Today one can choose from overwhelming variety of online (cloud) services in almost any thinkable area. Many of them provide vast amount of content and have professional user interfaces / clients. So why to bother with selfhosting, when one can just choose from this broad offer? And I’m here referring mainly to personal selfhosting – e.g. running some services from computer/server running at your home and providing these services to yourself plus family members. Does it make still any sense, when you can hardly compete with internet giants? In this article I’d like to present few reasons, why I think that selfhosting still have some values.
First and most valuable contribution of self-hosting is learning. In order to host some useful services at home, you’ll need setup linux computer, install various packages, learn a bit about networking, proxies, TLS/SSL etc. All these are quite useful skills, which you can leverage elsewhere. Now when cloud providers serve all this to you via simplified Web interfaces – all you need to do is just click and pay. But if you need to know more, there is nothing better then some exercises – and self hosting is all about them – you try and fail, experiment and seek for best solutions.
Another important factor (at least for me) is fun. I do love technologiy and I have been growing up with computers and used them almost every day since my teen ages (from my first ZX Spectrum , through first PCs, UNIX servers, notebooks and recently smart phones). So I like to play with new technologies, try new things and sometime write something smaller myself.
If you are using solution that you yourself put together, it will give you some satisfaction. You will know all bits and pieces involved and why it’s working the way it is. What is the fun in entering credit card and then just clicking around and checking monthly bills, if you can have it your way – are you consumer or geek?
A lot have been said about privacy and control of you data in cloud. After all, no matter what they are saying on their policy pages and no matter what directives have been accepted by governments at the end it’s all about trust – do you trust them? Indeed if you are just one of billions, there would be no much stake in you particular data, wouldn’t it? But with advance of massive data analysis and your omnipresence in virtual world technical capabilities for in detail surveillance of each and every one is growing. If you care about it one of possibilities to how limit and control your virtual presence in by selfhosting.
And last, but not least, it can be sometimes also matter of costs. You can host on quite low-end computer, where HW costs are just few hundreds dollars (with possible upgrades every 3-5 years or so if you’re reasonably lucky). All software you need is free and open source. Plus recurring costs of internet connection, but you are paying them anyhow, so it’s just about fixed IP, which costs couple of dollars. Largest part of you costs then will be your work, but if it’s done for learning and fun, then probably it’s not so much important? For some services you’ll need content – as individual you can hardly compete with large providers, but if you have good content, with which you’re happy, why not to selfhost, so it’s always available to you (and family) everywhere you go.
But of course there is also other side of self-hosting. If you do not want to do it, do not – you can save time for other activities (like browsing social networks :-). And if something brakes – you are on your own – but overcoming obstacles will help to improve you character, right? And if you do not backup, or you backup solution is not robust enough, you may loose all your digital properties you had at home. But that the risk, will cloud providers really guarantee that they will never ever loose you data? Probability is much much lower of course, thanks to much higher redundancy and even global contingency, but still there is some. And you can use cloud for backup of your most valuable data – which is probably quite reasonable strategy (especially if you encrypt data first).