Yahoo! Data Center (2)

At a Yahoo! Data center in 2009

Years of trial and error and experimentation has brought me to a place that is fantastic. I know the use of servers for personal computing is no big deal but I finally have this feeling that everything is where it should be in my computing life. I have everything that I need and aside from standard upgrades, it’s all in place. Sure, there’s the feeling that the iPhone is wasted on me and that’s something I’ll talk about in another post and there’s a fairly immediate need to upgrade my Synology NAS and my iMac in 2016 but the way I compute is effectively perfect.

It all started in 2012 when I purchased a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with an EU based hosting company at the same time I bought a DD-WRT home router. The VPS taught me a lot. I needed a hosting situation for my blog. That’s always been the key reason to have a web host. With a VPS that had a dual-core 2Ghz processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM and 40 gigabytes of storage, I was able to do a few more things. No, it wasn’t a very fast experience for me but hosting more things like my RSS-Feed Server, personal Wiki site, learning about DNS, PHP, Apache, Security, Backups and SysAdmin of a CentOS machine running WHM / CPanel. I also invited a friend to join the server and run his website so it gave me experience with being a reseller and making sure his site was up and running and supporting his services.

In 2014, I upgraded my home network to be more independent of a computer by purchasing a Synology NAS. I started small with a 2-bay system Play which does have a hardware video decoder and dual 6 terabyte drives for a total usable space of 6TB. Soon, I’m going to sell that and upgrade to a 4-Bay Synology that can Decode 4K content via a hardware chip and an additional set of 6TB drives because currently my Synology is a bit crippled with the 6TB of space completely used and 4 hard drives connected to it each with different sets of data and none of them are being backed up automatically with any sort of RAID mirroring. If I could afford a 24 terabyte Synology setup, I would but I currently can’t so from 6 to 12TB usable I will go.

The Synology project was great! I wrote in April of 2015 that I wasn’t using its fullest potential. Since then, I’ve made the entire NAS far more automated with a lot of great things happening. Here’s a taste of what I do with it:

  • Full encrypted hourly backups of my iMac & MacBook Pro
  • Storage of all RAW Lightroom photos & data
  • The Lightroom LRCAT and other XML files are stored on the Synology self-hosted DropBox system so I can edit photos on any computer and they’re synced back to Synology when I’m on my VPN / @ home
  • Speaking of that, full VPN access to my home network
  • Plex running and indexed 5 terabytes of Music, Movies and TV Shows
  • Home Wiki for organizing documents, ideas, sort of jotting things down
  • The Self-Hosted Dropbox system
  • Remote Access to all of my media through Synology’s native applications or via Plex
  • Scratch Disk for Final Cut Pro lives attached to the Synology via eSATA and since I edit all video on my iMac, the Gigabit ethernet connection to Synology is plenty sufficient

2012-2015 were an exciting time in computing. In 2016, I’ve taken up a next-step

I’ve replaced my aging Cisco ISR Router with a Ubiquiti Networks – ERPOE-5 – EdgeRouter POE so I can power my Unify 802.11b/g/n access points without needing PoE boosters which means less ports taken up on the APC UPS system. I’ll be purchasing the Synology DS415+ along with the WD Red 6TB hard drives. I’d like to buy the Unify 802.11AC Access Points but I’m going to wait until AC is a standard in all of my devices before doing that so maybe 2-3 years from now with a home network that will have 4 APs instead of the 2 I have today at different places in the home.

I’m now on a VPS with CDN that has eight, 3.5Ghz CPUs, 4 gigabytes of RAM and 120 gigabytes of storage with unlimited transfer. This is a very exciting time and from the initial VPS setup, i was able to utilize my skills acquired so far and it was a blast working on this. I’ve spent roughly 60 night and weekend hours on the new VPS getting a lot of things setup. It’s been a lot of work. In summary, the VPS has a lot of awesome features:

  • I have 2 dedicated IP Addresses
  • I also have 2 SSL Certificates, one for AdamChandler.me and AdamChandler.beer
  • I’m running WordPress Multi-Site so I can hop between my 4 WordPress installations easily
  • Automated WordPress updates which saves me a lot of time
  • Self-Hosted Analytics via Piwik
  • Using Fever to self-host my RSS Server
  • OwnCloud running which is a self-hosted open-source LDAP, CardDav, CalDAV and WebDav system that fully replaces everything that iCloud does for me except the integration with Photos for Mac
  • My online photo gallery using Koken
  • My new saved-links site is also hosted and I’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks but basically it’s a self-hosted Delicio.us website.
  • Hosting my new micro blog that is pretty much Twitter for personal use.
  • My server is also running a VPS which makes browsing the web a bit more secure when at public Internet spots
  • Off-site 120GB Backup of my 120GB of server storage space happens every day
  • I have a CDN that I’ll setup soon to make image delivery much faster
  • each service has 128MB of RAM allocated to it so my online image gallery is insanely fast now
  • 2-3 more other projects I plan on completing in the coming months
I still want to find a way to replace Google Voice by hosting my own SMS / Audio relay that has a real-world accessible phone number. Most options are expensive. I also want to replace Slack and iMessages but it requires people connect directly to me. Any way to get off Apple, Google and other’s grid is a big-win. If Slack created a self-hosted product that Slack users could connect to using the current method, I’d be SOOO happy.

The Synology and VPS are both accessible from anywhere as long as I have an Internet connection and both have all of their services secured with 2-factor authentication. I have some SSH Keys saved on my MacBook Pro and iMac so getting into the VPS would be fairly challenging from a damage level and 10+ hours of my work has been spent hardening the security of the VPS to avoid any catastrophic things happening. I get 12 emails a day of brute-force attacks on WordPress and CPanel / WHM taking place and people are blocked after one failed login attempt. Botnets are real.

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While this was a wall of text, I’m just ecstatic to share this because while I have learned all of this very slowly, computers are very important to us, especially more so if you are like me and want to own your own services and data. There’s overhead to maintaining these but having everything I own digitized onto hardware I control is of great value to me. While it’s not a big deal to others, it certainly is to some of us and Synology & VPS have made my life so much easier. If you know of any services I should be using, please drop me a line.

Look to see a few more posts on the subject of self-hosted lifestyle and if there are guides you’d like to see on doing this yourself, let me know.