Recently I found out about NextCloudPi, which is a “roll your own” kind of personal “cloud”. I put “cloud” in quotes because it’s a buzzword. It’s been so abused that it’s become meaningless nowadays, but I digress. The NextCloudPi wasn’t hard to set up, not hard at all, as practically everything is laid out before you so long as you follow the instructions. I didn’t follow them in complete order so I had troubles here and there, but that’s just my fault. Well, lets review the good, the bad and the ugly of this distro!
~~~~~~~~CLOUDY SKIES ABOVE~~~~~~~~~
The nice thing is that NextCloudPi’s interface is similar in spirit to Dropbox and Google Drive. This makes it easy to configure if you just use the web interface. If you want to, however, unlock the full deal, you need to know how to use the command line, at least to access the non-web UI. You’ll need to do especially if you want to utilize the entirety of the (micro)SD card you used for your Pi. I had a 64 GB SD card and had a spare original Raspberry Pi laying around, so I used that. The web-interface was slow, but since the original Raspberry Pi only has 512 MB of RAM, it makes sense that it would be slow, so overall I can’t complain. I imagine it’s much more usable on a Pi 3. I would also recommend you get a large USB flash drive or even a hard drive, like the WD Pi drive, since you can use those to add more space to your already existing space on the SD card. You can also backup your NextCloudPi to an SD card, which is very cool.
I’d also like to talk about the sharing aspect, it makes it very easy to share via links, again ala Dropbox and Google Drive, files you want to. This kind of thing I think is very handy if you have friends and they need a photo or video you took and it’s difficult to get it to them the traditional ways. I myself haven’t yet used the sharing feature, but it seems very intuitive.
You can also create additional users to give access to your NextCloudPi. I personally wouldn’t recommend doing such a thing for security reasons, but then again, I run OpenBSD. I can see it being used very heavily in a corporate or even in a Mom and Pop store environment, where you have multiple people who need to securely access financial documents or just things like ledgers or whatnot.
The phone app promoted by NextCloud is very sleek. I was able to play a music file I had uploaded to my cloud very easily, and it didn’t take long to download either. The whole thing is very secure too, because if you misconfigured your SSL like I did(That is to say, you didn’t configure it at all…), it’ll warn you about that. Props to NextCloud!
While I was configuring my NextCloudPi instance through ssh, it asked me if I wanted to upgrade, and I hesitantly said “yes.” The upgrade process was very smooth and there were no errors(That I know of). Apparently security updates are automatic, however, and will reset your system. I personally am not in favor of automatic updates because I feel that it takes away control from the user, but if it’s for a server, I don’t feel like it’s as much of a big deal. You can turn it off if you wish in the web-interface or on the command line via the TUI(Which can be found by running “sudo raspi-config” and selecting the first option).
I would say that overall the whole deal feels amazing and nicely wrapped up in a good package for quickly setting up your own cloud. There’s still some things I need to configure and figure out, but I have the majority of it working that I feel needs to be.
The one thing that presently concerns me about my NextCloudPi instance is security. I feel like all the security options should be in one panel and with extra help so you don’t seemingly lock yourself out of your own instance(I didn’t do that, btw).
I also feel like there should be a more serious logging feature to show if anyone from where-ever is trying to login or crack your account password and username.
Fortunately, there were a couple of options, namely that of fail2ban and some other, I forget now. These options are there, out in the open, to easily configure. Fail2ban makes it to where it will ban a person trying to get into your account after X number of tries with the incorrect username+password. I couldn’t recall the other security option, but I will look into it in a follow-up post! Rest assured, no security options will go unchecked!
I would say those are my only critiques regarding the security.
~~~~~SEVERE WEATHER ALERT~~~~~~~
When configuring my NextCloudPi, I found the wiki to be extremely useful, I just wish it were more organized. I also feel like it needs to appear more professional, but I recognize that this is a DIY effort by one person(I think?).
So what can I that I think is ugly about NextCloud or the distro NextCloudPi? I can’t really say anything so far, it’s all a great effort and I await to see more of where these types of things lead.
Overall, I feel like these types of things are good step in the right direction, and the use of a raspberry pi for your own cloud is perfect, as it puts it into the hands of those who wouldn’t be able to otherwise afford such things. You’re responsible for your own security, and everything else when it comes to these DIY projects, but I feel like they give their users more freedom in an increasingly tightly-controlled corporate and government world. I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I’m going to recommend this project to all my friends, both online and off.
Until next time, signing off!