Software and Computer Engineering

What Does It Take To Not Rely On Cloud Services?

In the last two decades, we've grown accustomed to have our stuff on other people's computers. The “Cloud”, after all, is just other people's machines, constantly connected to the Internet, for which other people pay for the power and maintenance costs.

I'm not advocating for cutting oneself out of every third-party service. After all, we are all benefit a lot by letting other people store our money in their own buildings and tech infrastructure -- banks. The modern concept of banks date back a few centuries and that has mostly worked out well for society in general.

Still, let me go through the exercise of what would it take to cut oneself out of relying on Cloud services and running their own infrastructure in-house.


I think the first stop is in email communications. While you could run an email server out of your home IP address, but it is unlikely anyone would receive your emails.

Due to spam, most large email services rely on the reputation of each others, and small newcomers are not worth the trouble (as the disproportionate majority will just send spam anyway).

Well, for outgoing email, you are toast. You will have to rely on some service that is trusted in the email exchange network. Be it a free option, such as Gmail or Outlook, or some paid option, such as Fastmail.

For incoming mail, things are better. You will have to rely on a good spam filter (as email, by default, does not have spam countermeasures), but you should be able to receive it at your home.

So what happens when your internet is down or there is a power outage in your region? You wouldn't receive your mail for that span of time and hopefully senders will retry sending again at a later time. You internet connection is consumer-grade, so outages are expected to a degree. Bummer.

Now, the next best thing, is to have a self-hosted email server on a cheap virtual machine -- granted, that will be still other people's computer --, have that receive your email 24/7, then you sync and siphon out your mail to your home computer at regular intervals.

Still only works for incoming mail, though, and sounds like a terrible amount of work compared to just setting up a free email account on either Gmail or Outlook.

Digital Files

Now for something that is more sensible to tackle: hosting your own digital files on your own physical hardware.

To be super clear, that would be in regards to your photos, documents, videos, any digital media that you deem important storing and keeping accessible in the future.

That requires a few large-capacity hard drives and a dedicated computer on the network to make that files accessible: a NAS, or Network Attached Storage.

As to make this redundant and reliable on hardware failure (which is something that Cloud does take care of, transparently), one would have to both: 1) set up a RAID array, such that one hard drive does not lead to data loss; and 2) set up some backup strategy, which is copying over the data somewhere else in regular intervals.

Online Messaging

Well, other than email, there is no popular online messaging strategy that lends itself well to self-hosting or “federation”. Maybe you could self-host your family's or neighborhood's messaging group? Most likely hard to justify the maintenance and the implied tech support.

Other Ideas for Self-hosting