Setting up ownCloud

I’ve spent some of my spare time lately researching on ways to have better control of my calendar, contacts, important files that I sync to different places, and such. My objective is to move those things away from big cloud providers like Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Skype, and so on. I am happy to report that the open source solution ownCloud provides just what I needed. I was able to set it up today and the tests were successful. Here are some noteworthy points.

  • ownCloud provides clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, and Android devices, which is really nice;
  • In my case, the only php component missing was the php GD module. After installation, I restarted my VM and then it worked fine. For database, I used MySQL;
  • Setup was easy. I did the manual install by following instructions here. My web server was Tengine, a fork of Nginx. I used the sample Nginx configuration in the instruction page as the starting point, and it worked just fine;
  • ownCloud recommends using SSL, which I concur. I spent some time researching on certificate options, and decided to use self-signed certificate. The reason is simple: the intended customer is me and my family, therefore I don’t need a Certificate Authority (CA) to tell me that I am using a site that I own :) Not forking out the cash is added bonus. Note, though, that if you are running a commercial site that conducts transactions online, it is necessary to purchase certificates and enable SSL. That’s not the right time to be penny-pinching (or a 铁公鸡);
  • To generate my own self-signed certificate, I followed instructions here. I used the 2048 bit key. I followed the optional step 5 so that I can start Tengine without providing a password;
  • I think ownCloud will be great for companies and teams. If you have control to a web server, which most companies and teams do, then more than likely you’ve got the infrastructure to have your own cloud. For a company/team, I do recommend purchasing SSL certificates, unless your company/team is pretty small;
  • Don’t forget to renew your self-signed certificate as time moves closer to its expiration date. In my case, the validation period is one year. I’ve already set a reminder for me.
  • I’ve really enjoyed using dnsimple. Separating DNS and hosting service really gives me great flexibility in learning and testing out different web technology.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have comments/suggestions.

2 Comments »

  1. Daniel Howard Said,

    January 21, 2014 @

    Thanks for this! I need to look into owncloud now. ;)

    -danny

  2. Haidong Ji Said,

    January 21, 2014 @

    You are welcome Danny. I am happy with ownCloud. It’s interface for contact editing needs some improvement, but I can get around it by editing on my old iPod Touch and then let em’ sync. Calendar data syncs beautifully.

    The only thing I noticed is that the changes made to the keepass file on iPod cannot be synced back to the cloud. I don’t know who to blame: ownCloud client on iPod, miniKeepass, or me. It’s an annoyance I can live with.

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