Self Hosting 0: Motivation
Over the last few weeks I’ve been considering ways to increase my autonomy on the Internet. In many ways, I’ve found I’ve given control over my Internet experience to third parties in exchange for free services. I maintain servers and web services professionally and so the question I’ve been asking myself is: How do they keep the servers on? How does Facebook / Github / GMail pay the bills?
At the surface its easy to point a finger to advertising. I think many people think that the price they pay is the time they spend watching these advertisement or the screen real estate they lose on the page. The price paid for free services is a diminished experience of content. The logic is here is that those advertisements don’t actually affect our buying habits in a way that makes them profitable. Or at least the logic is that it affects someone else, not me. Pane two of this xkcd comic comes to mind:
Surveillance and breaches of privacy are another way to pay the bills. Your data has value. Often its convenient to brush of this worry by thinking that your individual data is not of concern. That data is only of value in the aggregate. Another convenient hope is that some level of legislation will protect your data and its usage. Laws like the recent GDPR are helping, but ultimately these breaches are not reversible. Release of your personal data has an ability to restrict your personal liberties in ways that seem far less virtual than your digital persona.
They only way to protect your data and shape your Internet experience is to host it yourself. Thankfully the open source software community has some excellent projects to help you get started. To list a few:
- NextCloud: calendar, file storage, contacts, video chat and more,
- Gitea: Self hosted Github alternative,
- Drone: Self hosted CI/CD,
- Mailcow: Email,
- HumHub: Distributed open source social network,
- and so many more…
The issue at the end of the day is that most people don’t have the skills to host alternative services to the free ones they use daily. The technical barriers to self hosting many of our most common services can be immense (I’m looking at you email). Hopefully, the barrier to entry will be reduced with things like https://sandstorm.io/.
If you’d like to follow my own progress towards hosting my own services, I’ll be documenting my journey with step-by-step guides to deploying your own services and my experience with them in the articles to follow.