Raspberry based Private Cloud?
Here is something that might be a little outdated already, but I hope it still adds some interesting thoughts. The rainy Sunday afternoon today finally gives the opportunity to write this little blog.
Recently an ownCloud fork was coming up with a little shiny box with one harddisk, that can be complemented with a Rapsberry Pi and their software, promoting that as your private cloud.
While I like the idea of building a private cloud for everybody (I started to work on ownCloud because of that idea back in the days), I do not think that this example of gear is a good solution for private cloud.
In fact I believe that throwing this kind of implementations on the table is especially unfortunate because if we come up with too many not optimal proposals, we waste the willingness of users to try it. This idea should not target geeks who might be willing to try ideas on and on. The idea of the private cloud needs to target at every computer user who wants to store data safely, but does not want to care about longer than ever necessary. And with them I fear we only have very little chances, if one at all, to introduce them to a private cloud solution before they go back to something that simply works.
Here are some points why I think solutions like the proposed one are not good enough:
That is nothing new: The hardware of the Raspberry Pi was not designed for this kind of usecases. It is simply too weak to drive ownCloud, which is an PHP app plus database server that has some requirements on the servers power. Even with PHP7, which is faster, and the latest revisions of the mini computer, it might look ok in the beginning, but after all the neccessary bells and whistles were added to the installation and data run in, it will turn out that the CPU power is simply not enough. Similar weaknesses are also true for the networking capabilities for example.
A user that finds that out after a couple of weeks after she worked with the system will remain angry and probably go (back) to solutions that we do not fancy.
One Disk Setup
The solution comes as one disk setup: How secure can data be that is on one single hardisk? A seriously engineered solution should at least recommend a way to store the data more securely and/or backup, like on an at homes NAS for example.
That can be done, but requires manual work and might require more network capabilities and CPU power.
Last, but for me the most important point: Having such a box in the private network requires to drill a whole in the firewall, to allow port forwarding. I know, that is nothing unusual for experienced people, and in theory little problem.
But for people who are not so interested, that means they need to click in the interface of their router on a button that they do not understand what it does, and maybe even insert data by following an documentation that they have to believe. (That is not very much different from downloading a script from somewhere letting it do the changes which I would not recommend as well).
Doing mistakes here could potentially have a huge impact for the network behind the router, without that the person who did it even has an understanding for.
Also DynDNS is needed: That is also not a big problem in theory and for geeks, but in practice it is nothing easily done.
With a good solution for private cloud, it should not be necessary to ask for that kind of setups.
Where to go from here?
There should be better ways to solve this problems with ownCloud, and I am sure ownCloud is the right tool to solve that problem. I will share some thought experiments that we were doing some time back to foster discussion on how we can use the Raspberry Pi with ownCloud (because it is a very attractive piece of hardware) and solve the problems.
This will be subject of an upcoming blog here, please stay tuned.