaboration features
- Sync feature
- They scan your files
Implementing ownCloud is similar to Nextcloud, as they share a lot of the same proprietary code. ownCloud has a fantastic community and is open-source, so you’ll get a lot of support there. You can get the ownCloud software for free or opt for one of their premium packages. Something that is great about ownCloud is the fact that they offer public server providers via the ownCloud Marketplace, so that you don’t need to own your own server.
You can also access your files via a browser, which makes accessing your files on the go much easier. Great for traveling business people or commuters, what’s more they also have mobile apps for Android and iOS. ownCloud have a demo that you can quickly access to test if you like their service.
ownCloud Packages and Pricing
ownCloud offers a service called “ownCloud Online” for smaller businesses. They host the servers in Germany, comply with GDPR and up to 150 users can access one subscription. This is the easy option, if you decide not to set up your DIY cloud with your own hardware, as they do everything for you.
- OwnCloud Community – The FREE open-source community edition has a massive 50 million users, free desktop client, mobile app. Suitable for private users and freelancers.
- ownCloud Online – 30-Day FREE Trial, after trial – 11,99 € per user/ month and 1TB storage. No IT knowledge required, free iOS/ Android app, German servers – End-to-end encryption – the free trial is restricted to 10GB of storage.
- ownCloud Enterprise – The price is not publicly shown on their website, however we know that their standard plan is $3,600 and the enterprise plan starts at $9000 so they are quite a bit more expensive than Nextcloud. You do get branded apps with the Enterprise package and faster support.
ownCloud Hardware & Software Requirements
The best way to setup ownCloud is by leasing a server from a professional host, such as Hostinger or 1&1 IONOS. However, if you are using your own computer as a server you’ll need to ensure that you have installed the LAMP or WAMP server environment. Let’s go with signing up for a professional hosting service, this is what you’ll need:
- A host that supports PHP5 and MySQL (or SQLite)
- To download ownCloud Server 5
- Domain name or URL (for remote access)
PRO TIP: Some professional hosts ban setting up cloud storage services on their servers, so it’s worth a check before signing up.
Setup Using ownCloud
- Step 1 – Download and install ownCloud’s server-side software to your server/ download the software
- Step 2 – upload the setup-owncloud.php file to your webhost.
- Step 3 – Follow the instructions to install ownCloud. You should then be redirected to the login screen.
If you’re setting up on a professional hosting environment, then it is that easy. Just three steps and follow the instructions to set up.
If you get stuck then ownCloud offers some great guidance on how to manually set ownCloud up.
ownCloud offers many of the features that Nextcloud does (unsurprisingly). They allow you to share files via password-protected links, they auto-expire after the set date and you can also get notifications to your mobile phone to let you know the status of your shared links. ownCloud also allows you to sync files, share files and search files. Also people can edit your files if they have access, which is great for collaboration both in-house and with external collaborators.
Again, ownCloud offer lots of great features for collaboration on your files, such as commenting, tags, as well as video conferencing. External users can also drag and drop files onto your ownCloud. When you add in the branding capability that is offered with their Enterprise plan, then you have a very slick business tool. Their user interface is also clean and easy to use.
ownCloud offers just 70 apps, which is half the amount of apps offered by NextCloud, but you’ll find many of the popular ones in there such as Collabora Online, OnlyOffice Connector, Workflow App, PDF Viewer, Calendar and Contacts. In saying that, the other two solutions have no app marketplace, so seen in that light, 70 isn’t so bad.
ownCloud Delta Sync is a great feature to reduce upload and download times. The way that it works is by only syncing the section of the file that is change, rather than the whole file, which saves a tonne of time. They also offer a Virtual File System, where users can sync files directly from their browser.
ownCloud has some decent security features, such as end-to-end encryption and ransom ware protection. Administrators are offered lots of control as they can define password requirements as well as provision professional key management with their with Key Service application.
Virus scanning is done with ClamAV, which is free anti-virus software. ClamAV is great for isolating viruses, Trojans and malware. You can also scan files on your own personal server with this security tool.
Two-factor authentication can protect your server from unwanted intruders, as well as the standard time-based One Time Password. You can also add on additional devices via the ownCloud app. Like Nextcloud, ownCloud can be used safely by Healthcare providers as they are HIPAA compliant. They are also GDPR compliant.
- HIPAA/ GDPR compliant
- Clean user interface
- Delta sync
- Decent security
- Sync client
- Very Expensive
- Just 70 apps
Seafile is another FREE community driven, open-source cross-platform cloud storage solution. They also offer a business edition for larger requirements. The enterprise edition is more feature rich than the open-source edition, so you’ll need to pay to see the full range of features offered by Seafile. When compared to what you get with the first two soltuions, the open-source version is quite bare-bones.
Seafile is great for people who love to keep things organized, however, it may take you some time to navigate their user interface. I find their interface quite dated and complex. With Seafile you can sync, share and organise your files into libraries.
Seafile Packages and pricing
If you are looking for a more cost-effective solution, then Seafile might be for you. They allow you to use their enterprise edition for free for up to three users. Thereafter you pay per user, and the price gets cheaper with a larger number of users that you add on. They also offer discounts for educational establishments.
Seafile Pro Edition license (Annual Subscription) Pricing
- Up to 9 users $100 in total
- 10-249 users – $48 per user
- 750-999 users – $35 per user
I haven’t outlined the wide range of prices, but you get the picture – the more users you add, the cheaper it gets. Companies with over 1000+ users need to contact Seafile for pricing.
Seafile Hardware & Software Requirements
You can deploy Seafile with both Linux and Windows, I’ll explain Linux in this example. If you want to use Windows then you can find information on the Seafile website here. Before I get into setting up your cloud storage solution with Seafile, bear in mind that it can be quite tricky to set up. You’ll need the following:
- MySQL, Nginx or Apache (Nginx is easier)
- OS – Ubuntu 16.04/18.04/ CentOS 7
- Download the Seafile installer here
PRO TIP: Only install the Seafile installer on a fresh server as it can interfere with other files. Then make sure to delete the installer after everything is set up.
Setting up Seafile
Step 1 – Download and install the server edition on your server.
For CentOS 7 (64bit)
/opt/. cd /root wget --no-check-certificate https://raw.githubusercontent.com/haiwen/seafile-server-installer/master/seafile_centos bash seafile_centos 6.1.2
For Ubuntu 16.04/18.04 (64bit)
cd/root wget --no-check-certificate https://raw.githubusercontent.com/haiwen/seafile-server-installer/master/seafile_ubuntu bash seafile_ubuntu 6.1.2
Step 2 – enter the unprivileged username: seafile
Step 3 –Run su – seafile -s /bin/bash with root privileges on the shell
Step 4 – Delete the installer file
I like the fact that Seafile offers “Selective sync” that means that you can turn off syncing for specific folders, this can save a lot of time. Seafile offers virtual-drive mapping, which means that you can access folders on another server, you can also access files offline. You can also access your files via the browser. One of the great features offered by Seafile is the fast syncing by chopping files into smaller pieces. This is ideal for people who see speed as the most important feature of a cloud storage solution.
Like the other tools covered so far, Seafile allows the sharing of links to files. These shared links can be password protected and further secured by setting an expiration date. You can also set the read-write or read-only permission, which allows or disables the editing of the external user that you’ve shared the link with.
If you have more than one person working on a file, then it can be locked while one person works on it, ensuring that editing is efficient and team members don’t interfere with another person’s work. As with other solutions, you can search files and restore them to an earlier state.
One of the downsides of Seafile is the fact that they don’t have an app library at all. You can still integrate with Microsoft Office Online Server and Collabora Online server though which is great for online collaboration.
Security isn’t the main USP of Seafile. They do use two-factor authentication and create snapshots for ransomware protection. They also scans for viruses, offer remote wipes and audit logs. End-to-end encryption is possible, however metadata is not encrypted. Ideally metadata should be encrypted as it can expose sensitive privacy information. So this is one major downside of Seafile, in my opinion. Additionally client-side encryption is nowhere to be seen, which is another big security flaw.
Pydio was founded in 2007 by Charles du Jeu, under the name “AjaxPlorer”. Pydio is open-source software that you can deploy on your server for free. You can easily install and run the Pydio software on public cloud servers to create your own cloud. They offer iOS and Andriod apps so that you can access files remotely, from anywhere. You can also take images, sync and upload them to your cloud storage solution.
Pydio Cells is the latest Pydio release and it affords better collaboration and sharing options. To share files with others, you simply place them in your cell. A “cell” is Pydio’s terminology for a shared folder. You can add and remove users, and grant them permissions to edit or read files or folders.
Pydio is only available for macOS and Linux. You can get it to run on a Windows machine by using a docker image.
Pydio Packages and Pricing
Pydio offers two versions of their software – Open Source Home and Enterprise. Like Seafile, Pydio limits the features on the open source version; they also don’t offer support unless you opt for their paid solution. The open source software from Pydio only offers simple file upload, sharing and authentication. If you go for the Enterprise edition, you can give it a test drive with a free trial. Their two packages are as follows:
- Open Source Home Distribution – FREE, Open-source license AGPL v3, no support (DIY).
- Enterprise Distribution – Unlimited support, Advanced sharing, Advanced administration security and high availability, Starter pack up to 20 users: 1520€/year, Up to 100 users: 4980€/year, for 10K+ users you need to get in touch with them.
Pydio has an intuitive and attractive UX. Plus; some of the collaboration tools offered by Pydio are quite neat. You can make chat rooms, comment on files and get alerts to let you know what is happening inside your account. The chat rooms can be created, about a particular file. Files can be protected with passwords, you can also set download limits and expiration dates for shared links. Files can also be restored to a previous version.
Collabora Online is again THE way to collaborate with documents on your cloud storage platform. You can decide who can see what, and what they can do with each and every file. One of the great features of Pydio is the fact that you can add in your company logo and change the colours to fit your brand, making the interface truly your own.
Like Nextcloud, Pydio uses Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) to assist users with loging in. AES 256-bit to encryption is used to protect files at-rest and SSL is used to protect them in transit. Pydio doesn’t seem to comply with HIPAA, but it does comply with GDPR.
- Easy to use
- Good for sharing
- Good collaboration features
- Relatively few features
- No app marketplace
- No plugins
- Resilio isn’t really a DIY cloud storage option, so it didn’t make this list. It’s more of a peer-to-peer tool that syncs content across devices.
If you are looking for more control, security and flexibility, plus you’ve got someone really techie on board, then perhaps DIY cloud storage is an option for you. Certainly Nextcloud and ownCloud are top of the list as they are so feature rich, and easy to use. You can try Seafile of Pydio if you need to save money or if speed is your main concern. Setting up your own Cloud storage solution is a brilliant option for a team that needs to be HIPAA compliant and tweak the server to their needs.