Awesome Stuff: Bring The Cloud Back Home

from the personal-cloud-solutions dept

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time contemplating and investigating “personal cloud” solutions. There are clear benefits to cloud computing, but there are downsides as well. As I’d mentioned a few months ago, what many people think of today as “cloud computing” doesn’t really fulfill the promise of cloud computing at all. Rather, it’s just been buying space in someone else’s silo. That has a variety of problems. A few months ago, my main concern was about the fact that service providers can (and sometimes do) shut these services down, and then you’re screwed. More recently, of course, as so many revelations have come out about government surveillance that seems to thrive on the fact that it can just go to third parties and get access to your data without a warrant, a separate major concern with today’s popular cloud solutions has become very, very apparent. A private cloud may still have some drawbacks — limited services, you have to be your own IT support, etc. — but this area seems very, very ripe for innovation. A few weeks ago, we had an awesome stuff post about some new services designed to keep your activities private, but as I was preparing for this week’s post, I stumbled upon a trio of interesting projects that focus more specifically on personal cloud offerings. None of them were specifically designed with “privacy” as the key driving point, but all recognize that it’s a key selling point as well.

  • First up, we’ve got Mailpile, which a number of you have been sending in. This is a project out of Iceland, trying to create a webmail client that matches the kind of ease of use and features of a Gmail or, but which is 100% open source and self-hosted. When I was first thinking about private cloud concepts, I wondered if there was a sort of “Gmail for a private cloud” and it appears these guys are looking to do exactly that, including building in user-friendly PGP. These days, it’s still a bit complex (though, not that hard) to set up PGP in something like Gmail, but making it even easier, and doing it on a mail system that will run on your own storage… well, that just seems like a good idea. Hopefully, various useful plugins for other cloud based email services can be configured to work with Mailpile as well (these days, I don’t think I could live without Sanebox or Boomerang), but it’s good to see that real efforts are being made in this direction. Overall though, Mailpile looks really quite awesome and I look forward to seeing what else the team can accomplish.
    This one really is in the spirit of donating to something great, since the code will be free and open source, but if you believe that something like this is important, please consider stepping up. The team has already raised a bit more than half of its $100,000 goal — which will allow the team of three to focus on the product for a year — and there’s still a month to go. It appears they’ll work on it no matter what, though if they reach their goal, they’ll really be able to concentrate on the product full time.
  • But what about setting up your private cloud? The more “traditional” way was to set up a big network attached storage system, which can be quite powerful, with tremendous storage, RAID capabilities and the like — but they can also be incredibly complex and super expensive if you really make them nice. But some are looking to get away from that, and a super popular one is Lima device looks like one way to do that. This product was known as “Plug” until just a few days ago, but following a legal threat from someone else who apparently holds a trademark on Plug, they’ve changed the name midstream (ouch) to Lima. Of course, it was so popular already that they had already sold out and have just added a second run of devices. Basically, this is a tiny device that you can plug into your router via ethernet on one side, and then out the other side is a USB plug. In the middle is a tiny Linux server that will take any and all USB drives you attach to the other side and make them cloud drives that you can access from any computer or phone. Basically, turn any old USB hard drive into a network attached storage setup. You can buy two Lima’s and set them to do backups to each other as well. Need more storage? Add another USB drive. But it’s a bit more advanced than that, because the Lima software also appears to synchronize everything and make it all seamless, so that you’re not just seeing “another drive” for things, but rather everything is immediately and easily available on all your devices. No finding a specific drive or copying stuff over.
    This one was massively popular from the very start. They surpassed their $69,000 goal within 12 hours and then completely sold out of their entire stock of the first run within five days. They’ve since opened up the ability to purchase the second run of the devices, though they won’t get delivered until April. The devices run at $79 per device, which they suggest is a big discount on the eventual $150 retail price (though, I wonder if competition will drive that price down significantly). Either way, they’re rapidly approaching $1 million, and this is definitely classifiable as a massive Kickstarter success.
  • Didn’t get in on the Lima early enough to get the early bird? Think even $79 is a bit pricey for this sort of thing? You might want to check out this other brand new project over at IndieGoGo for the mySkiva Cloud WiFi router. At a glance, it certainly looks like it offers most of the same functionality to the Lima, but with a WiFi router built in as well. Oh, and for early birds (of which there are still a bunch available) it’s only $20, which is kind of insane. They have iOS software ready to go and say that there will be Android software by the end of the year as well. From the description, it doesn’t look as if the software is quite as sophisticated as the Lima (the syncing stuff with the Lima looks a lot more advanced), so with the mySkiva you’ll just have a separate networked drive, rather than making it all as seamless.
    As mentioned, it looks like this product has really just launched, so there are almost no backers yet, but considering how quickly the Lima (Plug) devices went, it will be interesting to see if this gets similar traction.

And there you go. If people have other suggestions for interesting personal cloud solutions, let us know.

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Comments on “Awesome Stuff: Bring The Cloud Back Home”

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Malor (profile) says:

I’ve been an advocate of ‘be your own cloud’ for quite awhile, and have in fact been doing it myself for years and years, because I didn’t trust the cloud providers. (I thought Google was snooping, not the government.)

But one thing we truly need to understand, here, is that email is not encrypted, and the NSA has taps all over the Internet. Even if it’s encrypted on your local drives, and the NSA would need a warrant to break into your house and read it, it’s not encrypted in transit. The NSA can snarf it right off the wire, store it in their huge new data center in Utah, read and analyze every word at their leisure, and track all your acquaintances. If they miss the mail in transit, great, the home cloud will give you a lot of protection, but they probably won’t miss it in transit.

In addition to running our own clouds, we also need to redo the SMTP protocol to include some kind of encryption that’s not easily hijacked; I suspect that some kind of distributed ‘watch system’ for self-signed certificates would probably work fairly well, making it hard for the NSA to do man-in-the-middle attacks without people noticing. It would be nice to also get GPG mail going on a wider basis, but that requires attention by end-users, where SMTP-level protocol encryption will prevent casual snooping.

Basically, we need to rebuild a lot of the Internet. Not the physical wires, but the protocols; we need to move to encrypted traffic by default, all the time, everywhere, in every protocol except probably games. Hell, even there, we probably want text messages between players encrypted — witness that one kid who went to jail for months because of game trash-talking.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Re: we need encrypted protocols

Plugging my own warez:

I’ve come up with a way to do authentication in a secure and privacy protecting way. It can form the basis of anonymous accounts at websites where the client stays anyomous until he/she decides to reveal an identity.

It can be used for secure messaging. And it doesn’t need SMTP.

It allows web browsers to implement real Man-in-the-middle-protection.

Check out:

Malor (profile) says:

But I should also emphasize: storing data in your own home gives you a *lot* more protection than any other method. There’s lots more data you could have than just simple email, and if you’re storing the data on hardware owned by other people, particularly if it’s shared access on a single machine, then your protections against search and seizure are almost nil.

Keeping your data in your house *probably* means they’ll need a warrant to get at it, although with the way they keep redefining things, maybe they’ll be able to just hit you with a worm program instead.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

maybe, maybe not…
here is the thing: at least ONE mission the alphabet spooks have accomplished, is to make everyone JUSTIFIABLY paranoid…
that serves the ends of The They in keeping us divided and afraid…

it might also be that -like using encryption, whether innocuous or not- doing something like that (setting up your own server, etc) automagically flags you as some sort of weirdo nerd subversive commie pinko tea baggin’ survivalist proto-terrorist…

the reason we have to spy on you here, is so we can spy on them there… or something like that…

like some columnist pointed out the other day: we ONLY ‘know’ that little that Manning, Snowden, Kiriakou, etc have either had access to, or filtered out under other criteria, etc: WHAT about the OTHER 99% of immoral crap we STILL don’t know, not to mention the ‘unknown unknowns’ ? ? ?

who knows, maybe the neo-tarbaby -nine one one- might be involved in all these convulsions by Empire to crush any/all whistleblowers / patriots…

who knows, indeed: all i know is, we don’t know 1/100th the shit done in our names, with our money…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

it might also be that -like using encryption, whether innocuous or not- doing something like that (setting up your own server, etc) automagically flags you as some sort of weirdo nerd subversive commie pinko tea baggin’ survivalist proto-terrorist…

Possibly, but people running their own servers is not that uncommon (it’s more common than people who routinely encrypt everything). So even if this flags you, the group of flagged people would still be unhelfully large.

Dylan Bennett says:

The “Lima” looks basically like a ripoff of Pogoplug, which is a device already available to buy right now. I don’t think Pogoplug is the one who threatened the “Lima” project (looks like there was already a Kickstarter project elsewhere named the Plug and that’s where the dispute was), but the fact that they even called it the Plug makes me think they’re just trying to duplicate the functionality of Pogoplug.

TL;DR If you want something that the Plug is supposedly going to do, maybe check out Pogoplug, which can be bought right now and already does those things.

Disclaimer: Re-reading what I wrote, it sounds like I’m a shill for Pogoplug. I have nothing whatsoever to do with Pogoplug. When a friend came to me two days ago showing me the Lima Kickstarter project, I watched the video and said, “Uh, yeah, that’s basically a Pogoplug.”

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

TL;DR If you want something that the Plug is supposedly going to do, maybe check out Pogoplug, which can be bought right now and already does those things.

Interesting stuff. Looking at Pogoplug, though, it seems to get very mixed reviews. Also, at least from the marketing material, they seem a lot more focused on backup, rather than the Lima positioning of “magical cloud setup that automatically takes care of everything.” Still, they are fairly similar in many ways. And given how much cheaper the Pogoplug is, it makes me again think that the Lima is going to need to drop its prices if it wants to stay competitive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have a PogoPlug and have been using it for two years. Love it, all my drives mount by USB. Nice to be able to access all files anywhere you connect to the Web.
The only draw back that I can see to Pogo is it’s security is iffy according to more experienced users than myself. But they were going to fix some of the glitches. For me, it still meets my needs and I can not do without it. Surprised it did not even get a casual mention in this article. Seems like PogoPlug has been on the market for many years now and have come out with many upgraded devices, which means that their technology surpasses these other. I do however see some patent wars coming up.

David (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I also have a Pogoplug that I have been using for a few years, and bought a second one (on amazon for $20) that I wiped and installed a LAMP server on, it acts as a private web server. The down side of pogoplug is that you still access the files through their portal, so if they shut down, you lose the access ability, but the files and storage are yours.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The down side of pogoplug is that you still access the files through their portal, so if they shut down, you lose the access ability

That’s a pretty freaking huge downside! Aside from adding insecurity, it means that you can’t use it as a seamless replacement for commercial cloud providers. For me, that’s a showstopper.

Anonymous Coward says:

had it not have been for the conduct of the USG and the various Security agencies over the last several years and the fact that the public are now fully aware of that conduct plus the way that everyone possible is being blamed for the leaks except those actually responsible or for those same ones owning up to their despicable behaviour, things may have continued to get back to normal reasonable quickly. unfortunately, apart from the obvious things that have accompanied the behaviour and the ‘blame everyone possible’ attitude, what is going on as well is that there are new services coming to fruition, new services getting off the ground. instead of everywhere crapping backwards at the thought of the USA jumping up and down because they have been caught out and people now know what a bunch of lying, megalomaniac arse holes are in charge, things are changing, hopefully, for the better. the US could be left out in the cold here except for a couple of governments that are too scared to say anything accompanying them, the majority seem to be pushing back, and so they should! when even secure services are being targeted in case the blame can be passed off to them, at least in part, are closing rather than be dragged into an event as a third party, it shows not so much the fear of the USG, more, it’s the contempt. secure services operate for a reason, are not aware of what is being transferred but because it suits the USG, they have to take part of the brunt. this is driving the new services to start quicker, will be based outside of the US and hopefully, out of harms way. funny how ‘third party involvement’ is brought into play when it suits and left out when it doesn’t. the first thing the USG needs to do is stop passing the buck and accept responsibility for it’s wrongs. maybe this will make it all the better for the experience, but i very much doubt it. it’s far too arrogant to learn anything from anyone!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And what is wrong with that? Setting up a couple of VirtMin instances isn’t hard and can be duplicated across multiple providers in very different locations, thus limiting risk. Personal use could be anything from running RoundCube, ie the MailPile project, or ownCloud a dropbox style storage which seems to be the Lima Project.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A “personal cloud” is nothing but a VM server.

In exactly the same way that a commercial cloud is nothing but a VM server. But you miss the point of personal clouds: the point is to have the most useful part of cloud functionality (data available on all your devices) without having to use a third-party service.

No large capital investment is required when your cloud is only intended to service you, not millions of people. Upgrading hardware (if it’s ever required) remains cheap.

The only real downside is that, as mentioned in the article, you have to take care of any problems yourself — but those problems tend not to be terribly difficult.

A secondary downside is that your server is likely to be in your house. For security purposes, off-site is preferred. But this is a little issue and can be easily mitigated by keeping off-site backups.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Tonido personal cloud

If you are looking for a personal cloud, you should check out tonido ( It is dead easy to install, great mobile apps to access media from anywhere and completely private and secure.

Definitely looks cool, and probably better than Pogoplug — though if you want to set up the drives as mountable, then you need to pay for upgraded service. It’s not expensive, but additional cost — which neither of the items above have. Not saying it’s bad, just noting it for people looking at these. I may explore Tonido in more detail… The TonidoPlug device also seems noticeably more expensive than PogoPlug.

Personal Cloud Solution says:


Read the comments by user “Undunn” in this thread (starting here and continuing through several pages) – they describe exactly how to set up a personal cloud solution for secure email.

Disgusted (profile) says:

So, What's new?

Microsoft, several years ago, came up with a marvelous system called Windows Home Server. Until they destroyed it by eliminating the Drive Space expandable storage technology, in favor of RAID fer pete’s sake, this system could do all of the above. One could encrypt the whole drive, get a URL assigned to the system, and access it from anywhere on the internet – ENCRYPTED. Only you had the key to unencrypt it. Wanna bet the Gummint jumped on them and caused them to kill the system because they couldn’t spy on the users?

Now that WHS is officially dead, pretty much, you still have other options. If you Google “Windows Home Server” you’ll see bunches, based on XP and Linux.


Re: So, What's new?

The definition of a server has always been rather artificial. Really, any machine can be a server including your desktop or your phone. Things like the pogo plug are just results of minaturization and the development of ARM based systems.

My Android devices all run ssh servers and it simplifies access a great deal. They just look like file servers.

The real catch is that broadband is asymetrical and upload speed is much slower. Your home network may not be able to support the same speeds as an Amazon or Google cloud.

Peter says:

Build it from scratch

OK, so this takes a little bit of technical know how, but only a little, because most of what you need you’ll learn along the way.

Basically, build your own server, and then do awesome stuff with it. The hardware is simple enough; a bare bones PC with some decently large hard drives. Processor and RAM can be fairly low end, depending on what you’re doing with it, so this doesn’t have to be very expensive at all. Ideally, look into solutions with a low power draw, and which will only require minimal or passive cooling, because this will be running 24/7 (obviously, get an uninterruptible power supply for this; APC makes really good ones for a decent price).

OK, now get yourself set up with your choice of Windows or a Linux distribution on this box. Either works for what you’re doing. That’s your server. All you have to do now is start adding features.

For example, Seafile ( is a personal cloud storage solution that allows you to create and manage multiple accounts, so you can give storage spaces to friends and family, supports realtime syncing, version tracking, and encryption, and has full featured cross-platform desktop and smartphone apps. It even has social tools like a chat client and wiki spaces, so it’s great for collaborative projects.

Subsonic ( is your own streaming media server. Take your entire media collection with you, everywhere. Not just music, mind you; Subsonic will re-encode videos and music on the fly, so you can stream 1080p movies to your smartphone. Yes, that is awesome. Again, you can set up multiple accounts to let your friends and family share in the fun, as well as being to share access to files directly (nothing like being in a Skype chat with someone, mentioning a band you think they’d like, and going “Oh, hey, click this link to listen to them right now”). Again, cross platform desktop clients, and excellent smartphone clients that even support local caching and adjustable bitrate (based on whether or not you are on wifi to save your data plan).

By the way, you’re going to want an easily accessible web address for all of this. Check out for a set free redirects.

That’s all fun stuff, but let’s do more. How about a torrent program that runs on your server and can be controlled from a desktop client, a web interface, or your phone? Try Deluge (

Would you like to hang out with your buddies and voice chat easily, and without relying on services like Skype (notably NSA friendly) or Steam? Add your own Teamspeak voice over IP server ( Very fast and easy set up, and a powerful codec set keeps network usage to a minimum.

And hey, after you’ve done with all that, go ahead and add your own private Minecraft server on as well 😉

This sort of thing is an ongoing, occasionally frustrating and immensely rewarding project for anyone even remotely technically inclined, and I don’t regret it for a second. Building my first server taught me a million things that I never knew before, and every change or upgrade sharpens my skills just a little more. The best part is that because all of these tools are built to share, this becomes more than just a cool toy for you; it’s something your family and friends will all benefit from, in a myriad of ways. So go on, go to it.

Anonymous Coward says:


Go get Mailvelope (chrome extension at least) for encrypting most Web mails.. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook.

If you really want/need to use Dropbox — encrypt your data before being stored in Dropbox with something like Viivo

Host (VM or otherwise) your own Dropbox clone with — OwnCloud

mattarse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Alternatives

I was actually wondering why owncloud wasn’t mentioned. One of the reasons I’ve been looking at it, is that it can run on a Raspberry Pi. This looks interesting to me b/c I can convince a couple of different friends to take it home and plug it in, then I have secure (hopefully) cloud storage synced across several locations for the cost of the hdd and the raspberry pi. I’m not sure how well this works though, and how much administration would be needed.
There are also various hosting firms that will run an owncloud server for you – but at a cost ofcourse.
It doesn’t settle the issue of email – but I think smtp needs a redesign before email can be secure unless you add hurdles to both the sender and receiver.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Alternatives

OwnCloud’s pretty easy to setup. I personally just used the RPM packages and replicate between and Linode servers. The only tweak really needed is to adjust PHP variables for file size and timeouts, and I think this is where most people don’t understand why they can only upload 2M files. Really only bug I’ve found is trying to share encrypted content among fellow users on the same server doesn’t work (stays encrypted), though email links do work.
The whole cost is hosting and 99c per phone so not a deal breaker. If I could get 1Password to sync with it, I’d leave DropBox totally, but for now I’m stuck with at least a free account.

Sona (profile) says:

Cloud Wifi Router

Apparently I was looking for a solution where I can store all my images and important documents to be accessible anywhere. Looks like Lima and mySkiva cloud are good solutions for the private cloud. Lima is a bit expensive as compared to mySkiva. I was looking Andriod Apps and Security again is important aspect. I checked the Michael comments on mySkiva Router page ( Check here ) and it seems data encryption is again there as per developers. As far as android apps are concerned, I hope those will also be launched soon.

Fred Dixon says:

As you start using the cloud computing for your business, you end up exploring more and more amounts of benefits for your business. All these benefits are added over the essential ones like the cake icing, which together render more value to your business than you had initially even planned. In order to know and explore a number of benefits and features that can help you to operate your business effectively. For more details visit

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