Personal cloud storage

Last fall, shortly after starting grad school, I decided I didn’t want to use the cloud storage options offered by my university. The university is in the middle of a transition from Box to Microsoft OneDrive, so while I’ve had years of working with Box and understood it pretty well, at the beginning of the fall semester, I still hadn’t become accustomed to OneDrive. Aside from this, one of the main reasons I didn’t want to use either was cost. While the university offers OneDrive for free, if I left the university I’d worry about having to pay for storing everything online. Still, I like the idea of cloud storage, and having my stuff accessible at work and at home. Because of this, it wasn’t long before I began looking at personal cloud storage options. My reasoning is that I’m already paying for hosting for my websites, it should be possible to store my files on the same server.

There are a few options when it comes to personal cloud storage, though the two main ones I looked at were ownCloud and Nextcloud. From what I’ve read, ownCloud has been around longer, but some of the developers left at some point and started Nextcloud. Both of them are still in development, but ownCloud is mainly intended for corporations, while Nextcloud is intended for personal and corporate use. The differences seemed minor, so I ended up going with Nextcloud. I downloaded it and was able to get it installed on my host’s server [1]. After that I downloaded the Nextcloud clients and installed them on my devices. It went pretty well for a few months, then sometime in December I started noticing a bunch of errors and it wasn’t working correctly. I tried uninstalling it from the server and re-installing it, but it didn’t fix the issue. i tried uninstalling and re-installing the client apps, too, but it didn’t help. This left me looking for a different solution.

A few days ago, I discovered Syncthing, which doesn’t appear to use the cloud at all. Instead, you install the Syncthing client on your devices and it assigns each device a unique ID. In the client on each device, you enter the IDs of the other devices, and setup the folders you want to use for sharing. It’s pretty ingenious. However, because I’ve only been using it for a few days, I’m not going to recommend it at this point.

Before I started having problems with Nextcloud, I was working on a post about that. Since I wasn’t able to resolve them, I’m glad I held off publishing it. So far, Syncthing seems to be working pretty well, but since my experience has been pretty limited, I want to wait before recommending it. Maybe I’ll write something up in a few months.

In the meantime, I recommend using cloud storage (or an alternative like Syncthing or a USB drive) to store your work while in college. It’s very convenient having files on your computer, but it’s unfathomably terrible when they’re lost because they aren’t backed up. A recent article at Ars Technica describes how a university accidentally deleted files for thousands of students, faculty, and staff. Some people lost years worth of work. In my day job as a computer technician, I’ve seen people lose files because their computer died and they didn’t store them on the server (despite me telling them to do so). It’s hard to describe the feeling when a project you’ve been working on for months is wiped away because of a faulty hard drive. Don’t let it happen to you. Make sure to keep your files backed up on a USB drive, or cloud storage, or synced among different devices with software like Syncthing. If your computer dies, your files will still be safe.

1 Yes, I pay for hosting for my websites, but since I’m already paying for this, I wanted to avoid the additional expense of a cloud hosting provider like Box or OneDrive.

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