File Sync and Remote Storage/Backup

picture of Nextcloud mobile and desktop apps


NOTE: This guide assumes you have set up Nextcloud as your file synchronization system.

Remote storage/backup is, arguably, essential, for anyone. Whether it’s your work data, or just photos from your daily life – you don’t want to suddenly loose all that data because of a hardware failure, or other technical issue.

Likewise, automatic and immediate synchronization of your data is also very useful. So, typically, these features are paired together.

Unfortunately, at the current time, there are no good open source solutions for file synchronization and remote storage/backup that make use of inexpensive object storage.1 (But if you know of one, let me know!) So instead of about $5 bucks for object storage on the order of 250 gigabytes, you’re going to probably have to spend about $15 bucks for block storage on the order of 150 gigabytes. Even so, open source block storage can still be on par with or cheaper than proprietary object storage solutions like Dropbox or Box, if your data storage needs are around 150 GB.

The other option to go cheaper is to host your own regular disk storage at home.

Configure External Storage

After adding block storage to your VPS2, you will also need to configure external storage support on Nextcloud.

  • Go to Settings > Administration/External storages in Nextcloud.
  • Enter “/” for your “Folder name”, if you want your block storage to store all of
    your files.
  • Click the three-dot menu on the right and check-mark “enable sharing”.

Install the Nextcloud Desktop Synchronization Client

Straight forward installation for all major platforms (via the link above).

Install and Set Up Local Backups

While not necessarily essential, I highly recommend scheduling daily incremental backups for your Nextcloud folder. Without local backups, it is possible for your remote files to be encrypted by a ransomware attacker and sync’d to your desktop before you have a chance to notice. On Linux, I use Déjà Dup3Back In Time, but, unfortunately, I’m not currently aware of any user-friendly open source backup systems for Microsoft or Apple products. (If someone is aware of them, please let me know!)

  1. I’ve looked at Nextcloud, Pydio and Seafile. Nextcloud was unusable due to file synchronization defects, Pydio lacked sufficient documentation for a Docker solution and I gave up after a day of trying, and Seafile’s object storage back-end is not available for their community edition. Also worth noting – when an object storage solution becomes a part of this guide, it will most likely not use Digital Ocean’s “Spaces” product, as they seem to have strict and opaque rate throttling which will make transferring any large file storage system you currently have impossible. UPDATE 5/16/21: tried Pydio again – got a lot farther, but their Android solution is broken, which is a show stopper for me.
  2. On Digital Ocean, you can find instructions under the “More” menu for your block storage on the page.
  3. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend Déjà Dup anymore, since its auto-deletion on full disk doesn’t seem to work and there’s no way to easily specify a backup retention period shorter than 6 months, so it will likely fill up your available disk space if you’re backing up a reasonable amount of data (e.g. ~100GB)

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