Server week : Trust no-one with Owncloud.

Dropbox changed its terms of service so they can give you data to the Feds if they just ask for it, Ubuntu shuts down the online fileservice “Ubuntu One” : Who can you  trust these days ? The great thing with cloud solutions is that they are on a server far far away, most of them are free and you never have to maintain them. The downside is that they are on a server far far away, they are free and you cannot maintain them. We give up a certain level of control for the convenience of the cloud. It would be of course far nicer if you had a service that offered you all the luxury of the products mentioned above .. but gave you full control, absolute privacy and a completely controlled solution. (and free ! It has to be free).

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Do not fear : Owncloud is here.

Owncloud is a self hosted cloud solution that gives you the luxury of the cloud in the privacy of your own home (or on your own hosted environment). Its a cross platform webservice that gives you the ability to store files in the “cloud” and access them from anywhere, Sync those files with your desktop (like Dropbox) You can share your files with friends and access them using mobile clients on Android and IOS devices or a simple browser window.

Don’t trust the cloud with your Calendar and contacts ? Owncloud takes care of that too. Manage your contacts and calendars straight from Owncloud or sync them up with your mobile devices using open standards like .vcard and caldav. 

Tired of the tracks on Groovebox or spotify ? Would you like to stream your music (and movies) from your own hard drive at home ? Owncloud even has an answer for that. The built in media player lets you access your library from anywhere as long as you sport at least a browser (AND some underwear .. Owncloud is classy like that).

Want to tie all of your different cloud services together ? Owncloud supports connecting external storage to the service (like network and usb drives) but can also connect to Dropbox and Google Docs, offering ALL those files up in one simple interface.

So what does it take ? 

Installing Owncloud is pretty simple. All you need is a linux server and you can choose to install Owncloud either from the repositories (if you are using Ubuntu or Debian) or you can go and download version 6 straight from their website. 

Owncloud is based on a web based server so you can access everything from port 80 and add some security by choosing to go for https to do your authentication (highly recommended).  You can run it on your server at home OR on a webspace you rented somewhere (or if you are really lucking on your own hosted server in some datacenter). You don’t need a lot of power, but Owncloud does need some ram and some cpu power if it is going to manage and index thousands of files for you.

So how do I do it.

Find out more.

In all , Owncloud is a very powerful solution when it comes to hosting stuff yourself. It has come a long way since version 6 and I have been a big fan of the convenience, the cross platform compatible-ness (is that a word ?) and the sheer power of integrating multiple storage locations (usb drives, network drives, cloud storage) to ONE single web interface. Try it .. you’ll be on cloud 9.

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Server week : Why not “roll your own private little cloud”.

Cloud services. We love them ! All you need to do is hand over your email address, use the same password you have everywhere and sito presto : Before you know it you are using yet another free service that does whatever you require. From handling your email, to storing your documents, from chatting with your friends to keeping track of all the Care-Bear stuff you track on line .. there is a cloud service for everything.

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We are not always the customer, sometimes we are the product.

What most of us forget is that, unless you are paying for said service, you are not a customer, but a product. If your free cloud service has any plans about staying in business and paying that giant hosting bill for that ‘free storage’, it’ll better have a business plan. Most cloud services make money by selling you adds that you click on. The people who PLACE the adds are the actual customers of the service ..  YOU .. are the product. This might not be true with a paid service ( Another way of working for a cloud service might be to get you hooked with a free account and then make you UPGRADE into a subscription plan). So if you are using that favourite cloud service of yours, ask yourself : Am I ok with being “The Product” ?

Just “Who IS” the cloud ?

Behind every fancy logo or snazzy name is a company. That company can be  a multi brazillian dollar company who buys up instant messaging clients for sixteen billion the way you buy new socks. It might also be two crummy guys sitting in their moms basement remote controlling their servers somewhere else. You  only see the flashy logo,  you never read the terms of service (just click agree-agree-agree) and have no idea of who might be looking at your data. Who knows you may have signed over the creative rights of your summer snapshots to the cloud company that turns it into a “Free online picture-slideshow”.. because you never read the terms of service.  And for the sake of argument : What if there is a problem you can’t fix ? Who are you gonna call … Chances are you will probably get to talk to the REAL Ghostbusters before you get a living person on the other end of the line at your “free cloud service”.  So are you safe ? Is the data yours ? What happens if the bubble bursts and the service goes away  ? 

So what if you rolled your own ?

If you make it really simple you can say that cloud services are just servers running on applications. ( But they are actually spread out on servers all over the world and are optimised for coping with a LOT of simultaneous users). But what if you don’t need that ? What if its just you and your dog using them ? Then you could basically run them yourself right ?  The answer is : YES. It takes some tinkering and having at least one machine that is online for most of the time to make sure your “private cloud” is accessible but aside from a little patience, a spare machine and an internet connection, its about ALL you need.

I don’t trust cloudy skies.

This week we boldly choose to chose “DISAGREE” on the terms of service of the cloud providers, we decide NOT to trust their free business model and we venture out on our own little geeky adventure : Rolling our own private cloud. The luxury of a cloud service, but being run on your own hardware, in your own home (or on YOUR webspace) with YOU in control. We will try to show you some great examples of just how much fun you can have while being your personal cloud provider. Most if not all services we will setup can be hosted on a Linux virtual machine and are accessible from any operating system (or device) that is capable of connecting to the internet.

Enjoy.

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