Best DIY Cloud Storage Tools

obrBy Joseph Gildred — Last Updated: 18 Nov'17 2017-04-11T00:36:04+00:00

Whether you’re an ambitious techie concerned about privacy or just like a little more control over your cloud, you’ve landed in the right place. During this overview, Cloudwards.net will be shining the spotlight on our picks for the best DIY cloud storage tools available today.

Any and all of these tools will help you setup your own personal cloud storage. Not to be confused with personal cloud storage devices, the five tools outlined below are software only.

You’ll need to handle the hardware part on your own, either by investing in equipment or going with a virtual host. Alternatively, if you’re looking something much more simple, our overview of the best cloud storage solutions is the buyer’s guide you’re looking for.

DIY Cloud Storage Explained

DIY cloud storage is generally client-server software, either open source or proprietary, that lets you set up and maintain your own file-hosting network. Typically, you can set this network up on a physical server that you maintain yourself, or you can go with a virtual private server (VPS) like Digital Ocean if you’d rather not play sysadmin.

A few DIY cloud storage solutions can also be setup on NAS devices, or you could go with any of the options offered by our best web hosting providers.

Setup difficulty can vary dramatically from one option to the next, but the picks we’ve outlined below all make the process pretty easy even for relative laymen. Generally, that involves installing server software and then downloading client software for your home computers and mobile apps for your smartphones.

Client software usually works pretty similarly to what you get with Dropbox, Sync.com or other Dropbox alternatives. That generally means it will install a sync folder on your hard drive. Any folders or files dropped into this folder will get sent to your cloud storage space and then to any other devices with clients installed.

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Many DIY cloud storage tools also include web interfaces so you can get at your content through a supported browser. This saves you from having to install client software on computers that don’t belong to you. Browser-based software and mobile apps are also generally better suited to sharing files with others, which is another feature common to cloud storage tools.

overviewedncing your cloud capabilities. Popular apps include those designed for managing workflow, video conferencing and collaborating in real-time on documents.

Now that we’ve seen what DIY cloud storage tools are, let’s take a look at the top options available.

Nextcloud

Nextcloud is a maintained fork of the number two pick in this overview, ownCloud. A fork is basically a copy of a repository that lets developers evolve the original open source software, using it as a starting point.

The engineers of Nextcloud were Frank Karlitschek, the founder of ownCloud, and several of its core contributors. There’s a good deal of speculation around the purpose of the fork (not enough spooning?), much of which has to do with money: while both open source, ownCloud and Nextcloud generate revenue from enterprise software sales and are now direct competitors.

For Nextcloud, there are three enterprise price plans capable of accommodating anywhere from 50 to ten million users. For home or small business users just looking to run their own cloud network, though, you won’t need to pay a thing.

There are two software downloads you’ll need to set up your cloud: Nextcloud Server and a Nextcloud sync client. Nextcloud Server is designed to be downloaded and installed on your own server or a shared web server. Nextcloud also sells pre-configured hardware like Nextcloud Box, Spreedbox and Syncloud.

Once installed, use of your Nextcloud server requires installation of a sync client. Clients are available for computers running Windows, macOS and Linux, as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. You can also access your files from any compatible browser.

Nextcloud features we like include file sharing by link, which can be password protected for security, and the ability to generate upload links (Nextcloud calls this “file drop”) that let others save files to your cloud.  Nextcloud software also provides a list of what content has been shared so you don’t lose sight of it, lets you restore previous versions of files and permits file commenting.

Many of these features are common with good DIY cloud storage tools. The reason we picked Nextcloud as our top pick for this roundup is, in part, because it also includes a particularly good application library to broaden the experience.

Apps include video conferencing, workflow, text search and file conversion software, plus Collabora Online for document collaboration.

Since the release of Nextcloud 11, many users also report Nextcloud is much more stable than ownCloud. For security features, Nextcloud offers two-factor authentication, auditing tools, SSL/TLS data transfers, AES 256-bit encryption and custom key management.

ownCloud

When it comes to overall popularity, Nextcloud’s closest competitor is its progenitor, ownCloud. Like Nextcloud, ownCloud is an open source cloud storage tool backed by a strong community. In addition to its free software, its enterprise software remains very popular with businesses.

To get started with ownCloud, you’ll need to download and install its server-side software first. This can be done on your home server or you can rent virtual server space. ownCloud also has several public ownCloud providers you can choose from.

Desktop sync clients are available for Windows, macOS and Linux. Mobile clients are available for Android and iOS. Smartphone apps provide simple, user friendly experiences, with options like automatic photo upload. openCloud also lets you access your files through a browser interface.

ownCloud takes a secure approach to file sharing that includes password-protect links, automatic link expiration and mobile share notifications. File commenting, file tags, file edits and video conferencing capabilities help support collaboration.

Altogether, ownCloud has 250 apps available via a built-in app store, which includes password protection and music streaming options.  Calendar, contact and photo gallery apps are also available; so is ownCloud Documents, which lets you edit rich-text documents from within your browser.

Seafile

Seafile is another open-source, self-hosted cloud storage solution that profits from its business customers but lets you use its community edition for free. As a business solution it can go toe-to-toe with any of our best EFSS providers, albeit with far more tinkering.

When using Seafile, you can organize your files into separate libraries, and each individual library can be synced and shared. This setup, while providing ample customization, can be a bit confusing at first.

Sync clients are available for Windows, Mac and Linux, with mobile apps for Android and iOS. Seafile also features selective sync, so you can turn off sync for specific folders. If you’d rather not use a sync client, Seafile offers virtual-drive mapping, plus browser-based access. WebDAV support is also available.

Seafile provide excellent collaboration features, including integrations with Microsoft Office Online and Collabora Online. File versioning and sharing are also supported. When sharing files, users can lock content to prevent conflicts. Both file download and upload links can be generated, and links can be configured with password protection and automatic expiration dates.

Additional features of note include full text searches and data deduplication. Seafile doesn’t have the app library options that Nextcloud and ownCloud have, which make it a somewhat distant third.

However, we appreciate its ease of use and security options. Security features include folder snapshots for ransomware protection, client-side end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, virus scans, remote wipes and audit logs.

Cozy

The first three entries in this list were cloud storage solutions that put an emphasis on team collaboration, making them great for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Cozy takes a more personal approach to personal cloud storage, making it a great choice for individual users.

Its main approach is getting rid of many of the collaborative options available with other tools in favor of a simplified user experience. On top of that, Cozy is able to pull your personal data from other connected apps, including managing bank accounts and medical bills (putting it in the same playing field as some of our best accounting solutions).

Cozy can also be used to store passwords. While collaboration doesn’t take center stage, Cozy can still be used to share files by public link and email address from its mobile or browser apps. Calendar sharing isn’t available at this time.

As far as installation, you can install Cozy on your own Linux server or a virtual private server. Linux server installation is free, while virtual private server installation is free while Cozy is in beta. After beta, Cozy plans to charge a monthly fee for hosting.

What’s missing with Cozy are desktop apps like you get with Nextcloud, ownCloud and Seafile. Supposedly, Cozy is working on it, but the absence of a sync folder option might be a reason to consider the other options, especially since they’re all free. Additionally, at this time the only smartphone app offered is for Android; an iOS app is being worked on.

Another issue is that while Cozy encrypts connections using SSL/TLS, it doesn’t encrypt stored data, claiming this would negatively impact the user experience. This may be true in terms of indexing files, but other DIY cloud storage tools not only offer encryption, but end-to-end encryption as well.

Resilio

Despite not being free, Resilio is the poor man’s personal cloud storage network of this list. Unlike the four preceding picks, it doesn’t require a physical or virtual server. In fact, server support isn’t even an option, which may sound somewhat contrary to the idea of cloud storage.


 CostDetails
Sync Home:$59.99 (one-time fee)Personal use
Sync Family:$99.99 (one-time fee)Up to 5 users
Sync Business:Starting at $29Multi-user plans

Really, Resilio is better at syncing your desktop (Windows, macOS and Linux) and mobile apps (Android, iOS) than it is for lowering the load on your hard drive. However, while there’s no server option, Resilio can be installed on NAS devices.

With selective sync as an option, you can choose what content stays only on your NAS device and what is also stored on your computer. Resilio even uses selective sync placeholders just like Dropbox, which lets you still see files on your computer even if they’re not actually stored there.

Resilio also claims to be able to sync files faster than traditional cloud storage tools because it can bypass having to route through a remote server. Resilio can still be used to share content, too, either at the file or folder level. Folders can even be assigned to other users for management.

As of January, 2017, Resilio also supports folder encryption using 128-bit AES. Resilio also supports backup management for disaster recovery so you can take full advantage of your NAS device.

Conclusion

Setting up your own cloud storage network has its advantages. First of all, doing so might save you a bundle of money in recurring charges since there are many VPS solutions out there that offer more space for less money than traditional cloud storage options like Dropbox.

The bigger advantage, however, is control. By maintaining your own private cloud storage, you can avoid having to rely on services like that may scan your files or metadata. Additionally, you can customize your cloud storage solution to better meet your precise needs, including taking advantage in some cases of app libraries to add functionality.

We’ll end by noting that the personal cloud storage space is one that’s rapidly evolving along with the explosion of smart homes and Iot devices. We expect the available options for DIY techies to grow as a result.

If you have any tips of your own about new software or would like to share your own experiences setting up your own cloud storage network, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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