Yesterday was a day of two successes; the first one was that I successfully set up my own cloud at cloud.pquirk.com; the second is that I have a valid security certificate for using it, so I can safely and securely share files with others.
Now, I know what you might be thinking: Why set up my own cloud, when companies like Microsoft and Google give it away for free? Well, let me tell you, my cloud has several advantages over theirs, but before I get into that, let’s understand what the “Cloud” really is: You are storing your files on a computer connected to the Internet somewhere. Now, this has certain benefits that I can appreciate, which is why I have one. Now, on to those benefits.
For starters, my cloud was free. It’s running on open source software (Nextcloud) on an old computer I wasn’t using for anything else. I already paid for the domain name, so adding a sub-domain cost me nothing but a few minutes of my time. You could argue that I could’ve sold that old computer and made an extra $100, and I am paying for the electricity it uses, which is true. However, to make that extra $100, I’d have to go through the trouble of actually selling the computer; I’d have to post an ad, field inquiries, and deal with people. To be honest, turning it into a server was much more rewarding. As for the electricity, this is running on one of Hewlett Packard’s energy efficient small form desktop computers, so it really isn’t that significant.
Let’s talk about those extra benefits. The first is more storage space. Google is a champion with 15 gigabytes, but these days, that’s a gigabyte short of an $8 thumb drive. I have nearly a terabyte available all to me. Now, these online companies offer more space if I need it for a monthly subscription price, but I can add more space to my own cloud if I need it with a one time purchase of another hard drive.
Another benefit is that it can’t be taken away from me. When I started running open source software, Canonical offered free cloud storage for users of Ubuntu. That was fine, but after a few years, they decided to stop doing it. Then there was Microsoft, who gave me a generous amount of cloud storage after I bought one of their Window’s phones, which they took away after they realized they had lost the smart phone market. Thing is, things can happen with these companies that are beyond my control. Now, one could argue that I could have a hardware failure, and while that could happen, I have the power to resolve such a problem. I can’t make Canonical turn on the cloud storage they once gave me, and I can’t make Microsoft give me back all that space when they were selling smart phones, but I can replace a failed component in my computer.
The other benefit is that I don’t need to worry about violating terms of service by sharing something someone might not agree with, because I am on my own terms with my cloud. Now, that doesn’t mean I can break the law, but I could violate someone’s terms of service without breaking any actual law. For example, section 3.a.iv of Microsoft’s OneDrive terms of service states that I can’t share anything that’s considered inappropriate material, which they go on to state includes nudity or offensive language. Now, I see nothing inappropriate with nudity, unless it’s minus 24 degrees, and language is just words, so fuck Microsoft kindly with a bare naked man in the warm Florida sun. I can say that here, because I’m not breaking any law, and with all due respect, all complaints about that piece of language can go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other benefit is that I’m not automatically giving someone the right to use my content whatever way they see fit. Yes, it’s true; with some services, I could find a picture of myself in a Viagra ad. If we go back to Microsoft’s terms of service for their OneDrive, section 2(b) clearly states that using OneDrive gives Microsoft a worldwide royalty-free intellectual property license to use your content. However, if someone poaches an image from my own personal server, I get to go after them for financial compensation. I reckon I’m a pretty decent photographer, so maybe someday someone will want to use one of my pretty pictures in their ad. As long as there’s sufficient cash flow going in my direction, I’m pretty open to just about anything, even an ad for Viagra.
Another benefit is security. What I’m talking about goes beyond passwords and secure certificates. We assume that a company providing cloud storage is using a high security facility, and they could be using servers located anywhere in the world. Suppose one of those servers is located in China, and changes in government and policies means they get access to all of your data to use for whatever they want. My server, on the other hand, is located in my house. I decide the policies when it comes to my content, and I get to control what can go out into the world. This means I can use my phone camera in my job as an industrial electrician and take pictures of confidential drawings and documents, have it backed up to the cloud in case something happens to my phone, and know that these pictures aren’t going to get leaked
Another great benefit is speed. I get a direct connection to my server on my home network. Sometimes, the Internet can be really slow, or sometimes can even go down, but I’ll still have access to my server any time I want.
That’s all I can come up with, but I think it’s plenty of good reasons to have my own cloud server. If you’d like to know how to set up your own cloud server, send me an e-mail, and I’ll send you some links to get you started.