I have been trying to reduce my usage of the big 5 tech companies because they've become too creepy with customer tracking and other too-big-for-the-public-good behaviors. I want to host as many of the services I use as possible on my own systems. I prefer open source, free software but will gladly pay for a system from a smaller company that I can self host. This post focuses on my desire to replace my current (Google) file storage, calendar, and online office suite with my own system to remove one more dependency.
I know that there are a number of projects that can take care of a single one of these functions, but I would like to keep maintenance to a minimum. This means a project that provides all of the features I'm looking to replace would be ideal. I was aware of Owncloud, but when I began researching Owncloud and similar products I found Nextcloud. Long story short, Nextcloud is a fork of Owncloud that was taken years back when a large group of core developers did not like the direction of the original project. I decided to try Nextcloud and selected the manual installation method because the wizard makes a bunch of assumptions that do not match my system.
The installation was simple: unzip the latest version download, create a directory, change some permissions, use
certbot certonly --nginx
to create a Let's Encrypt certificate, tweak a config file. With that done the system came right up.
The base installation comes with a lot of useful functionality and the available enhancement apps should fill almost any remaining gap you have. I found a gem that I wasn't even l0oking for with Talk. It's very well done, simple, and portable. I have used it for a number of video calls and meetings and it has handled multiple participants every bit as well as any proprietary system I've used. It is especially valuable given that everyone is working from home right now and all the existing video conferencing systems are tied to a major corporation or have huge security and privacy issues - *cough*Zoom*cough*.
I also found mobile apps that allow you to use most of the features of Nextcloud on your phone. Being able to bring up services on your phone in a natural, integrated way makes all the difference. You should pull down the mobile app for your preferred phone flavor and also check out the other associated Nextcloud apps (especially Nextcloud Talk).
After I finished digging into Nextcloud and all it had to offer, there was still one piece that was missing; a self hosted office suite. After looking through the available solutions, I decided to go with Collabora Office. I found an excellent post that details the steps necessary to perform a local installation. This is way simpler than some of the Libre Office solutions that required a lot of manual steps, hand holding, and time. I'm really excited by just how easy it was to get word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations on my own server and available from my browser.
When I shared my Nextcloud installation with a friend he could not believe just how refined the Nextcloud ecosystem is. I highly recommend it to anyone with the desire to take back some of their privacy and to reduce usage on corporate giants.