Cloud services are useful for multiple purposes, one of the most recurring is the need to have a dedicated space to store our most valuable files so we never lose them, especially we use the cloud when we have small files, since Otherwise, we will have to spend large amounts of money to store large files (movies, games, among other file types).
This time, we will talk about two of the best options we can have to keep our files safe in the cloud: the private cloud or a NAS server. What is best for me and what are the differences between them?
It can be said that the most practical option is to opt for solutions in the public cloud such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and even OneDrive if you use the Windows Office suite among many other options. But are our data really protected in the public cloud?
Since the aforementioned services are public cloud services, they are available to the security and privacy practices implemented by the provider. If it does not take the necessary measures, filtering events or data loss may occur.
Also, in the event of any inconvenience you have with one of the services, you should verify it only with such provider. However, security on these types of platforms is very high, the most worrying thing is their privacy: do they read the files that we upload to the cloud? Do we have the guarantee that our private data will not be used for other purposes?
If your priority is to have your files stored and synchronized privately , in such a way that the provider cannot read absolutely anything that you upload, you have two possible options: the first option is to encrypt all the content before uploading it from the cloud public , the second option is to use the private cloud to store all our files.
The private cloud: what is it and how does it work?
It is a space managed by a computer or a server that we have in our home. Here we may come across our first advantage: the devices responsible for the storage and synchronization of our files are under our control. All data is ours. It’s good to emphasize that the ability to sync files is what makes the private cloud especially useful. Currently there are a lot of options to mount our private cloud, and we are going to explain some of the most recommended.
In this article we have already highlighted solutions such as Nextcloud , the best option to mount our private cloud with file and folder synchronization, to be able to share files securely via HTTPS and an unlimited administration option. Nextcloud currently has the NextCloud Box which is a hardware device with a Raspberry Pi and Nextcloud software preloaded. Nextcloud uses the client-server architecture , currently we can install the server (where the Nextcloud kernel is located, with its synchronization of files and folders etc) in the following operating systems:
- Linux operating systems.
- Any operating system with Docker.
- Nextcloud VM: we can load the Nextcloud server in a virtual machine.
Another option we have is to buy the Nextcloud Box directly, this hardware device is made up of a Raspberry Pi with the Ubuntu operating system pre-installed, and with the Nextcloud software pre-loaded. Once all this is mounted in the box, you connect it to the power and in minutes, you will have your own private cloud. However, the performance is not too high, since we have a bottleneck for the power of the Raspberry Pi.
As for the Nextcloud clients (computers that connect to the server to synchronize the files), it has full compatibility with Windows, Linux, macOS operating systems, and we also have applications available for Android and iOS.
We recommend you visit the official Nextcloud website where you will find all the details about this solution to have a true private cloud in our home.
It is one of the most cited solutions when it comes to setting up your own private cloud at home. In fact, this would be the original Nextcloud version . In other words, Nextcloud has been inspired by this solution to become a reality. And this is because the OwnCloud standard edition is open source and is under the AGPLv3 license which implies that you can customize this solution, but you must share it with the community.
Emphasizing the standard version, we can say that it has multiple features that make it one of the most versatile on the market. Let’s quote some:
- Mobile version for both Android / iOS at a very affordable cost (a little less than € 1)
- Very easy to understand web interface (access the demo )
- Desktop applications for all platforms: Windows, macOS and Linux distributions
- Support for files even larger than 4 GB
- The videos you upload to your private cloud support streaming
- End-to-end encryption
- Multi-Factor Authentication
- Implementation of password creation policies
- CLI for command line management
For you to try this solution, you have 30 days to try it in its entirety, but in the business version. At the interface and usability level, it is practically the same. The differences between the standard and business versions are some features that are specific to each version, especially when we talk about the business version that has integration with already implemented corporate solutions such as SharePoint and collaborative editing of Microsoft Office documents. We highlight the high level of documentation and support, an aspect that is essential when we are encouraged to mount our own private cloud at home.
Anyway, our recommendation would be to use Nextcloud instead of OwnCloud, since it has exactly the same options and even many more, and it’s completely free.
It is a solution that is oriented to file synchronization. It is possible to do this between multiple devices in real time and one of the focuses by which it is promoted is the security and privacy of the data. It reiterates on several occasions the fact that we own our data and, therefore, we must decide who has access to it.
Here we are always excited about open source solutions that are constantly being developed and tuned for improvements. Syncthing is open source and all the changes that are made are available to anyone who wants to see it, try it, audit it … whatever.
How can I test this solution? Access the official website where you will find all the versions and you can find the one that corresponds to your operating system. After installation, it is even possible to manage it with the browser of your choice, you can do it. This solution is compatible with these platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and OpenBSD. The synchronization of the files is given in a more simplified way. Each device that is linked to Syncthing has an ID which is a unique identifier. So if you want to share a file or folder, you simply have to share your ID with the people you want.
It is not necessary to mention that all your files stay with you, they are not stored in servers or data centers of the provider of this solution. The communication that allows synchronization between devices is carried out using the TLS protocol, which prevents intruders from meddling in said communication and having access to your data. And most importantly, each user who has access to your files is authenticated securely, this ensures that only authorized users access your data.
This tool is integrated into the XigmaNAS operating system, one of the most used NAS server-oriented operating systems, which is based on FreeBSD and has ZFS for the file system.
You might think that a NAS server is pretty much the same as any of these private cloud solutions we cited. Mainly because we can store files. However, the main difference is that it is almost never possible to sync files and folders with other devices. However, NAS server manufacturers such as QNAP, Synology or ASUSTOR, incorporate software and the possibility that we do have file and folder synchronization.
What can I do with a NAS server? Keep in mind that it is a network file storage system and, therefore, you can mount other services such as SSH, VPN, mount a Plex Media Server, and any other service that can be distributed through the local network and the Internet. The difference between a NAS server and the private cloud that we have explained previously, is that the NAS has it all, and the private cloud is still software that can also be installed on a NAS server (not only on a Internet). Therefore, if we talk about NAS server it would encompass everything, and if we talk about private cloud, we only talk about file and folder synchronization.
Another difference that we can find in relation to the private cloud is that it needs a dedicated device, just a NAS server. In other words, dedicated hardware is required so that the server can be mounted in our home, unlike the private cloud, which is somewhat more flexible in relation to what type of devices can act as a server. If you have a free computer, well, this could already work as a private cloud.
Even so, it can be said that a NAS server is much more complete, despite the fact that in some cases it does not have synchronization of files and folders by default, the main manufacturers such as QNAP, Synology or ASUSTOR, have applications in their «marketplace »To install it quickly and easily, and they also have client applications for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Once installed, file synchronization will be possible and you will have control of all of them even from your mobile.
In this article, one of the brands that we recommend the most is QNAP, since they have very powerful hardware at a really competitive price. We can find NAS servers that have technical specifications similar to other brands, but cheaper. QNAP NAS servers have their own QTS operating system, which allows simple and efficient administration. Through it, we can carry out all our efforts and allow our server to be as complete as possible, we can even use apps to view our photos and videos, in addition to listening to music. If you are especially concerned about threats like ransomware that render affected files virtually unusable, Snapshots can be configured to raise their level of protection. Can I sync files? Yes, using the QSync tool select the file folders to be synchronized and that’s it.
In mid-high-end NAS servers with more than 4GB of RAM, it is possible to install a virtualized Linux operating system, this is ideal if you want to install Nextcloud or test different private cloud software. You could also use virtualization with Docker, to make it more efficient and only have to install what is necessary. For example, one of the best NAS servers that currently exists is the QNAP TS-1277 which we have had the opportunity to analyze in this article.
Other well-known brands in the world of NAS servers are Synology and ASUSTOR, both mount an operating system specifically designed to get the most out of their hardware, and also have a large amount of software that can be easily installed. These NAS servers are aimed at both home users, since their web configuration interface is very intuitive, as well as professional users who need a network storage system with multiple configuration options.
What suits me best? Private cloud or NAS server?
We have seen that the private cloud is characterized by having software on hardware that can be very varied , incorporates synchronization of files and folders on multiple devices, and we can even synchronize calendars, contacts, perform office tasks “online” as with Google Docs or Office 365, and many more configuration options.
We have also seen that NAS servers are really versatile, they allow us to have a network storage system, to which you can add multiple more services, including file synchronization, either with the software of the manufacturer of the NAS server itself, or directly using Nextcloud or Owncloud on the NAS, using full virtualization or with Docker. Depending on the make and model you choose, opting for a NAS server will involve a slightly greater investment of money, in this case, you not only pay for the benefits of network storage, but also for hardware. Anyway, remember that it is not exactly the best idea to have to buy the most expensive and most efficient NAS server, after all, who knows if you really only need one that is entry-level, for example . Your needs and requirements are the most important filters.
If you have a computer or hardware that you no longer use, you can convert it to mount your own private cloud, either with Linux operating systems or using virtual machines. Also, if you have an old computer, you can always install FreeNAS, XigmaNAS, OpenMediaVault and even XPenology, operating systems that will allow you to turn your PC into a true NAS server, and inside mount your private cloud.