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Nextcloud - a free alternative to Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive you can run on your own home server


Grumpy Owl

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While such cloud services are 'nice' to have as a place to store files as a 'backup' or for sharing with others, you'll often find that the 'free' versions come with limitations, usually the amount of storage space you have.

 

Also while these services are encrypted and secure, there are still question marks surrounding just how secure your data is, after all 'cloud computing' is just a fancy term for disk space on servers in huge datacentres.

 

I discovered NextCloud a few years ago now, an open-source alternative to Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive etc, we use it at work and it is very good - we have it running on a hosted virtual private server (VPS).

 

Being open-source the software itself is free, and this also means that you can freely install it on any (compatible) hardware of your choosing, including your own computer at home. There are desktop and mobile client apps available, so like Dropbox you can store and use your files as if they were on your own hard drive.

 

I've been meaning to have a go at doing this myself for personal use for some time, and today I finally cracked it!

 

I'd bought one of these little Intel NUC11 boxes, and equipped it with some RAM and a 2TB nvME drive so I had a good bit of usable storage space.

 

While this lot came to just under £350, there's nothing to stop you from using some older PC system - Linux doesn't have the same demanding hardware requirements as newer Windows versions do!

 

It was as straightforward as installing Ubuntu Server from a bootable USB drive, and then during installation opting to install the 'snap' of NextCloud.

 

At this point, I already had a domain name with a CNAME record pointing to my IP address here at home, so once installation was complete, and the system rebooted, I was able to access and set up Nextcloud straightaway from my browser, after forwarding the 80 and 443 ports in my router.

 

There were a couple of 'tweaks' that had to be made so that I could access securely via HTTPS, but I now have my own private secured NextCloud instance running on my own little server here at home. And as long as there is an internet connection here, I can also access the files stored on that server from my laptop wherever I am, thanks to the NextCloud client desktop app.

 

It's also a great way of securely sharing files with others, especially larger ones that can't be sent via email, as I can just send a shareable link instead, so no need for other third-parties such as WeTransfer.

 

Drawbacks and limitations

 

Obviously hosting a server at home will mean that file transfer speeds will be limited by your own broadband connection, and the upload rates provided by your ISP, so don't expect things to be as fast as Dropbox, OneDrive et al. But I intend this for personal use, and maybe shared with a small handful of people I know, so shouldn't be an issue.

 

If your ISP doesn't allocate you a static IP address, then you'll need to make use of a 'dynamic DNS' service, so your chosen domain name doesn't lose connection and go 'offline'.

 

 

Anyone else here tried anything like this? External hard drives are probably a simpler way of backing up data from your own computer, but you might not want to always carry them around with you!

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On 7/22/2023 at 6:56 PM, Grumpy Owl said:

While such cloud services are 'nice' to have as a place to store files as a 'backup' or for sharing with others, you'll often find that the 'free' versions come with limitations, usually the amount of storage space you have.

 

Also while these services are encrypted and secure, there are still question marks surrounding just how secure your data is, after all 'cloud computing' is just a fancy term for disk space on servers in huge datacentres.

 

I discovered NextCloud a few years ago now, an open-source alternative to Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive etc, we use it at work and it is very good - we have it running on a hosted virtual private server (VPS).

 

Being open-source the software itself is free, and this also means that you can freely install it on any (compatible) hardware of your choosing, including your own computer at home. There are desktop and mobile client apps available, so like Dropbox you can store and use your files as if they were on your own hard drive.

 

I've been meaning to have a go at doing this myself for personal use for some time, and today I finally cracked it!

 

I'd bought one of these little Intel NUC11 boxes, and equipped it with some RAM and a 2TB nvME drive so I had a good bit of usable storage space.

 

While this lot came to just under £350, there's nothing to stop you from using some older PC system - Linux doesn't have the same demanding hardware requirements as newer Windows versions do!

 

It was as straightforward as installing Ubuntu Server from a bootable USB drive, and then during installation opting to install the 'snap' of NextCloud.

 

At this point, I already had a domain name with a CNAME record pointing to my IP address here at home, so once installation was complete, and the system rebooted, I was able to access and set up Nextcloud straightaway from my browser, after forwarding the 80 and 443 ports in my router.

 

There were a couple of 'tweaks' that had to be made so that I could access securely via HTTPS, but I now have my own private secured NextCloud instance running on my own little server here at home. And as long as there is an internet connection here, I can also access the files stored on that server from my laptop wherever I am, thanks to the NextCloud client desktop app.

 

It's also a great way of securely sharing files with others, especially larger ones that can't be sent via email, as I can just send a shareable link instead, so no need for other third-parties such as WeTransfer.

 

Drawbacks and limitations

 

Obviously hosting a server at home will mean that file transfer speeds will be limited by your own broadband connection, and the upload rates provided by your ISP, so don't expect things to be as fast as Dropbox, OneDrive et al. But I intend this for personal use, and maybe shared with a small handful of people I know, so shouldn't be an issue.

 

If your ISP doesn't allocate you a static IP address, then you'll need to make use of a 'dynamic DNS' service, so your chosen domain name doesn't lose connection and go 'offline'.

 

 

Anyone else here tried anything like this? External hard drives are probably a simpler way of backing up data from your own computer, but you might not want to always carry them around with you!

I just run regular backups to external drives (three generations) and VPN (or use another type of remote access) to get to my files from elsewhere. But I don't let anyone else have my files. I would never allow remote access to ports 80 or 443 - better to use a less usual port and use the firewall to forward it. Been doing it for at least 20 years.

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19 hours ago, k_j_evans said:

I would never allow remote access to ports 80 or 443 - better to use a less usual port and use the firewall to forward it. Been doing it for at least 20 years.

 

I get where you're coming from, but those two ports are only for accessing the webserver (80 for HTTP or 443 for HTTPS), so you can run a website from your own computer.

 

NextCloud's data directory - where the files are stored - is 'outside' of the root WWW/HTML webserver folder, so can't be accessed using any 'direct' URL, therefore almost impossible to get at any files that way. You need to login to Nextcloud to be able to do anything, or to access any files.

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4 hours ago, Grumpy Owl said:

 

I get where you're coming from, but those two ports are only for accessing the webserver (80 for HTTP or 443 for HTTPS), so you can run a website from your own computer.

 

NextCloud's data directory - where the files are stored - is 'outside' of the root WWW/HTML webserver folder, so can't be accessed using any 'direct' URL, therefore almost impossible to get at any files that way. You need to login to Nextcloud to be able to do anything, or to access any files.

But if those ports are open, you'll get a lot of annoying brute force password-guessing attacks, which will slow everything down.

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  • 6 months later...
On 2/23/2024 at 11:23 PM, Martin1234 said:

I run a nas drive and can access that from anywhere.

 

I leave a PC on all the time and can access it via Google remote. Basically I can use my full network at home over a mobile phone. Easy to set it all up.

 

Yes, NAS (network attached storage) drives are quite popular, and many can be configured so you can access them remotely.

 

I've not come across Google Remote before to be honest, though if it's by Google then I'd instantly distrust it.

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On 2/25/2024 at 5:44 PM, Grumpy Owl said:

 

Yes, NAS (network attached storage) drives are quite popular, and many can be configured so you can access them remotely.

 

I've not come across Google Remote before to be honest, though if it's by Google then I'd instantly distrust it.

 

I know what you mean about Google. I have everything on their ecosystem so they are making loads fun tracking what I do 😞

 

The remote desktop is good. Third party solutions do exist.

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My nas is an enclosure. You add your own sata disks to it. There is space for 2 and they can run in raid.

 

It's a Netgear one, runs a Linux based os. I bought it to store pirate films on years ago, but then hardly used it as I discovered Kodi! It's a good bit of kit, never let me down.

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21 hours ago, Martin1234 said:

 

I know what you mean about Google. I have everything on their ecosystem so they are making loads fun tracking what I do 😞

 

The remote desktop is good. Third party solutions do exist.

 

For Windows, you may as well use its own Remote Desktop Connection app, it's a direct connection and not being routed through any other third-party.

 

For security reasons though, it is best to change the default listening port (don't use 3389!), and set up port forwarding correctly in your router, as well as use a strong password.

 

At home, my PC runs Linux, and I use the Remmina client to connect remotely to my Windows PC at work when I'm working at home. It's almost like having two PCs!

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i've got a synology nas

i store all my mp3's on it and can stream songs through my phone.

 

years ago i had a pogoplug which was awesome

plug a usb drive into it, store your music and stream through the app

like most things shut down after a few years

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On 2/27/2024 at 7:52 PM, Grumpy Owl said:

 

For Windows, you may as well use its own Remote Desktop Connection app, it's a direct connection and not being routed through any other third-party.

 

For security reasons though, it is best to change the default listening port (don't use 3389!), and set up port forwarding correctly in your router, as well as use a strong password.

 

At home, my PC runs Linux, and I use the Remmina client to connect remotely to my Windows PC at work when I'm working at home. It's almost like having two PCs!

 

Thanks for that. I never even knew that existed!

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8 minutes ago, Martin1234 said:

 

Thanks for that. I never even knew that existed!

 

I just remembered, remote desktop access is only possible with the Professional Windows editions, if you have a Windows Home edition, you wouldn't be able to access it remotely.

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On 2/29/2024 at 10:06 PM, Grumpy Owl said:

 

I just remembered, remote desktop access is only possible with the Professional Windows editions, if you have a Windows Home edition, you wouldn't be able to access it remotely.

Yeah I have pro. Got it off the pirate bay as I never give Microsoft a penny 🤣👍🏼👍🏼

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On 2/29/2024 at 9:57 PM, Martin1234 said:

 

Thanks for that. I never even knew that existed!

Or you can just use one of the many free VNC incarnations, or OpenVPN (If you have a router or a NAS with a VPN endpoint) or Remote Utils or one of the many other free remote control doodahs

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