Moving to Nextcloud
For years (maybe even decades?) I've been using Google for everything: Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Search, Maps, Photos, Google Drive, Android, you name it.
When I started using Google, they famously had the motto 'Don't be evil', but obviously in recent years they've increasingly moved away from that, and I have increasing concerns about Google's business practices and privacy record.
So, a few years ago, I moved my email, calendar, and address book from Google to Fastmail using my own domain. I love Fastmail. They aren't particularly cheap, but they work well.
Then I moved my phone from Android to iPhone. There were multiple reasons for that, but to be honest, the primary one was that the rest of the family was on iOS, and with family all over the world, iMessage and FaceTime were really really big factors.
That left one crucial part of my digital life still with Google: Drive and Photos. And arguably it's the one that makes me most nervous: I have important files (and very important photos of the kids when they were little, of my wife when she wasn't yet my wife, etc) on there, and backing them up is difficult.
I didn't want to move to iCloud Drive either, as I don't want to be locked into Apple's ecosystem forever.
So, over the last few months I've been playing around with Nextcloud, which is a self hosted free file hosting and collaboration platform. I tried installing it on a VPS, but to get it to run with good performance requires quite a powerful machine, which is expensive.
Recently I became aware of Hetzner's Storage Shares: basically hosted Nextcloud SaaS. At €5.11/month for a TB the price is actually slightly cheaper than Google's 1TB service (£80 ≅ €90/year), and this is what's going to be my new home for my data going forward.
In order to migrate, I had to move about 300 GB or so of data from Google Photos and Google Drive into Nextcloud. Nextcloud has a Google Integration app that's meant to do the migration for you.
This worked well for Google Photos, but totally broke with the Google Drive data: It would create the folder structure, but then just stopped. No errors, nothing. Restarting it didn't help either.
So I ended up downloading my Google Drive data using Google Takeout, then using the Nextcloud macOS client to sync the data back into Nextcloud. (Why didn't I download it using the Google Drive macOS client you ask? I have no idea. I guess I just didn't think properly ...)
The upload to Nextcloud took multiple days because I have terrible internet with very slow upload speed at home, but otherwise went without a hitch.
There are a few additional apps that I installed to improve my experience:
- Memories gives you a nice timeline of photos, similar to what Google Photos does.
- Preview Generator generates image previews/thumbnails at upload time, which leads to much faster viewing of photos.
- Recognize to automatically recognise people in photos.
- ONLYOFFICE together with Community Document Server gives web based access to office documents.
What I like
I like owning my data. I like Google not having access to my data. I like that I can give user accounts to my wife and kids without them having to have Google accounts, and securely share data with them. I like that I can brand it (yes, I'm a bit vain). I like the way in which I can share data under my own domain. I like the Nextcloud Talk integration (though I haven't used it much ...). I like not paying Google money, and I like saving a few quid per year.
Here is what my Nextcloud instance looks like: Really smart and basic:
What I don't like
I'm not pretending everything is brilliant: there are some things that I miss with Nextcloud. The most important one is that generating previews/thumbnails for videos is tricky: If you are self hosting, you can install ffmpeg and get it to work, but when you are using Hetzner's Storage Shares, they won't enable it, for performance reasons. I haven't found another way to get video previews/thumbnails, so my videos are thumbnail-less. If you have any suggestions on how to fix this, I'd love to know!
While Hetzner does take snapshots multiple times per day, it does not have an actual backup solution built in. I feel backups are important, because I want a 'Plan B' should I wish to migrate away from Hetzner, or should they fail, or kick me off.
I have a follow up post, in which I share how I'm backing up the data of my Nextcloud / Storage Share instance.