Setting up your own home server for media streaming, file storage, or other tasks gives you complete control over your own data, and it can be a lot of fun. However, there are many reasons why this should not be done.
It’s no secret that big tech companies are bad at privacy, especially when it comes to sharing your data with government agencies without good reason. This has contributed to the rise in popularity of self-hosting, which usually involves setting up a network storage or a complete computer in your home and keeping it running all the time. Home servers offer many of the benefits of cloud storage or media streaming services, but without the privacy concerns that typically come with hosting platforms. You can use them to build your own cloud storage, set up a VPN, run a game server for friends and family, host code repositories for software projects, and more.
Self-hosted servers can be incredibly useful and even interesting if you’re interested in networking or internal systems. However, hosting your own server has a big drawback: you need to host your own server.
Perhaps the biggest problem with hosting your own server is keeping it running all the time. We’re all used to services like Google Drive, Netflix, and Gmail being available 24/7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, except for occasional outages that rarely last more than an hour or two. This is possible because tech companies have employees who are completely dedicated to making sure everything works, even if it means waking up in the middle of the night to fix a problem .
You probably won’t be running other enterprise software on your home server, so the stakes aren’t that high, but it’s still something to think about. Do you have power cuts in your house from time to time? If so, you may need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to give your server time to shut down to avoid data loss. Power loss also disconnects your server from the wider internet. If you’re away from home and need to access a file on your server, but a storm shut down your internet at home, you’re pretty much stuck.
The servers themselves can also have issues that are difficult to diagnose or fix, especially when you’re away from home. What happens if the operating system freezes while you are away? The only way to reboot it is to plug the server into a smart plug or some similar option. However, if the server is down due to a Windows update being installed, a forced remote reboot can make things worse.
Your router and modem can also be potential points of failure that can be difficult to diagnose, especially if your ISP doesn’t offer static IP addresses. Finally, you must plan for data redundancy – an offsite backup solution is the only way to fully protect against drive failures. This adds complexity and cost, but may not be necessary for all tasks. For example, if you are hosting a Minecraft game server for yourself and your friends, it will probably be enough to copy the world file to the cloud storage from time to time.
Security is also a concern for everything connected to the Internet. Most operating systems can automatically install critical security patches like Ubuntu Linux (with automatic updates package) and Windows, but running a server comes with additional real security issues.
Servers have IP addresses that indicate where the server is located. If you have a home server, then the IP points to … your home. There are many , many reasons why you shouldn’t broadcast where you live to the world. You don’t really need to worry about this if you’re only hosting services for yourself, but if you’ve configured your web domain to point to a server for others (or even give a direct IP address to others), you could be setting yourself up for a real intrusion. into private life.
You also have to worry about physical access to your server, especially its disks. If someone breaks into your home, they can also access your server data, especially if the drives are not encrypted. Data centers owned by Google, Microsoft and other cloud service providers have locks, cameras, biometric scanners, security guards and even laser beams to protect against unauthorized access. Damn laser beams !
If you’re only using a simple local network drive that doesn’t interact with the outside world, or if you’re the only one with access to your home server (and you’re sure the IP address and other data won’t fall into the wrong hands), have you will have much less to worry about. However, physical security is an important factor to keep in mind for all your electronics, especially servers.
What should you consider instead
The risk and complexity factor for home servers depends on the hardware and software. Setting up your own server with a fully functional operating system such as Windows or Linux usually requires a lot of effort. However, the best NAS drives, like those from Synology and WD, are pretty much plug-and-play—you don’t have to worry about staying up to date with security updates or debugging a faulty Windows update. However, remote access can still be tricky. Western Digital has had a lot of security issues with NAS drives when they’re connected to the outside internet, and power or internet outages at home can still leave you stranded without remote access to your data.
If you need reliable access to your files, any of the best cloud storage services can be the perfect solution. Most of them require a monthly subscription to a larger data store, and you don’t have full control like you do on a home server. You must decide for yourself whether the investment of time, money and energy is worth more than total privacy. Syncthing can be another alternative as it syncs files across your computers without requiring centralized cloud storage – as long as you have one work computer available with your files, you won’t lose anything.
Virtual Private Servers or VPS can be another alternative to self hosting. VPS providers give you a remote virtual machine (usually running Linux) that you can use to host just about anything. Your data isn’t completely in your hands, but you don’t have to worry about losing connection due to a power or internet outage. You can also freely share an IP address with others without revealing where you live, making them much more ideal for web servers and other similar use cases. A VPS can often be more affordable than the cost of building and maintaining a home server. For example, VPS “Basic Droplet” from DigitalOcean.with 512MB RAM, 10GB SSD and 500GB monthly data transfer for just $4/month. Virtual Private Servers are not economical for all use cases – running a Plex server with a VPS will cost a lot – but they can be useful.
After all, working on a home server means being your own IT professional. This is a great option, but it’s not for everyone.