Personal Cloud Storage

If you want to store your files in the cloud, you can choose from dozens of services. Most of them will get the job done for the average person or family. Getting these services set up is straightforward and doesn’t require using any additional hosting platform, as the cloud storage company has already allocated server space for its customers.

Creating a DIY cloud storage solution is more complicated, but it gives you control over where your files are stored, how they’re accessed and your level of security. DIY storage is also great for large companies because many of these services have options for HIPAA compliance and LDAP/Active Directory.

If you’ve ever thought about creating your own DIY personal cloud storage, we’ve put together a guide to walk you through the options with the best features and security. If you don’t know what personal cloud storage is, read on to find out if it’s for you.

If you’d rather skip the extra work and store your files with a traditional cloud storage service or physical media, check out our guide to the best external hard drives and our Western Digital My Cloud review, where we’ve tested and ranked the best alternatives to DIY cloud storage.

What Is Personal Cloud Storage?

Personal cloud storage software lets you store your files in the cloud with more control than traditional cloud storage. You generally access your personal cloud using a sync folder on your device, like you do with Google Drive or pCloud

Unlike Google Drive, though, a DIY system often requires cloud hosting. Follow our best web hosting guide to find out how to pick the best option for you.

The Best Personal Cloud Storage

  1. Nextcloud — Plans for everyone, free cloud storage, Nextcloud Hub
  2. ownCloud — Easy to use, free storage space, “delta sync” feature
  3. Seafile — Open source, easy to use, straightforward pricing
  4. Pydio —  Streamlined chat, Pydio Cells
  5. Resilio — P2P, lots of plan options

How Does Personal Cloud Storage Work?

Personal cloud storage works by connecting a DIY cloud storage service, like Nextcloud, to a hosting platform. The DIY service provides a user interface for managing your files in the cloud. This gives you control over things like how much you’ll pay and features you can use. For even more control, you can install most of our DIY options on your own hardware, rather than an online hosting platform.

While most cloud storage plans just involve choosing how much storage you want, DIY cloud storage gives you control over your bandwidth, the resources that are allocated to your server space, your level of security and more.

Although this may sound confusing, we’ve picked the best cloud storage options with the softest learning curve so that you can feel confident in the service you choose from our guide.

How to Set Up Personal Cloud Storage

Setting up DIY cloud storage varies depending on the hosting service you’re using. For example, if you want to install your cloud service on a NAS device, you won’t be setting up a virtual server because you already own the hardware. 

If you’re setting up a VPS, or virtual private server, you’ll select your plan and hardware, and from there the setup isn’t too different from other cloud storage solutions.

Is Personal Cloud Storage Safe?

As a rule in our reviews, we recommend only the services that provide strong security for every user. The DIY solutions that we’ve listed offer security that is on par with traditional cloud storage providers, and in some cases, better security because they’re prepared to serve millions of clients.

1. Nextcloud

Nextcloud tops our list as the best DIY cloud storage solution because of how simple it is to use and because of Nextcloud Hub, a content collaboration platform that includes messaging and shared calendars among other things.

It has options for everyone, a simple interface, great security and multiple ways to install and use the service. If you’re using another cloud storage service and want more control over your storage, we recommend Nextcloud.

nextcloud-demo

Nextcloud goes above and beyond to make sure that the service is accessible to everyone, from less tech-savvy users to businesses. The easiest way to use Nextcloud is by signing up with one of its providers using your email address. These accounts are preconfigured with Nextcloud so all you have to do is select the provider and make a password.

Each Nextcloud hosting provider displays how much free storage it offers. We found free options ranging from 2GB to 8GB of storage, the latter of which is comparable to many traditional cloud storage services. Plus, the setup is easy, making it a great option if you’re coming from a service like pCloud. Learn more about pCloud in our full pCloud review.

If your needs are tailored more toward business, there’s also Nextcloud Enterprise, which supports anywhere from 50 to 10 million users, has business-class customer service and supports office software in the form of Collabora Online and OnlyOffice.

Nextcloud Enterprise comes in three different plans. The Basic plan starts at just over $2,000 per year for 50 users and $3,600 per year for 100 users. It offers low-tier email support and the Outlook add-on. You also get mobile and desktop clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS, migration support and a one-year maintenance life cycle.

The Standard plan starts at just over $3,600 per year for 50 users and $6,600 per year for 100 users. It offers a three-year maintenance life cycle, better support and access to Collabora and OnlyOffice. You can also add custom branding to your Nextcloud.

The Premium plan runs just over $5,300 per year for 50 users or $9,600 per year for 100 users. It includes everything from the previous plan plus 24/7 phone and email support, a better maintenance life cycle and scalability. All plans support up to 10 million users if your business requires it, and you can start the process by requesting an offer.

PlanPrice:Features:Optional Features:
Basic:About $2,000 per year for 50 users
About $3,600 per year for 100 users
Maintenance life cycle: 1 year
Early security & stability patches
Reaction time: 3 business days
Portal support
Migration support
Email support
Outlook add-on
Standard:About $3,600 per year for 50 users
About $6,600 per year for 100 users
Maintenance life cycle: 3 years
Early security & stability patches
Reaction time: 2 business days
Portal support
Migration support
Email support: business hours
Phone support: business hours
Custom consulting
Installation advice
Outlook add-on
Collabora Online
OnlyOffice
Branding
Premium:About $5,300 per year for 50 users
About $9,600 per year for 100 users
Maintenance life cycle: 5+5 years
Early security & stability patches
Reaction time: 1h, 4h, 12h or 24h
Portal support
Migration support
Email support: up to 24/7
Phone support: up to 24/7
Custom consulting
Installation advice
Upgrade stand-by support
Clustering support
Optional SLA on fixes
Outlook add-on
Collabora online
OnlyOffice
Branding
Global scale

Finally, you can run Nextcloud on hardware that you can find through Nextcloud’s website or your own hardware, putting control of storage and security entirely in your hands. Nextcloud even has a “security scan” tool that will help you find places where your system’s security could be improved, if you chose to go this route.

Nextcloud’s security is as comprehensive as the rest of the service. It’s compliant with HIPAA and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Nextcloud secures your files in transfer with the SSL/TLS protocol and at rest with AES 256-bit encryption. If an attacker has access to your password, there is also support for two-factor authentication.

Lastly, Nextcloud supports zero-knowledge encryption so that your files can’t be accessed by someone at Nextcloud. However, zero-knowledge encryption has to be applied to individual folders with Nextcloud. If this sounds like a hassle, you can also check out our guide to the best zero-knowledge cloud storage of 2020 for alternatives.

Other Things We Like About Nextcloud

Nextcloud Hub, its content collaboration platform, offers chat, office collaboration, file access, shared calendar and more, all in the same place. It’s streamlined and the interface is generally easy to navigate. We really appreciate that there’s a Nextcloud setup for pretty much any user or company, with any level of skill or budget.

One thing that we didn’t like about Nextcloud is that many of its services have additional costs, and it can be a bit confusing trying to find out what the ultimate price of your setup will be on your own. Thankfully, Nextcloud recognizes that fact, and their paid plans require a consultation.

Pros:

  • Easy setup for individuals
  • Several plan options
  • Free plan
  • Nextcloud Hub
  • Open source

Cons:

  • Website material can be confusing
  • No “delta sync” feature

2. ownCloud

ownCloud is our number two entry because of its simple interface and functionality similar to Nextcloud. In fact, Nextcloud split from ownCloud in 2016 because Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud’s original creator, felt there was a “need to strengthen the community,” among other reasons, and started Nextcloud. In spite of this, ownCloud is still a great option to consider.

Getting set up with ownCloud is similar to Nextcloud in that you can get going with an ownCloud hosting partner, with ownCloud directly, or install on your own hardware. ownCloud is open source like Nextcloud, so the base software is free to download and install however you choose.

Finding an ownCloud partner is pretty much the same process as with Nextcloud. ownCloud has a page that lists its available hosting partners and the type of user that is best for each service. Unfortunately, you don’t have an easy way to see what kind of storage you can get with each partner, as you do with Nextcloud, so you’ll have to do some digging here to find what you want.

Aside from ownCloud’s hosting partners, you can also sign up for ownCloud Online or ownCloud Enterprise. ownCloud Online has two different plans. The individual plan runs around $20 per month, or just over $16 per month when paid yearly. This plan offers password-protected file sharing and sharing permissions, plus a free mobile app and desktop client for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux.

The Team plan costs about $19 per month per user, or just over $14 per month per user on a yearly plan, and it requires a minimum of five users.

Everything in the Individual plan is included in the Team plan, plus you get zero-knowledge encryption and can use the “managed groups” feature and create guest accounts.

ownCloud’s enterprise plans are designed for small business, teams or groups of 50 or more members, and it offers three plans. The Standard plan starts at $3,600 per year for 50 users, and it includes password-protected sharing links, custom groups and access to ownCloud’s marketplace of apps. You also get 24-hour reaction time to support requests.

The Enterprise plan starts at $9,000 per year for 50 users and includes everything from the Standard plan, plus mobile apps that can be custom branded. You also get the Outlook plugin, collaboration features, SharePoint integration and two-hour reaction time to support requests.

The Custom plan is for companies that have more than 10,000 employees, and it requires a direct quote to get any pricing information. It includes everything in the previous two plans, plus federated cloud sharing and enhanced security and syncing. You can get started with any plan by requesting a quote.

PlanPrice:Features:
For Single Users:About $20 per user per month
1-4 users
500GB of secure cloud storage
Sharing & collaboration tools
Password protected file sharing
Sharing permissions
Mobile & desktop client
For Teams:About $19 per user per month
5+ users
500GB of secure cloud storage
Sharing & collaboration tools
Password protected file sharing
Sharing permissions
Mobile & desktop client
Zero-knowledge encryption
Managed groups
Guest accounts
Standard Subscription:Starting at $3,750 per year for 50 users
Discounts available for accounts with over 100 users
Requires quote
File drop for external users
Mobile & desktop client
Integrates Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3
GDPR compliant
Enterprise Subscription:Starting at $9,000 per year for 50 users
(discounts available for accounts with over 100 users)
Requires a quote
User & file level permissions
Audit log
SSO
LDAP/AD
Custom Subscription:Custom pricing available for accounts with over 10,000 usersAll features from Enterprise
Federated cloud sharing

Security with ownCloud is not lacking. Users can enjoy multi-factor authentication and zero-knowledge encryption to protect your data from ownCloud itself. ownCloud also offers ransomware protection, and it says that it does regular security audits on its code.

Other Things We Like About ownCloud

ownCloud is very similar to Nextcloud in many ways. The interface and core features are both very easy to navigate, and signing up with either service is a breeze. However, Nextcloud makes it super easy to get started, including making it easy to find free options, while ownCloud’s signup process is a bit more involved.

However, we also like that ownCloud implements “delta sync,” a feature that syncs only the changes made to a file instead of the entire file. This is a huge timesaver when working with large files, like videos.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Lots of plan options
  • Delta sync feature
  • Open-source

Cons:

  • Costly enterprise plans

3. Seafile

Seafile — like oneCloud and Nextcloud — is an open-source cloud storage solution with a super straightforward interface. Seafile also partners with hosting platforms, like both our top two picks, though it has far fewer partners. Still, it’s a good option, considering its ability to sync small files very quickly.

First, you can install Seafile on a private server if you want to have complete control over your system. Unfortunately, Seafile reserves the majority of its features for its pro users. However, Seafile’s pricing is straightforward, and it’s easy to understand exactly what you’re getting.

If you choose to download the Community edition, you’ll get multi-platform sync, access to the mobile app, version control, LDAP, SSO authentication and two-factor authentication. You can also use the “selective sync” feature to choose which subfolders do and don’t sync between devices.

Seafile’s Pro plans are a little different than the rest of the services on this list. Each plan is priced based on the number of users you’ll need, while the features are the same across the board. 

Seafile’s Pro plans include everything from the Community edition, plus file locking, remote wipe, full text file search, as well as online preview for Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel files.

Seafile’s pricing is free for three users or fewer, $100 per year for nine users and $48 per year per user for 10 to 249 users. The plan gets increasingly less expensive the more users you have. If your company includes 1,000 or more employees, you must contact Seafile for a customized quote. Seafile also provides hefty discounts to educational institutions.

Number of Users:Price:Features:
3 users
9 users
10-249 users
250-499 users
500-749 users
750-999 users
1000+ users
Free
$100 per year
$48 per user per year
$44 per user per year
$40 per user per year
$35 per user per yea
Contact Seafile for a quote
Multi-platform file sync
Mobile client
Virtual drive client
LDAP/AD
Two-factor authentication
Full text file search
Audit log
Scalability
SSO
Version control
Multi-platform file sync

Other Things We Like About Seafile

Seafile takes a unique approach to syncing small files. Instead of moving the entire file, Seafile will break up the file into chunks to move it more quickly. Theoretically, this allows you to move many small files at a quicker pace than other services.

Even though Seafile’s app database isn’t as robust as Nextcloud or ownCloud, we also like that Seafile supports integration with Microsoft Office Online and Collabora for editing files online.

One thing that we didn’t like was that the Pro subscriptions don’t come with full support packages, which must be purchased separately.

Pros:

  • Open source
  • Straightforward pricing
  • Easy-to-use interface

Cons:

  • Additional support costs
  • Small app selection
  • The Community edition is basic
  • Support costs extra

4. Pydio

Pydio, formerly AjaXplorer, has a steeper learning curve than its competitors, but several of its useful features make it a solid option for collaboration and communication. Pydio Cells, the current version of the software, uses “cells” as shared folders that let you do more than just upload and access content.

Pydio puts a focus on collaboration with cells. These are not only spaces where you can share files, but each cell is its own team space with extra functionality. Each cell has its own permissions and its own space to upload documents. Pydio is also compatible with add-ons like OnlyOffice and Collabora so you can manage documents natively.

Pydio comes in two varieties: Home Edition and Enterprise. Home Edition is open source and available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It is entirely self-managed, for those who want to run it on their own hardware.

Pydio Enterprise is also available for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as OVF and VMware ESXi. Enterprise gives you enhanced management features and unlimited level-three support. You have to contact Pydio for a custom Enterprise quote, though they do provide some example pricing.

Pydio supports SSL/TLS as well as AES 256-bit encryption. LDAP is available for authentication, and Pydio is also configurable to meet HIPAA and GDPR compliance standards, if you’re in a field like healthcare.

Other Things We Like About Pydio

Pydio’s interface offers an integrated chat system that is easy to access and use, which adds to your collaborative experience instead of being confusing or drawing you away from your workspace. Each cell has its own chat, accessible only by members of that cell so that conversations stay relevant to each project.

Although Pydio does have some useful features, it offers fewer add-ons than its competition, and it isn’t as versatile, meaning that it won’t suit every user. Still, if your group or company requires streamlined communication and office collaboration, Pydio is worth a look.

Pros:

  • Streamlined chat interface
  • Collaboration
  • Decent security

Cons:

  • Limited features
  • Limited add-ons

5. Resilio

Resilio is unique, compared to the rest of our recommendations. Instead of using one server to store and access content, Resilio syncs your content across your devices in a peer-to-peer system. If you’re familiar with torrenting, you’ve likely used services that work similarly.

Resilio allows you to choose what does and doesn’t get synced with “selective sync,” and you can even see the files that you haven’t chosen to sync, similar to Dropbox’s “smart sync” feature. Folders also have permissions, and there are clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.

Despite being a different type of DIY cloud storage service, Resilio has good security, and it offers end-to-end encryption and AES 128-bit encryption. Resilio also points out that, because it is a peer-to-peer system, there are no passwords to be stolen, cloud to be hacked and no web-based access or file previews.

Resilio is not open source, though it does offer several well-priced packages. There is Sync Home for standard users, as well as Sync Business and Resilio Connect. 

Sync Home has three plans and starts with Sync Home for personal use. This plan costs $59.90 — a one-time payment — and syncs all of your devices. Sync Family is $99.90 and adds support for up to five family members. Lastly, there’s Sync Business, which starts at $30 per month. It has premium support and multi-user plans, and is approved for business use.

There’s also Sync Business for teams, which starts at $6 per user per month for 5 to 15 users, $10 per user per month for 20 to 50 users and $12 per user per month for 60 to 140 users. These plans include enhanced file management and licensing for multiple servers.

Number of Users:Price:Features:
5-15 users$6 per user per monthUnlimited data
End-to-end encryption
File-level deduplication
20-50 users$10 per user per month
License for 1 server
Unlimited data
End-to-end encryption
File-level deduplication
60-140 users$12 per user per monthLicense for 2 servers
Unlimited data
End-to-end encryption
File level deduplication

Resilio also offers Resilio Connect for enterprise users, which requires you to contact Resilio for a quote.

Other Things We Like About Resilio

Resilio isn’t a complete DIY cloud setup, and so we weren’t able to rank it higher. Still, Resilio offers a unique approach to cloud storage, and the one-time plan costs for individuals and families make it a compelling service for someone with a NAS device or someone primarily concerned with sharing content.

If you want to learn more about NAS and aren’t sure where to get started, we’ve prepared a NAS guide to answer some common questions in depth. You can also check out our guide on how to secure network-attached storage.

Pros:

  • P2P file sharing approach
  • No size limits
  • Selective sync
  • Several plan options

Cons:

  • No add-ons
  • No server support

Final Thoughts

Traditional cloud storage is a quick, convenient solution to storage woes, such as a busted hard drive. Most have free plans, and even the monthly or yearly plans are often affordable. Unfortunately, your data is not entirely in your hands, and some of the companies that manage your storage have been known to spy or to participate in government conspiracies.

DIY storage is a solution that is as flexible as you are and can be installed, in most cases, on your own hardware that you can control. Because of this, DIY cloud storage is more complex, though not for the faint of heart, and the reward for your own setup is the peace of mind that you know everything that happens to your storage.

If you want to skip DIY and use traditional cloud storage, we recommend Sync.com, which is our favorite storage service. It has great security and a good selection of plans, plus it’s easy to use. You can read more about the service in our full Sync.com review.

As always we love to hear from you. Have you been waiting to pull the trigger on your DIY cloud storage system, or are you using a personal cloud storage device, like the WD My Cloud, or traditional cloud storage, like Google Drive or iCloud? Let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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5 thoughts on “Personal Cloud Storage: Best DIY Options for 2020”

  1. hI,
    I need a cloud where I can install a software on which should be available online., while I shut down my laptop when traveling. What is your recommendation

      1. I mean both (I think). I wish I can use it for gaming. I tried Real VNC but latency and screen definition aren’t satisfying me.

  2. Hi I wanted to store reporting data in pdf format in the cloud and to be more secure. Can you suggest what type best DIY cloud storage i should use.

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