With rising problems with single point of failure platforms and net neutrality not only recently i see that we need to start hosting on our own again and stop relying on third party services. Most people nowadays just use someone elses service, maybe out of convenience or out of not knowing how to do it themselves. The problem with this is that you and your data become the product, and sometimes even the ransom, of someone else.
In this little article i want to go over the possibilities of hosting your own stuff yourself without relying too much on third parties owning a single point of failure.Where are we?
People use services like Reddit to host their forum, Discord to host their chat or even Facebook in lieu of a homepage. All these services don't do this out of altruistic motives but to make money. And if you don't pay you are the product.
Now most of these endeavors seem not to be as profitable as some of their owners like and they tighten the thumbscrews by raising API prices, making your posts not appear on your friends timeline unless you fork over some cash or other not so friendly practices. All legal and maybe even needed for them to stay afloat, still not very user friendly. And it still stands that if they fall that alot of what humanity gathered, be it as silly and dumb as it seems, will go the way of the dodo.
Back in the 90s it was harder and way more expensive to have your own server up and running, many people relied on others services for hosting their webpage but for some years now this all got dirt cheap, pocket money if you will, even for people who need to turn every cent.What are the options?
So, what can one, even people on a low budget, do to get their freedom back?
Primarily it boils down to two options, you host at home or you get yourself a cheap (v)Server, lets examine the pros and cons of both options.Homehosting
Hosting from home is a cheap option, especially if you have some hardware to do so in your drawer gathering dust, for most services one might want to provide from home even an old Raspberry Pi 1 or some older notebook will be sufficient enough. This will all only work if your ISP doesn't place you behind a NAT, tough. For Germany, if you have DSL you will most certainly have a full IP that can be reached from the outside world, folks with cable are not so lucky and might be sitting behind a large NAT where noone can reach you from the outside world.
A server is sitting in a datacenter somewhere on the planet, giving virtually 24/7 accessibility and you rent either a little part or the full server. The range is extensive and one can rent a little virtual server for as less as 1€ per month. These virtual machines are rather small, 10 GByte space and one CPU slice that isn't even fully guaranteed, but you get what you pay for. And if you are on a real tight budget this might be enough. Ten gigs is big enough for a small Minecraft server for you and your friends. Or for hosting a forum for your little group. And even a chat can find its place on such a machine, so don't dismiss it just because your normal programs eat up so much space.Pros:
You will still want a domain, for hosting from home a dyndns solution might be enough and can be had without much fuzz and for free from for example freedns.afraid.org, but a real domain will cost some money, usually around 10-20€ per year.
And even if you do the VPS route you still might want some server at home to back up your data to. You can do that manually occasionally or, better, do that periodically. Good routers let you insert a common USB stick and make them securely accessible from the web, this could be a target for your backup as your router is on 24/7 anyways.Now what?
Hosting from home gives you full control over your data, but unless you get energy for practically free this might be more expensive. My current suggestion is getting a cheap VPS, check out the Low End Box Blog for offers, and a domain, one suggestion would be DomainDiscount24 as they even offer PayPal, which means that with a little route trough your local gas station you can even pay all this in cash, for your start.
You don't need to be as crazy as me, writing your own blogware, there are plenty of lightweight options available, i might go trough some of them at a later date. For a start, i had good experiences with GetSimple CMS and PmWiki. For editing databases on-site you could use Adminer as you can simply throw that into your website without much hassle and even rename it to thwart the occasional script kiddie.
And all this will mean that you have to learn how to administrate a server and invest some time in your new little hobby. Read up on security too or some bad person might own your server faster than you think. Not allowing root to log in trough SSH is a good start, installing tools like fail2ban should be normal. And don't open your database to the general web, some people learned that the hard way.
I can do an article on this to point you all in the right directions if there is demand. :)
In the end, this is more work, but it gives you and others back their freedom from big corporations that only want to earn money trough your work by mining your data and use your content to show ads while giving you breadcrumbs and dictating what content you can post.
Let us together take back the web!