Jun 9, 2023

(+) Build Your Own Cloud at Home

This is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have written often about the advantages of backups, especially making backups to “the cloud” where they can be accessed from any location. You can retrieve files from your backup copies on any computer, tablet computer, or even on your Android or Apple cell phone as long as you have the appropriate user names and passwords. 

I find many people are nervous about storing their personal files on Internet-based services that are controlled by corporations. Luckily, there is another solution available: create your own backup server at home and make it available to yourself via the Internet when you are away from home, whether it is a trip to the local grocery store or a trip overseas. Even better, you can (optionally) provide access to friends or relatives. You might want to share all of your backed-up files. However, I suspect it is more common to give friends or relatives access to only a limited subset of your files, such as all the photos of the new grandchild or something similar.

This week I installed my own server for storing my backups. The three terabytes (3,000 gigabytes or 3,000,000 megabytes) of storage space is installed in my home but is also available to me from any computer in the world with an Internet connection. I appreciate that feature as I travel often. I can access any of my files from any location. I’ll be carrying a laptop computer and a “smartphone.” I can even back up my newly-created files when traveling with the laptop to the server in my home. All I need to do is open a web browser, go to a unique URL (web address), and enter the user name and password that I created when I installed the new device. Even better, I can allow friends or family members to access some of my files, if I wish. All I need to do is give them user names and passwords that will allow them to access whatever part(s) of this file server that I specify. Nobody can access any other folders on the server without my permission.

A few years ago, building your own server and installing large disk drives was very expensive. However, technology changes quickly and today you can purchase off-the-shelf solutions for $100 to $200 that will store one to perhaps four terabytes of data. Even more storage is available at higher prices. Even better, today’s solutions require very little electricity. I also do not need to leave my computer running when I leave home. However, I do have to leave the new (low powered) server powered on and also the Internet router also must be powered on so that an Internet connection exists at the time I need to access the files. A few years ago that would have meant a server that consumes 100 to perhaps 400 watts of power. 

Today’s hardware typically requires a modest 30 watts or less. The server I use even powers off the hard drive after some period of non-use. When I do later access files remotely, there is a delay of a few seconds before the files become available because it takes a bit of time for the hard drive to “wake up” and get back online. I can live with a delay of a few seconds if it lowers my electric bill.

In fact, I did build my own web-based server some years ago. It only had a fraction of the capacity of this new device, was built in a rack-mounted server that I purchased second hand, and the internal fan sounded like a banshee. I couldn’t sleep in the house when the server was running because of the fan noise and I received similar complaints from family members. I soon powered that server off. In contrast, the solution I installed this week has a fan but is whisper quiet. I can’t hear it running even when my ear is within a few inches of the device.

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