Replacing Dropbox with OpenSource Self-Hosted Owncloud


This is a work in progress post.


Alright, you got here via search (hopefully using DuckDuckGo) and don’t want me
to lament on and on about why this is a good idea.

Just go and post the bits only sections of this post one by one, it wont be the best setup,
but it’ll get you started.


You need the following:

  • 1) A DigitalOcean account. Trust me they are brilliant.
  • 2) (for backup, advised) an Amazon AWS account and access keys / credentials
  • 3) A way to access the servers ssh console. I’ll be using the built in Terminal emulator. In Windows you’ll probably want to use Putty.
  • 4) And a set of SSH keys to authenticate yourself without password; the best tutorial for that I know of is from Github: (Generating SSH Keys)[]
  • 5) An available domain or subdomain, in any case use namecheap if you need a new domain.

Create a new Droplet on DigitalOcean

For this step you’ll need (from the preparation list):

  • 1) the DigitalOcean account
  • 2) working SSH setup
  • 3) and a set of SSH keys

DigitalOcean makes the next couple of steps really easy.
To ensure that you’re able to follow along I’ve added screenshots for each step.

start creating your new Droplet

Once you’re logged in to your DigitalOcean account click on “Create Droplet”.

Start creating a new Droplet

This will open the page that takes all the information about our new Owncloud instance.

Supplying all necessary information to create the Owncloud server

Name your Server

Any name will do in my example I’ll be naming it myowncloud.

Name your Owncloud Instance

Select the right size

The absolute minimum for this is 1GB, please don’t select 512MB. However, you’re free to select anything higher. I’m using 1GB
happily at the moment, which should be sufficient for up to 10 users.

Select the 1GB instance for Owncloud for a minimum deployment

Select the Owncloud Application Image

Fortunately, DigitalOcean provides us with an Owncloud image. The image contains almost everything we need out of the box,
let’s select it.

Select Image - Next Step

Click on Applications.

Select Image - Click Applications

And select Owncloud 8.0.4 on 14.04. DigitalOcean updates these application images quite frequently,
so, your version number should either be 8.0.4 or anything higher than that. The 14.04 stands for
Ubuntu 14.04 and references the current LTS (LongTermRelease) until the next LTS release comes out
this will be the same as well.

Select Image - Click the Owncloud Image

Pick the region

The region references the location on planet earth of our instance. For me in the UAE the Amsterdam location has
shown the best performance in terms of access performance. I’d advise to that you pick the
closest city to your current location.

Select a Region close to you

Adding SSH keys

We’re almost done with this part of the tutorial.
Let’s add your previously generated SSH keys.

Adding your SSH keys - Next Step

This is not optional and a very important step. The SSH key is the only way that you’ll be
able to access your server. Please make sure you’re following this properly.

Please press *Add SSH key”.

Adding your SSH keys - Press 'Add SSH Key'

Now, please proceed with Step 4 from the Github Tutorial.
I’ve added this step below so that you don’t need to jump back to the other site.

$ pbcopy < ~/.ssh/
# Copies the contents of the file to your clipboard

And paste the contents into the text field.

Adding your SSH keys - Paste your previously generate SSH key into the text box 'SSH Key content'

Confirming all above information and creating the Owncloud instance

We’re done on DigitalOcean now. Just press Create Droplet and your new Owncloud instance
will be created within 30 seconds.

Press 'Create Droplet' to create your Owncloud instance Now creating your Owncloud Instance

After about 30 seconds, you’ll be redirect to the droplets main page and you should see.

The Owncloud Droplet page

Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of your own Dropbox alternative using Owncloud 8.
In the next steps we’ll make sure that your shiny new Owncloud instance is save and secure.

To be able to continue you need to take note about the IP address of your new Owncloud instance.
You’ll find it on the same page.

The Owncloud Instance IP Address

It’s the first numbers, in my case they are:

Owncloud Initial Setup

Let’s head over to your new Owncloud instance for some 5 minute initial setup.

Visit your Owncloud Instance

You should be redirected automatically to:

Owncloud Landing Page

Don’t just go and download those Apps, we’ve got some more stuff todo. :)

create your own admin user account

Unfortunately, admin is not a good username for your main ownclouds administration account.
We need to change it to something better. I’ll be using myownclouduser as the name for the admin
user account.

Select Users from the dropdown menu on the top right corner.

Add your own admin user - change to the user admin panel

Add the username in the first box, the password in the second box and select admin as group.

Add your own admin user - enter the user details

If it all worked, this is what you should see.

Add your own admin user - see that the user has been added

Lets try it out, please select Log out from the top right dropdown menu.

Add your own admin user - confirm by logging out and ...

This will redirect you to the generic log in page. Please enter your username and password.

Add your own admin user - ... logging back in with your new user.

If it all worked you should find yourself back in the Owncloud interface.

switch to https only

Now, if you go and switch to the Admin page, you’ll be greeted with the following message in nice bold red letters.

Switch to HTTPS only - switch to the admin page

HTTPS is a secure transport protocol, this is used to ensure that people can’t read your data while it’s in transit between
your device and the server. To use HTTPS you have two options, you can purchase a certificate (we’ll be doing just that later on in this blog post)
or you can use a certificate that was generated with the server. It’s ok to use the generated certificate for now, you’ll get some
security warnings, but besides that, it’s perfectly fine.

Switch to HTTPS only - on there you should see this security warning

To fix this using the generated certificate, we first need to switch to HTTPS as protocol.

Switch to HTTPS only - fixing it we need to switch to HTTPS first

This will make your browser display the following warning.

Switch to HTTPS only - dont worry, this is a normal warning because we are using our own certificate, we will fix this later by using an official one

Don’t worry, everything is fine, this is our own certificate, hence we can trust it. Select Advanced.

Switch to HTTPS only - in chrome click on Advanced and select Proceed to ...

And click, “Proceed to … (unsafe)”.

Switch to HTTPS only - now you select the admin page again

Now, we’re back in the Owncloud interface, using our own certificate. Lets head over to the admin page and change some settings.

Switch to HTTPS only - switch to the security part of the page

In the Admin page, switch to the security part of the page by selecting Security on the left side menu
and select the option Enforce HTTPS as well as Enforce HTTPS for subdomains.

Switch to HTTPS only - and select both options

Great, now we have a reasonably save initial setup, lets continue with some basic server security steps.

Basic Server Security Steps

Follow the steps in this post Basic Server Security Steps


We’re still missing a nice backup solution for our data.

I’ll be using:

  • Amazon S3 in Amsterdam
  • Duplicity

I’ll be adding this section soon.

Domain Setup

Either get an SSL certificate from namecheap
or use a self-signed one.

… to be continued later