On Self-Hosting

Day 3 of #100DaysToOffload

Introduction

This is something I have wanted to write for a while. Inspiration for this idea came from a blogpost by Kev in October of last year. The question is still relevant, though: Does using a VPS rather than a physical computer you own count as self-hosting? It definitely does count, and can sometimes be more beneficial.

Self-hosting? What's that?

The name pretty much gives it away, but self-hosting is when you are responsible for running and serving different webapps, databases, platforms, and the like. With self-hosting, you are in complete control of the software and thus at fault if something goes wrong. I love self-hosting as a) it teaches me a lot and b) gives me far more freedom and control. If somebody else takes care of it for you, that's managed hosting, where you would not need to worry about many technical aspects that comes with self-hosting. For example, Google Drive is basically managed hosting and simple to use, but Google is in control of your data. The problem, for me at least, is not that Google specifically has my data, but that someone else does at all. I use Nextcloud as a self-hosted alternative. I feel far more comfortable with this approach because I take care of that data. Yes, I can terribly mess up and lose it (well, I have backups of course), but I want that personal responsibility. Our digital lives are practical extensions of ourselves. I want to control and not outsource that.

So...does a VPS count?

If I were to argue against myself, I would say not controlling the physical hardware invalidates the “full control” part. Technically, yes, it is not “full control,” but it is an extremely small part of that. In most cases, owning the hardware does not matter. Having services hosted on a VPS does not take away the personal responsibility (which is where the control comes in). Theoretically, the provider could kick you out, but backups (ones not with the provider, obviously) would negate most harm from that. Furthermore, the homeserver has its own problems. Your ISP could be extremely restrictive and power outages are probably more likely to happen at your home. I do have a homeserver to self-host a variety of media applications, a WireGuard server, a pi-hole, and a general Nextcloud instance. At the same time, I use VPS providers to self-host more critical services (such as my Matrix and another Nextcloud instance for crucial files). As you may have noticed, I say I self-host them. I had to install the apps, configure the databases, setup NGINX, etc. I wish everything could be on my homeserver but it is just that. A wish. I simply cannot guarantee the same uptime at home as I can for a VPS. As I cannot afford to lose access to vital services (such as Calendar and Conatcts), I self-host them on a VPS.