Self-hosting. Why? What's the point? Everything you could use is already available online. Why should you spend the time and effort (and money) on self-hosting projects?
A question that I have asked myself many times.
Why should I spend the time setting up my own servers, complicating already seamless services, re-inventing the wheel?
I can just use Dropbox to host my files. Maybe Google Photos to automatically save all my pictures instantly when I capture them. How about my password manager? I can just use LastPass, it does everything for me. I don't even need to think about it.
These services have been built to be seamless for the user. To entice users into signing up. Most of these services are free, and there's a reason for that.
You are the product. There's an age-old saying, "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product."
Take Facebook, for example. Back in October 2018, UK's data protection watchdog fined Facebook half a million pounds in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Consider this. Everything you put online, do you really know who has access to that? Who might be reading your emails, your private messages?
Do you know where all your data lives? Do you know how much data they have on you?
In more recent years, the privacy concern has grown.
The rise of consumer VPN services, such as ProtonVPN or NordVPN, being advertised on television targeting less technologically advanced users.
The recent Facebook scandals and countless data breaches are making people aware of the cybercrime that exists. Companies are becoming trigger-happy with handing out user data.
Signal, A full end-to-end encrypted messaging service, gained 7.5 million new users between January 6th and January 10th after WhatsApp announced that they're forcing users to agree to share private data, including the users' phone number with Facebook
Google Photos, an instant image upload service, has now abolished the option for unlimited storage of high quality photos. Forcing users into a paid feature lock. This is huge news, as Google Photos has over 1 billion users who are now forced into paying for a service, which for a long time, was free.
Benefits of self-hosting
Self-hosting is the act of running a service on hardware that you control.
Ownership and Control
Having your services self-hosted means that you know exactly where your data resides. You no longer need to worry about where the images that you take on your phone are stored in the cloud. Consider services like Nextcloud or Seafile which allow you to automatically upload photos to your self-hosted instance.
Self-hosting is all about control. You have the power to control where your data lives.
Data breaches happen all the time these days, and it’s hard to know how a company plans to profit from your data. By self-hosting, you take back that power.
Self-hosting is (mostly) free. You need to pay for your server or electricity depending on your setup, but you can say goodbye to SaaS subscription fees and paid premium accounts, which could close or feature-lock at any time. You can run multiple instances of services on your server. So it may be a big chunk of money as a one-off payment. But it'll soon pay dividends when you don't have to pay your monthly fees.
Why don't you add up how much you're spending in a year on premium subscriptions?
Self-hosting doesn't need to be expensive.
Consider a cheap Raspberry Pi, or a small cloud instance from Digital Ocean. You can also run a server on old hardware. Maybe pick up some retired servers from a marketplace. Or if you have an old slow computer kicking around that'll run more efficiently using Linux. Nothing is stopping you.
Self-hosting has helped me with personal development. My initial drive to become a privacy advocate has introduced so many skills that have benefited me in day-to-day life.
Running your own services means that it's your responsibility to keep them up and running. Facing issues that you wouldn't have otherwise faced. Solving problems.
Self-hosting, for me, started as a discovery of owning my data but soon became a hobby.