Do you need cloud storage under your control? Concerned about cloud providers breaking promises, selling you out, losing your data, closing up shop, cancelling your account, or the feds taking their computers along with your data? Try ownCloud; it provides simple (single machine+) private cloud storage and access with minimal hassle. OwnCloud runs on your computers, under Windows, Mac, or Linux. It supports several services, including Calendar, Contacts, mobile & desktop sync, version control, and much more. Commercial support is also available.
To give it a spin and see if it’s to your taste, just go-to the ownCloud site, and press “Try it!” in the upper right hand of the page. If you like it, just press “Install“, and the site will lead you through installing both server & client. Alternately, you can use one of many companies providing hosted services. OwnDrive.com currently hosts free accounts. Best of all, it’s open-source, and under your control.
I’ve found documentation a little tricky to locate on their site (there’s more than what meets the eye), but google has it well indexed. I also posted several questions to their chat room (#owncloud-dev on irc.freenode.net), but never received a response. The support forum is probably a better way to communicate. Check-out ownCloud.org and ownCloud.com; there’s complementary information on both.
Once you have the server up, and have logged-in, administrative functions can be accessed via the pulldown menu “under” your user-name (upper right). This lets you verify & administer your ownCloud server. The next step is to install a “sync” client on the same, or other machine. Many users can be supported on a single server.
When the sync-client is first run, it will ask how to access your ownCloud account (host name, user name, and password). If you want encrypted transfers, be sure your ownCloud host allows connection with SSL (https://….) for best security. Moving files into the sync directory on your desktop computer will cause them to appear in the sync directory on your ownCloud server. Likewise, if you remove a file in the server directory, it will be removed from your desktop directory (bi-directional sync). The underlying program doing all this is “csync“; another open-source application. Anyway, be sure to read the user documentation which also discusses mobile sync applications.
If you’ve installed ownCloud on your home computer, and would like to be able to access it from the great-out-of-doors (or just the cafe across town), you’ll need a DNS service that
tracks changes to your home IP address (which are usually dynamic) from your ISP.
There are several providers, of which No-IP.com is one, providing dynamic DNS support by having you install a program on your computer that tells them when your IP address changes. The new IP address is then propagated across the Internet DNS servers, so others can know “where” to find your computer. This service is free for a single sub-domain, which you can create from a limited pool of domains. I used their free service for whole week before they sent me a service-upgrade coupon for $5 off their $15/year service. This allowed a much more generous selection of domains, up to 25 names, MX (mail) records, and more. The names look something like xxx.no-ip.org, where “xxx” is the part you specify, and no-ip.org is the domain (many to choose from). The free service requires you to acknowledge you’re still using it, every 30 days.
If you are behind a firewall, port 80 (the web, or HTTP port), or port 443 (secure HTTP, HTTPS) will have to be opened to allow outside computers to connect. Then you can access your cloud from any browser. It’s probably a good idea to close these ports on your firewall when you don’t need outside access, to keep the hackers at-bay. If your router/firewall uses NAT, then you’ll have a bit more configuring to-do.
Of course, there are many other Cl0ud software providers, but I think openCloud has done a great job of making the personal cloud accessible, and in your control.