Run your own cloud on Ubuntu

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Love Thine Cloud

Putting stuff in the cloud is nice and convenient; that is, if you don't mind having your privacy constantly put in jeopardy. There is, however, a way of having the best of both worlds …

There is a saying in Free Software circles that goes thus: "There is no cloud, just someone else's computer." I'm not sure who said it, but it has the simple, straightforward ring of something Richard Stallman would come up with.

The thing about clouds is that you have to trade an enormous amount of trust for just a slight increase in convenience. Think about it: Well-known cloud services are the constant object of attacks from hackers. How couldn't they be? They contain literally trillions of documents and snippets of information that can be used as leverage against innocent users.

Even if you are prudent, how sure are you that nothing in any of your stored texts, something in the background of your photos, or a carelessly worded message doesn't give away your bank account, your passwords, your home address, the location of your child's school? If you have a business and use a third-party cloud service, how sure are you your trade and technology secrets are safe? How sure are you your client data is being properly safeguarded?

Even worse than the rogue hackers are the state-sanctioned ones – the ones that work under the cover of the NSA and other NSA-like agencies. Even if you subscribe to the spurious argument that "you have nothing to fear as long as you have nothing to hide" (we'll debunk that some other day), how comfortable are you by making it easy to hoard of all your private data on behalf of faceless, unsympathetic civil servants? Even worse, if your data is subpoenaed on your provider's machines, they probably wouldn't even be able to tell you.

Then, of course, are the problems brought on by the hosting companies themselves. The relationship with them is completely lopsided: They hold all your data. If you are overly trusting, you might not even keep backup copies. I mean, if you believe the hype, why should you? With all the cards, they can do whatever they want – hold your information for ransom, sell it off to third parties, buy government favors with it. You name it.

I hear you: Clouds are convenient. You can access your stuff from everywhere on all your devices; if you have synchronization set up, you don't have to worry about saving; it's super-easy to share things with colleagues, friends, and family.

But you can have your cake and eat it too, you know. The nice thing about living in the 21st century is near-universal broadband and fibre optic connections, cheap hardware, and disk drives you can buy off the shelf with terabytes of free space on them. That's all the hardware you need to set up your own, oh-so-convenient and accessible-from-anywhere cloud in the comfort and privacy of your home.

As for the software, you are already familiar with this thing Ubuntu, right? You are in luck, then, because Ubuntu is the darling of the cloud and has been for a couple of years now. Also, all the most popular DIY cloud frameworks are open source and pretty easy to get up and running: install and configure Linux, install and configure Apache, install and configure MySQL/MariaDB, and install and configure PHP. If you have ever installed (and configured) any kind of web service before – say, an online gallery or blog – this process will be all too familiar.

And if you have not done it before, then the articles in this issue of Ubuntu User are here to help you on your way.

So, read on and make the cloud your own computer.

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