If the thought of building your own cloud storage doesn’t scare you, you’re in the right place. Building your own solution will give you more control over your cloud and you’ll protect your privacy better. In this overview, we’re going to discuss our picks for the best DIY cloud storage tools.
You’ll have to handle the hardware by buying equipment or investing in a virtual host. If you’re not as enthusiastic about DIY cloud storage tools after reading this, check out our best cloud storage guide for a simpler solution.
What Is Personal Cloud Storage?
DIY cloud storage is usually client-server software, open source or paid, that helps you set up and maintain your own cloud. You can set it up on a physical server that you maintain use a cloud hosting service, such as DigitalOcean. It’s the world’s third largest cloud hosting company, behind second-place Alibaba and leader Amazon (read our Amazon S3 review).
Setup can be difficult, but we’ve picked apps that make the process easy, even if you’re a mainstream user. It involves installing server software and downloading client software for your computers and mobile apps for your smartphones.
Client software works similarly to Google Drive or pCloud. That means it will create a sync folder on your hard drive. Folders or files you drop into that folder will sync to your cloud storage space, then to other devices with clients installed.
Many DIY cloud storage tools have web interfaces, so you can access your content using a browser. That saves you the trouble of installing client software on computers that aren’t yours. It’s easier to share files using browser-based software and mobile apps, too.
Now that we’ve gone over what DIY cloud storage tools are, let’s take a look at the top options available.
Nextcloud split from the second entry in this article, ownCloud, in 2016. Frank Karlitschek, the founder of ownCloud, and a team of engineers decided to do a “fork,” basically a copy of the code repository that goes in a different direction.
Karlitschek encountered “difficult experiences and decisions” that motivated him to leave the company. The reasons for the split revolves around money and striking a fine balance between the interests of the community and the company. The decision made an impact and Nextcloud gets more buzz today. TU Berlin moved to Nextcloud and halved its database load time.
The Nextcloud enterprise edition can accommodate anywhere from 50 users to 10 million. Home and small business users can use the Nextcloud Standard or open source editions, though. The latter doesn’t cost a dime.
To subscribe to the Basic plan, which supports up to 50 users, you’ll have to dish out $2,180 per year. For more users, you can subscribe to the Standard plan for $3,902 per year. Both offer a discount if you pay for more users. The last plan, Premium, can accommodate 50 or more users and offers advanced features for $5,623 per year.
To use Nextcloud, you have to set up a Nextcloud server by downloading it for a server and installing it. Next, you have to download the Nextcloud desktop client which will interact with the server. It runs on Windows, macOS and Linux, and its smartphone apps work on iOS and Android. You can also access your files from any compatible browser.
Like proprietary cloud services, Nextcloud lets you share files with others. It has all the standard features, including sharing via user, email, link or social media, password protection and expiration dates. You can see what you’ve shared with others or what others have shared with you. Users without an account can edit a document, too.
Another interesting feature is “secure drop,” which allows others to upload files to your server. Nextcloud software also lets you restore previous versions of files and permits file commenting. Full-text search is available, as well.
Nextcloud’s competitors have similar features, but its add-ons help it stand out. There are 162 apps in the Nextcloud app store. You can, for example, enhance your workflow by using Collabora Online, an open-source rival to Google’s office suite. Multimedia apps include audio and video players, along with Talk, which lets you set up video conferences.
Security isn’t lacking, either. Nextcloud supports LDAP, Active Directory and Single Sign-On. Two-factor authentication will help protect your credentials. The implementation uses Universal 2nd Factor hardware tokens and a time-based One Time Password. Second-factor support includes NFC and Gateway, Signal, Telegram or SMS.
Nextcloud uses the SSL/TLS protocol to protect your files during transfer. Plus, it can encrypt your data at-rest using AES 256-bit encryption with server-based or custom key management.
There’s also an option to enable end-to-end encryption for specific folders, while the server assists in sharing and key management using a zero-knowledge model. If you’re not confident in Nextcloud’s implementation, read our best zero-knowledge services article to learn about traditional cloud storage services that offer private encryption.
It’s not all rosy, though, because Nextcloud engaged third-party security auditing companies to do security scans on its users’ servers. A representative shed more light on the issue on reddit. According to them, third-party scanning is one of the strategies used to protect users, but many consider it shady business.
The company now has its own security scanner, which checks how up-to-date your server is and notifies you if you need to take action. Nextcloud is committed to finding bugs, so it maintains a HackerOne page that invites people to submit reports about bugs and hacks they find. The most severe breaches of Nextcloud’s servers can yield up to $5,000.
We’ve placed Nextcloud at the top thanks to its extensive library of third-party apps and strong security.
- Many add-ons
- Sync client
- No delta sync
- Pricey enterprise edition
The closest competitor to Nextcloud is its predecessor, ownCloud. Considering they share a lot of code, it’s no wonder their implementation is similar. ownCloud is open source, too, and backed up by a strong community. It also has an enterprise edition that’s popular with businesses. There are differences, though, which we’ll touch on below.
As with Nextcloud, you’ll need to download and install ownCloud’s server-side software first. You can do that on your home server or rent one. ownCloud also has several public providers you can choose from.
Desktop clients are available for Windows, macOS and Linux. Mobile clients are available for Android and iOS. As they do for many cloud storage solutions, the smartphone apps provide a simple and friendly user experience, along with useful features, such as automatic photo upload. ownCloud lets you access your files through a browser interface, too.
Like our top pick, ownCloud makes money with its premium subscription plans. They are pricier than Nextcloud’s, though, costing $3,600 for a Standard subscription. Enterprise starts at $9,000 and includes branded smartphone apps, enterprise applications and faster support reaction time.
The Custom subscription adds support for more users and lowers support reaction time further, but requires you to contact ownCloud for a quote.
ownCloud has many features, including file syncing, sharing, collaborative editing and full-text search.
You can share files and folders without worry because ownCloud takes a secure approach to file sharing that includes password-protected links, automatic link expiration and mobile share notifications. File commenting, file tags, file edits and video conferencing capabilities help support collaboration.
Similar to Nextcloud, the Files Drop feature allows anonymous users to drag a file and upload it directly to your ownCloud.
There are more than 70 apps in ownCloud’s app library. They include popular ones, such as Collabora Online, OnlyOffice Connector, Workflow App, PDF Viewer, Calendar, Contacts and more.
On the security front, ownCloud doesn’t lag. It has ransomware protection, end-to-end encryption and a password policy that allows administrators to define password requirements.
ownCloud has end-to-end encryption, so users can create folders for client-side encrypted internal or external data exchange. Neither the ownCloud administrator nor third-parties will be able to read the content of the folder, only the creator can.
Plus, individual or central key management is available, along with a Key Service application that enables professional key management with the option to use USB tokens, HSM or smart cards and other devices to decrypt data.
ownCloud Delta Sync
Another interesting feature in the works is delta sync which reduces time when transferring files that have already been uploaded. It does so by only transferring the changed portion of the file. The announcement came with news of a feature called “Virtual File System.” It allows users to directly sync files and folders in their file browser.
ownCloud scans your uploaded files using ClamAV to prevent the automated distribution of infected files. It can detect viruses, malware, trojans and other threats. Minor customization options let you expand your antivirus protection with external virus scanners which can scan files on your chosen server.
To log in to your servers, you can use Active Directory, LDAP or OpenLDAP. Other user attributes, such as their quota, email, avatar, can be integrated into ownCloud from an external directory, too.
You can further protect users’ credentials by using two-factor authentication. You can use the standard time-based One Time Password or expand the feature to support additional authentication devices via the privacyIDEA ownCloud App. ownCloud has a page on HackerOne, but it’s not taking submissions.
If you’re dealing with patient information, you can rest assured ownCloud will not keep you from doing your job because it’s HIPAA compliant. If you value your privacy, you’ll be relieved to know that ownCloud adheres to the GDPR.
Though ownCloud is a strong service, we’ve placed it behind Nextcloud because it has fewer add-ons, doesn’t take as good care of security and has more expensive premium plans.
- Good security
- Delta sync is in the works
- Sync client
- Fewer add-ons than Nextcloud
Like the previous two solutions, Seafile is an open source cloud storage solution that has a free Community edition and an enterprise one that fuels its profits. As a business solution, it can go can go toe-to-toe with any of our best enterprise file sync and share providers, albeit with far more tinkering.
Seafile lets you organize your files into separate libraries, which you can sync and share on an individual basis. Though that provides ample customization, it can be confusing at first.
The desktop sync clients are available for Windows, macOS and Linux, while smartphone apps work on Android and iOS. Before you can start using Seafile, you have to download and install the server edition on your server.
Seafile has many features, but reserves more of them than other solutions for its paid enterprise edition. The enterprise edition is cheaper compared to Nextcloud and ownCloud, though. In fact, it’s free if you have three or fewer users. For nine users, you have to pay $100 per user. From 10 to 249 users, it costs $44 per user.
The price gets lower as the number of users increases until you reach 1,000 users, after which, you have to contact Seafile to get an estimate. If you belong to an educational institution you get a discount per user per year.
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 via its drive client. It lets you access files offline, too. There’s also browser-based access if you’re accessing from a machine without a sync client. WebDAV support is available, as well.
When syncing files, Seafile cuts them into small chunks which allows it to perform fast syncs, especially when dealing with lots of small files. That makes accessing files on the server more complicated, though.
You can share libraries and folders to users or groups, with read-only or read-write permissions. External users can access files via sharing links. You can enhance their protection by setting passwords and expiration dates.
Seafile has versioning, too, so users can restore a file or folder to a previous version easily. File locking is available, as well, to prevent concurrent editing of files and generating conflicts. Users can lock files using the web interface or desktop clients. Additional features of note include full-text search and data deduplication.
Seafile integrates with Microsoft Office Online Server and Collabora Online server, so you can edit files online. There are also built-in previews for videos, audio, .pdfs, images and text files. That said, Seafile doesn’t have the app library options that Nextcloud and ownCloud have.
Seafile uses two-factor authentication to secure your credentials, creates snapshots for ransomware protection and scans for viruses. It can also perform remote wipes and audit logs.
End-to-end encryption is available, but you should note that it doesn’t encrypt metadata. It’s implied that it will in the future, though.
The client-side encryption doesn’t work with the web browser or the desktop client’s file explorer feature.
If your main concern is fast file sync without having to pay a lot for the enterprise edition, Seafile is a great option. That said, the community editions of other solutions aren’t as limited and their security is stronger.
- Seafile Drive
- Cheap enterprise edition
- Limited Community edition
- Direct file access is complex
Pydio used to be called AjaxPlorer, and it was created in 2007 by Charles du Jeu. Like the previous solutions, it’s an open source app for syncing and storing files on your own server.
Pydio offers an option to deploy on public cloud servers, such as Scaleway, Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. If you’re interested in Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, read our Microsoft Azure review.
The latest Pydio release is called Pydio Cells and it boasts increased collaboration and sharing options. You can easily share your files with others by putting them in your cell.
A cell works like a shared folder in which you can add more users while giving them specific permissions, such as read and write. You can compare it to the public cloud solutions in our best cloud storage for sharing article.
Cells Home edition works on Linux and macOS. For Windows, you’ll have to use a docker image. The Enterprise edition mirrors that while expanding the list of versions with an OVF package for virtual machines and an older version of Pydio called Pydio Enterprise 8. To access your files on the go, you can use the Android or iOS applications.
The smartphone apps also let you shoot images and upload them, put files in caches and synchronize files locally to access them offline.
The open source version is under the AGPL v3 license and doesn’t offer support. Its features are limited to basic sharing and authentication. The Enterprise edition has advanced sharing and administration features, along with administration security and role-based and security policies.
You have to contact Pydio to get a quote for the Enterprise edition, but you there’s a 30-day free trial that lets you test the service.
Pydio lets you protect your shared files with passwords, links expiration dates and download limits. You can comment on files and receive alerts when something new happens, too. If you find that leaving comments and sending emails is slow, you can use direct chat communication. Chat rooms for more people are available, too.
You can invite users to chat or create rooms around specific files. If you or one of your teammates makes a mistake, versioning will help you restore a previous version of a file.
When dealing with users, you can control their permissions with many variables, so they can only see, share and edit what you allow. You can collaborate with your teammates on documents using Collabora Online. Pydio also lets you preview and edit image files, as well as play audio and video files using integrated players.
Enterprise subscribers can customize the Pydio interface by adding their logo, changing colors, adding new buttons and more.
Pydio uses AES 256-bit to encrypt files at-rest and SSL to protect them during transfer. If something goes awry, it’s easy to parse and audit logs. To help users log in, you can use LDAP. Pydio complies with the GDPR, too.
- Good ease of use
- Good for sharing
- Few plugins
- Competitors have more features
Resilio doesn’t work the same way as the previous solutions. Instead, it only syncs your content across devices and doesn’t store it on a server. That’s not even an option. It’s also not free.
Its desktop client works on Windows, macOS and Linux, while the mobile apps work on Android or iOS. It can also be installed on NAS devices (read our guide on the best online backup for NAS).
Selective sync is an option. You can use it to choose the content that stays on your NAS device and the content that is also stored on your computer. Like Dropbox, Resilio uses selective sync placeholders, which let you see files on your computer without having to store them there. To see how Dropbox does it, read our Dropbox review.
Sync Home is Resilio’s plan for personal use. It requires you to pay a one-time fee of $59.99. It has the standard features, including syncing across devices, permissions, selective sync and controls for bandwidth usage.
Sync Family can accommodate up to five members and has all the features in the Sync Home plan. Its one-time fee is $99.99. The Business plan starts at $29 per month and includes multi-user and premium support.
You can also share files or folders using Resilio. Folders can have permissions, which allows you to assign ownership to another user, revoke access, or change read and write rights. AES 128-bit protects your files and folders at-rest.
Resilio can also help you automatically backup your files to another device. For example, you can set it to backup photos to your laptop or NAS device.
Though Resilio can’t act as a proper replacement for traditional cloud storage services, it’s an interesting tool that can help you synchronize files while using peer-to-peer connectivity.
- NAS support
- Backup capability
- No server support
- No plugins
DIY cloud storage tools aren’t easy to deal with because, unlike the traditional cloud storage services, they can require a lot of work depending on your setup. That is not without its merits, though. By doing the work yourself and hosting your personal server, you’re taking control of your privacy and can tweak everything to your liking.
Nextcloud is the top dog because of its extensive library and strong security. Its progenitor, ownCloud, isn’t far behind, but it doesn’t have as many apps in its library and it isn’t as secure. It does promise to add block-level sync support, though, so it has that going for it.
Seafile is the better option for those who need fast sync and a cheap enterprise edition. Pydio will be great for those who need strong sharing capabilities and an intuitive and attractive interface.
For those who would like to bypass servers and use a peer-to-peer approach that focuses on NAS devices, Resilio is a good option, but it can’t compare with others as far as replacing traditional cloud storage services goes.
What do you think about DIY storage tools? Are they too complex or worth the effort? Do you use another service that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.