Self Hosted Online Storage with Synology Drive
For a long time now I’ve wanted to host my own personal online storage, synced across desktop, laptop, mobile and browser.
Until now I’ve used Microsoft OneDrive. In general, OneDrive is a decent product; 5GB of free storage, client applications for Windows, Android and iOS, and generally good sync performance.
I say generally good sync performance because on a few occasions I’ve been forced to wait 10-20 minutes for a single small file to sync, most noticeably on the Android app. And of course, it always seems to happen when you want that file quickly, either to or from your mobile…
Combined with approaching the limits of the free storage tier, the lack of a Linux client, and a new found desire to limit wherever possible the storage of my personal data on third-party hosting, I went about setting up my own online synced storage.
While there are many options out there for file sync across devices (ownCloud looked tempting), I happen to have a big fat Synology 1812+ NAS sitting in my home lab rack with plenty of free space. So, it was a bit of a no-brainer to check out Synology Drive, and as it happens, I’m very happy with the results, even if it was the easy way out.
In terms of file sync, the performance is much faster and more reliable than OneDrive. It’s very snappy to sync documents and photos across all devices, which currently includes Windows 10 desktop, Linux Mint laptop, and Android mobile. I’m yet to encounter any file sync issues, or having to wait more than a few seconds for a file to sync across.
Since I’m hosting on a 10TB+ NAS, I no longer have to worry about storage capacity or be forced to delete files to free up space, as I did with OneDrive. A self hosted solution will have a hard time competing with the resilience of a cloud solution from Microsoft and Google, but with the data stored on a RAID 10 array, Previous Versions feature enabled, and backups to an external device, I’ll be very unlucky to experience file loss in the future.
The Windows client has an integrated context menu, allowing you to view Previous Versions and to create a link to share files, restricting by user/group. Unfortunately this context menu doesn’t seem to be available for the Linux client, although you can log into the web interface to share and restore previous versions.
A nice bonus is even better sync performance at home; because I’m hosting Synology Drive myself, I can set an internal DNS record to keep internal traffic on the local network, so syncs never have to go out over the internet and back in.
The Synology Drive Admin Console allows you to customise indexing and cache settings to further improve performance, and within the Synology Control Panel you can create user accounts and assign storage space to allow others to use your online storage.
One challenge with self hosting is security. And while I’m not 100% comfortable with a public login portal onto my home storage device, I feel there is enough security in place to mitigate any risk. The admin account is set for 2FA, standard user accounts are limited to only their own storage, and strict lockout settings limit the danger of brute force attacks. I would prefer if the management portal and user portal were separate, and IP restrictions could be put in place to immediately deny public access using the admin login, but that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be possible. Of course there is always the risk that there is exploitable bugs in the DSM code itself, but one of the disadvantages you have to accept with self hosting is a regular routine of updating and patching.
And on a final smaller note, Synology Drive also prompted me to check out Synology Note Station, as a replacement for OneNote. I use OneNote extensively, it’s is one of the few Microsoft products I rate highly, and the main reason I haven’t already ditched Windows entirely. To my surprise, Synology Note Station is an excellent product too, and does just about everything I want from a OneNote alternative, including providing a Linux client and work over NordVPN’s UDP protocol. It doesn’t quite tick every box in the same way Synology Drive has done in replacing OneDrive, but it’s close enough that I have fully migrated over.
And so I am now completely free of Microsoft’s suite of storage apps! All storage has been moved to Synology Drive, all notes moved to Synology Note Station. The next step? Self hosted email of course. Although for that I want to go much deeper into maintaining privacy and security.