My Own Cloud

By | September 24, 2014

owncloud23Storage, and lots of it, is more and more a necessity in this electronic age. My first PC was an IBM XT with a 10 MB internal hard disk. Yes, 10 MB. At first I thought I would never fill it up, but I eventually did. I was jealous of my dad’s IBM XT clone that had a 20 MB disk in it.

Now we store everything on disk. From financial spreadsheets, to all sorts of documents, to photos and even movies we’ve ripped from DVD to make it convenient to watch them using something like Plex. The point is we store lots of stuff.

I’ve been a big fan of Dropbox since I first heard about it a few years ago. It’s simple, free (if you don’t need much storage) and just works. The idea is that you install the Dropbox client on your PC, Mac or Linux computer, dump your files in the designated folder, and that data is magically sync’d up to the “cloud”. You install the Dropbox client on any and all of your other computers and you have access to that same data. Any changes you make are automatically sync’d up to the cloud and back down to all of your connected computers. This way you’re working on the latest data all the time no matter where you are.

The only problem with this might be that you don’t necessarily have full control over your data. It sits up there in the cloud on Dropbox servers and you’re at their mercy while they hold your data. I’m not trying to scare you off – I still use Dropbox today and have never had any problem with them. But for those out there who may have privacy concerns and want to have full control of their data, I suggest you take a look at ownCloud.

Using ownCloud, you can build your own Dropbox-like service. If you have your own server, or a desktop that can function as a server, you have even more control than if you were to run it on a paid web host (check your host’s terms of use before you dump a lot of storage out there). I’ve been using it for several months to prove its stability for my own needs, and it’s been flawless.

The server/OS requirements are fairly basic – I run my copy on CentOS 6.5 and am in the process of migrating it to a CentOS 7 server for better compatibility. ownCloud has a free, open source community edition as well as an Enterprise version. For most home networks Enterprise would certainly be overkill.

So here’s my setup – I’m running ownCloud on my server in the closet. It doesn’t do anything for off-site storage/backup of my data, but I’ll get to that in a minute. My desktop in my office has the client installed, and since they’re on the same network, I get blazing sync speeds. The magic happens when I open up the HTTP (you can use HTTPS if you prefer, and I will likely move to it eventually) port on my firewall and I can access it from anywhere on the Internet. So I also have the client installed on a desktop at work, so I get a copy of all my data some place other than home…plus I get the convenience of being able to access my data easily while I’m away.

ownCloud also has mobile apps for Android and iOS. I haven’t yet tested them because I’m too cheap to pay the $.99 to get it. I’ll actually go ahead and do that eventually. I just don’t have enough of my data moved over yet to warrant it.

So really, ownCloud is awesome. There are tons of features that I won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that the software can do just about anything you’d want it to when it comes to cloud storage. I have my own cloud…how about you?

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