Self-Hosted Cloud Storage: The Plan

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Update: Shortly after writing this entry, I discovered Seafile. I had to scale my plans back. Most of the software I looked at did not scale well to the hundreds of thousands of files in my home directory, especially when some of those files are changing several times each minute. I have been using Seafile for a few weeks, and so far I am very happy with the results.

Almost two months ago, I looked into the idea of replacing Dropbox. No single piece of software was able to meet my needs. Since then, I’ve put some thought into what my goals are. It looks like I will be able to meet the majority of my requirements by combining two or three different pieces of software.

The goals

I want to synchronize the contents of my 25 GB home directory between multiple locations. I would like to be able to replace my existing backup plan with one of these synced copies. That means at least one location has to have file versioning or snapshotting. If I want to be able to eliminate my existing backup plan, at least one of these copies has to be stored securely off-site.

I need a convenient way to share files. I can easily share entire directories using Dropbox, even if the recipient only has a web browser.

I am most definitely addicted to Dropbox’s Android app. Automatically uploading photos is extremely handy. I will most definitely need to be able to replicate this functionality.

They all fall short of the goals

I could most likely meet all of these goals using Dropbox encrypts your data on the server side, and they have all the keys needed to look at your data.

SparkleShare and ownCloud can each meet the first two goals, but not without problems. You can encrypt your SparkleShare repository on the client-side, but then you won’t be able to share files. ownCloud has the automatic photo uploading covered on Android, but there are no plans to add client-side encryption to ownCloud.

BitTorrent Sync can easily and securely move my data around, but the data it moves around is stored unencrypted on each end. That means that you have to put a lot of trust in each endpoint.

My actual plans

I should be able to accomplish most of my goals with a combination of BitTorrent Sync and a snapshot-capable file system, like ZFS or btrfs.

Sync and back up my home directory

To start things off, I plan to synchronize my laptop’s entire home directory with my home file server. This will require some effort, and it will be a bit of a challenge. My file server does not currently have the capability of taking snapshots, and I don’t power it up 24/7 anymore.

I plan to have the server wake up long enough to sync up with my laptop once each day. After the syncing is finished, the server will record a snapshot and shut itself down. The hard drives will only have to spin for a few minutes each day, and it will still be easy to keep my home office cool during the upcoming Texas summer.

Around seven years ago, I replaced a small laptop and a bulky desktop computer with just a single laptop. I haven’t had a desktop computer since then, and I don’t know if I ever will again. Late last year, my friend Brian very nearly convinced me to build a desktop computer for myself. Having good, solid sync capability for my entire home directory would make it much easier to revert back to using two devices again.

Sharing files

I had originally planned to use ownCloud for this, but I thought of a simpler solution. I am going to create a directory called “Public” on my laptop, and I will use BitTorrent Sync to push it to a web server. That should cover nearly all of my random file sharing needs.

BitTorrent Sync has its own built-in, secure file-sharing system, but the recipient needs to have the BitTorrent Sync client installed in order to receive the files. This option isn’t ideal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up coming in handy every now and again.

Camera uploads

This is the other reason I had originally planned on supplementing BitTorrent Sync with ownCloud. The folks over at BitTorrent Labs had an ARM build of their client available since they launched, and there’s already an app in the Google Play store to install it for you.

I can probably get away with syncing the photos directly to a web server. The Titanium Backup backups of my phone and tablet are probably using most of my Dropbox and just sync that backup elsewhere.

Something is missing

That something is the off-site backup. I don’t have an ideal solution for this part of the problem yet. I will leave my existing rdiff-backup and Duplicity backups in place until I figure out a better plan.

What is the first step?

I will finally be home, in my own office, sitting in my own chair at my own desk in just under one week. When I get there, one of the first things I’ll have to do is find some spare disks to temporarily hold all the data on my file server. Then I can tear down the existing RAID 6 array, and replace it with a ZFS RAID-Z6 volume.

That is actually the hardest part. The rest should be easy, so stay tuned!

http://blog.patshead.com/2013/04/self-hosted-cloud-storage-solution-owncloud-vs-sparkleshare.html “Self-Hosted Cloud Storage Solutions: ownCloud vs. SparkleShare vs. BitTorrent Sync vs. Seafile”

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