How to create your own private cloud storage service using any computer
Using a cloud storage service means handing over your files to someone else. If this makes you uncomfortable, the solution is to create your own cloud service using your own computer. Here’s how.
Cloud storage services worry some people because their files are stored on someone else’s computer, possibly in another country, and you don’t know where they are.
You must put a huge amount of trust in the cloud service provider to keep your files safe and secure and you could be risking critical files that are very important to you or your business.
- Are your files safe?
- Are they backed up?
- What if you lose access to your cloud account?
An alternative to using an online cloud service is to create your own. A cloud service can be set up on your computer that has no restrictions on the number of files or their size, it can be accessed over a local network or over the internet from any computer, phone or tablet. It works like an online drive like Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and others, but the files are hosted on your own computer.
When you run your own cloud server you own your files, they are on your own computer, you are responsible for them, and you can make sure they are backed up. You don’t need to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
This guide makes use of Tonido, which is free for home users (there are paid business plans too). It is not the only service of its type, but it is very easy to use. It is almost perfect and it can be set up in minutes.
In fact, 10 minutes from now you could be running your own cloud storage service and inviting others to use it!
Let’s see how to set it up. I will be using an Apple Mac, but it also works on Windows too.
1 Download Tonido server
Go to the Tonido website and download Tonido server. Ignore all the other downloads and get the server because this is the key component that makes everything else work.
2 Install Tonido server
Installation on the Mac is easy. Open the .dmg file you downloaded and then drag the app to the Applications folder.
3 Create an account
The first time Tonido is run, you are required to create a free account. Enter an account name and click Check to make sure it is available.
Your account name is used as part of the URL to access your the cloud server on your computer. I used rawmac and so my personal cloud is at rawmac.tonidoid.com. The URL is always yourname.tonidoid.com
Enter a password and your email address, then click the Create button.
4 Set folder access options
There are several screen with various settings, such as whether you want to be able to access all your folders (everything in your home folder) remotely through your private cloud service, or whether you want to select specific folders.
Access to your cloud is password protected and only you know the password. The question is therefore, do you want to be able to access all your folders or just ones you specify. Limiting the folders would be more secure if someone else knew your password (keep it secret and hard to guess). It’s up to you.
5 Indexing files in your cloud
Tonido can index the media files - music, videos and photos - and this makes it a bit better at handling them. However, if you have a lot of files and your Mac’s hardware is not the latest, it might slow down the Mac while indexing.
Turn it off for now. It can always be turned on later.
6 View your cloud storage
At the end of the installation, your personal and private cloud storage is up and running. Whenever your computer is switched on, connected to the internet, and running Tonido, your password protected private cloud can be accessed from any computer at home, work or over the internet from anywhere.
A browser automatically opens to display your cloud storage. You are viewing your cloud storage on the computer with the cloud storage, but you can do this from anywhere and any computer using your URL (yourname.tonidoid.com) and password.
7 View files in your cloud storage
The links down the left side of the page enable you to access your files, shared files, recent files, and so on. Select Files and the folders and files in your cloud storage (your home folder on the computer), are displayed.
Select a file.
8 Share, download and more
Select one or more files and a menu appears on the right. The file can be opened, downloaded, renamed, added to favourites, or shared.
Let’s share a file and look at the features. Click Share.
9 Share a direct link
Click Share and a public link is created. If the URL is copied (drag over it with the mouse and press Command+C), you can share it anywhere, such as in emails, social media and so on. Anyone can access the file.
If you do not want the file to be accessible by the public, click Advanced Options.
10 Limit access to shares
In the Share Permissions section you can choose whether to allow everyone or selected users. The URL of the shared item is at the top.
Click New Guest and you can create a username and password. I created a guest called rawinfopages. There are checkboxes to allow viewing and uploading.
Notice on the left that you can set an expiry date for the shared file.
This means that only I, the cloud owner, and a user called rawinfopages can access this file.
You can create as many users as you want and share whatever files with them you need to. It is a great way to share files among friends.
11 Access shared files
Accessing files using the Tonido shared URL in Chrome and Firefox produces a message like this:
My guess is that some Tonido users have been publicly sharing dodgy files and Google has marked every shared URL as malicious. This is a shame and it means that share URLs are almost useless because few people will go beyond this point.
Click DETAILS and there is a link to ignore the warning and continue anyway. It’s safe! You are accessing your own files on your own computer!
If you continue you are prompted to enter a username and password, then you can then access the file.
12 Log in to your cloud
Public file sharing using Tonido has been killed by this warning. However, logging into your Tonido account is fine. Go to yourname.tonidoid.com in a browser on any computer and this appears.
You can log in with your account password and access everything - files, shares, settings and more. You own it and have full control.
From anywhere on the internet and from any device with a web browser, you can log in to the computer running Tonido and access the files on the disk. Your files, your cloud, your computer.
13 Guest logins
In step 10 a guest user was created for a file that was shared. If you have created guest accounts for your friends they can also log in here. Click Guest Login and then enter the username and password (you’ll need to tell your friends their username and password).
14 Guest access
What can a guest see? Only the file or files that are shared with them. They cannot see or access anything else. Here is the one file that was shared with the guest I created.
Tonido is an interesting alternative to traditional cloud storage and it puts you in control of everything. That might appeal to you if you have concerns about someone else storing files in the cloud.
You can keep your personal cloud storage entirely to yourself or you can add users and give them permission to access one or more files. You can even give them upload permission, if you trust them that is.
Tonido can do a lot more than I have covered here and I will look at some of the other features in a future article. For example, there is a sync client to keep folders synced on different computers.
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