Storage software

3 Raspberry Pi cloud storage software solutions

Cloud storage is extremely useful, allowing you to access your files from any device, wherever you are. The downside is that since your data is kept on remote servers by a third-party company, you don’t have full control over its security and privacy. Additionally, cloud providers may charge you for additional storage.

An alternative is to host your files on your own cloud server running on a Raspberry Pi computer at home or in the office. But which self-hosted platform should you use? We explore the three main Raspberry Pi cloud storage options: Nextcloud, ownCloud, and Seafile.


Nextcloud


Screenshot of NextCloud website

One of the most popular self-hosted cloud storage solutions, Nextcloud is an independent ownCloud spin-off created by some of the latter’s top contributors. It is open source under the GNU AGPLv3 license.

Focusing more on user collaboration, it offers real-time document editing and integrated audio/video/text chat. There is also a huge market of over 200 free applications to extend the functionality of your cloud server.

For Raspberry Pi, Nextcloud is quite easy to install using an Ubuntu device or the dedicated NextCloudPi OS image.

Required configuration

Raspberry Pi Model: A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4. Raspberry Pi 4 recommended.

MicroSD card: 4 GB minimum, 8 GB or more recommended.

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Installation

Ubuntu device: A special Ubuntu device is available that combines Nextcloud with the Ubuntu Core operating system. Simply download the Ubuntu Appliance file for Raspberry Pi 2, or Raspberry Pi 3 or 4, and use the official Raspberry Pi Imager tool to write it to your microSD card.

You will then need to open an Ubuntu SSO account and generate Secure Shell (SSH) keys to remotely access and start your new Nextcloud server.

NextCloudPi: This custom version of Raspberry Pi OS allows you to create your own Raspberry Pi cloud server with Nextcloud. After downloading the operating system image and writing it to a microSD card, a bit of configuration is required before you can access your Nextcloud server.


The NextCloudPi configuration web panel helps you change server settings and add an external drive.

Dashboard and apps


Viewing Nextcloud Dashboard Files

With a user-friendly interface, the Nextcloud web dashboard allows you to set your status, such as “working from home”, and see the weather conditions where you are. On the top toolbar are icons for sections like Files, Photos, Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks.

A settings drop-down menu lets you manage users and install additional apps. The marketplace offers over 200 free apps, including the Collabora Online office suite, and a variety of dashboard widgets.

Desktop and mobile clients

You can automatically sync files from your Nextcloud server to your computer desktop with a desktop client available for Windows 10, macOS, and Linux.

Free mobile client apps are also available for Android and iOS. Features include synchronization of your favorite files and folders and an instant download option for photos and videos taken on your phone. Additionally, a Nextcloud Talk app allows you to make video and audio calls. Other special applications are also available.

Security

With enterprise-grade security, your storage is protected with multi-layered encryption. Industry standard SSL/TLS is used to encrypt data during transfer. Data can be stored using military-grade AES-256 encryption and there is an option for end-to-end encryption per folder. As an administrator, you can control user access to files and applications.

ownCloud


Screenshot of OwnCloud website

Focused on enterprise-grade file collaboration, ownCloud is a well-established cloud storage option and it’s completely free to use if you host your server yourself. The ownCloud Core version is open source under the AGPLv3 license.

Features include end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, antivirus, firewall, and file integrity checking. Additional applications are available on a market.

For Raspberry Pi, ownCloud is installed in an existing iteration of the standard version of Raspberry Pi OS, which is a bit more complicated than Nextcloud.

Requirements

Raspberry Pi Model: A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4. Raspberry Pi 4 recommended.

MicroSD card: 4 GB minimum, 8 GB or more recommended.

Installation

To build a Raspberry Pi cloud server with ownCloud, you will install ownCloud into the standard Raspberry Pi operating system. Before you do that, you’ll need to enter a few terminal commands to install Apache HTTP Server, PHP 5, and SQLite.

After downloading the latest ownCloud zip file, another series of terminal commands are needed to get everything working properly. You can then register an administrator account and connect to your ownCloud server from a web browser.

Dashboard and apps


ownCloud Dashboard Files View

ownCloud offers an easy-to-use web-based dashboard to access your documents and photos. By default, the interface opens to your Files page.

Clicking the menu icon in the top left lets you switch between available apps. By selecting the Market option, you can visit the Market to install additional free applications such as a calendar and the Collabora office suite.

Desktop and mobile clients

You can sync files to your computer’s desktop from your ownCloud server with a desktop client for macOS, Windows and Linux.

Mobile client apps are available for Android ($0.99) and iOS (free in-app purchases available). Features include the ability to browse all your ownCloud synced files, create and edit new files, and share files and folders with other users.

Security

ownCloud prides itself on its reliability and security, including AES-256 file encryption. However, the end-to-end encryption option is not available in the free community edition.

Related: Owncloud vs NextCloud vs Seafile: Which self-hosted cloud storage should you choose?

Seafile


Screenshot of Seafile website

An open source file synchronization and sharing solution, Seafile offers Dropbox-like file synchronization while emphasizing collaborative features.


Uniquely, Seafile uses “libraries” to organize your files. A library is a top-level container for a set of files and folders, so it’s a handy way to group all the stuff in a project together.

For Raspberry Pi, Seafile is installed into an existing iteration of the standard version of Raspberry Pi OS by issuing a long series of terminal commands.

Requirements

Raspberry Pi model: A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4. Raspberry Pi 4 recommended.

MicroSD card: 4 GB minimum, 8 GB or more recommended.

Installation

As with ownCloud, Seafile is installed in the standard Raspberry Pi operating system. The Lite version of the latter is recommended. The Sealife Administration Manual shows how to build the Seafile server release package for Raspberry Pi.

It involves lots of terminal commands to configure the build environment, install packages, compile development libraries, and install a whole host of Python libraries. You can then test and activate the server, ready to use.

Dashboard and apps


Seafile Cloud Server Dashboard

In the web dashboard, everything is organized into top-level folders called libraries, which can be password protected. You can see your own libraries and others that have been shared with you. Documents can be consulted, modified and commented on.

Libraries can be explored in Column view, for a wiki-style experience. Additionally, wiki pages can be saved as regular documents in Markdown format.

Unlike Nextcloud and ownCloud, there is no app market to extend the functionality of your Seafile server, so you are limited to online editing apps.

Desktop and mobile clients

Desktop sync and Drive clients are available from the Seafile download page. The Drive client is the more sophisticated of the two options, allowing you to access files on the server without syncing to the local drive.

Free mobile client apps are available for Android and iOS, but have a fairly limited feature set.

Security

There is an option to encrypt data stored at rest using AES 256-CBC encryption. The free community edition also provides control over file and application access rights in addition to two-factor authentication.

Raspberry Pi cloud storage software solutions

We’ve explored the three main options for creating a private cloud storage solution hosted on your Raspberry Pi. Adding an external storage drive is highly recommended to allow you to store more data than the microSD card.

If all you want is simple file sharing, an alternative is to set up Samba (SMB/CIFS) sharing on the Raspberry Pi, which lets you access shared folders on a Windows, macOS, or Linux computer. Or you can install a specialized operating system to create a media server for music and video.


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