In my previous post, I shared my conundrum with cloud drives. I recommend you check it out.
But essentially, I wanted something as reliable as Dropbox or some other major provider, but with the privacy of self-hosted Nextcloud. This does not seem to exist. So, my conundrum was trying to determine what cloud provider to choose.
But then I stopped to think: What is it that I really want? What is the purpose? What is the threat? What’s the scenario?
I came to the conclusion that there’s no single provider to solve it all, but rather, I’ll have to split things up. Let me explain.
I need a few things, like a laptop backup, photos backup, file archive, and an emergency backup. In the following, I’ll explain how I solved or intend to solve each.
I currently back up my laptop to my NAS, if my NAS breaks, but the laptop is fine, all good. If my laptop breaks but my NAS is fine, all good. If both break, that would be unfortunate. But the most important stuff on my laptop is my work, and that’s backed up to GitHub by design. So, I think my computer backup is reasonably taken care of.
My NAS has a photo backup app, similar to Google Photos and co. It’s what I use to back up my phone’s camera roll. While I haven’t deleted the originals from my phone yet, some backups on the NAS, are from older phones where the originals are no more. So, if my NAS breaks, countless cat pictures would be gone! 🥺
Using some photo backup cloud is out of the question; otherwise I would be using Google Photos now instead of worrying about this. Uploading them as files to some cloud drive is equally problematic, for the same privacy reasons. So, I could stuff them into Cryptomator, but at 120+ GB this isn’t practical, and I can’t really automate the addition of new pictures to Cryptomator.
So, for this problem I have to stop thinking about consumer cloud drives, and instead think of techie cloud storage. So, as first “split”, I got myself a “dumb” cloud storage box which supports Borg backups. I have installed Borg on my NAS, and wrote a script to automatically back up the pictures. Currently, I haven’t managed to make even just the first big backup because the storage provider (Hetzner) constantly disconnects. I’ll have to look into it or switch providers if this problem remains. But the concept itself is promising, and I like it as solution. I’ll have to experiment and maybe switch providers, but at least I know what I’ll do now.
In part, I’d like to use a cloud drive as a file archive. I don’t mean sensitive or personal files. I mean backups of software, ISOs, e-books, and the like, some of which I can’t re-download. So, I’d like to have a backup in case my NAS and everything goes down.
I have come to the conclusion that for this non-sensitive stuff, I could use any cloud provider. But since it’s meant as a backup archive, I think reliability is the most critical thing here. Yes, even more important than privacy. My reasoning is this: If I go to some Nextcloud hoster, I might have better privacy, but that’s worthless if they lose my data (which I believe to be more likely with such a hoster than one of the giants).
Of course, I’ll try to keep a copy on my NAS too. You never know. (:
My NAS can even act as sync client for many services. However, since my NAS is reachable from the internet and I don’t trust it fully, I don’t think I’ll utilize this feature. If the NAS gets breached, my cloud drive would automatically also be breached. However, providers like Dropbox have “undelete” and 30-180 days rollback (useful with ransomware attacks). So, maybe I could use the syncing after all. 🤔
Now, this part is serious. With emergency backup, I mean some critical files. And I mean in case a so-called “act of God” happens and everything breaks down. What if the place burns down? What if some flood destroys my stuff?
I’d like a backup of my KeePass database, for example. I currently have it synced through my NAS, and a cached copy on my devices, and a periodically updated copy on a USB drive. But you notice a problem? That’s all local! In a worst-case scenario, I’d be screwed.
I’d also like to have a copy of a few important documents that I’d scan and upload.
Because these are sensitive, I’d simply stick them into Cryptomator. Yes, KeePass itself is encrypted, but the provider doesn’t need to know they hold such a database, right? ;D
And I already know where to put it.
Now, choosing Dropbox might come as a surprise to most of my readers…
…and my plan involves two Dropbox accounts, even… Let me explain.
While I never truly used cloud drives (as in, to store many or sensitive files), I did, in 2014, try out Dropbox with a free account. I did use it to upload and share screenshots and pics on IRC. Nothing that wasn’t public anyway. (:
And guess what, 8 years later, these screenshots and pics are all still there. Well, at least it looks that way. I didn’t count, to be honest. :D
So, I trust that Dropbox would hold on to a Cryptomator with some important files equally well.
But why two accounts?
Well, Dropbox offers a free “basic” plan with 2 GB of capacity. While this is not much, it’s more than enough to hold a Cryptomator container with my important files.
But I’d also like to use Dropbox for my archiving purposes, I mentioned earlier. For which 2 GB would be useless. So, I’d have to go for a paid account. I’d of course also have a Cryptomator with the same files on there.
My thought is: What if I can’t afford to pay for Dropbox in the future? What if my account gets banned? What if my files get deleted?
I’d still have the most important files in a backup account. (:
I might also consider choosing another free provider, in case Dropbox goes down altogether. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. (:
In conclusion, I think this is my solution:
- Dropbox (paid) for archiving and emergency backup
- Secondary free account somewhere for emergency backup backup
- Storage box with Borg for pictures on NAS
- Laptop is taken care of by magic
I’d like to stress that I’ll use Cryptomator for sensitive files. I’d never trust any cloud provider with sensitive files.
There’s one problem still, but that’s for another time/article… (:
I actually typed this article at the night from the 14th to the 15th, in bed, on my phone! But instead of publishing, I decided to actually sleep it over. On the 15th, I subscribed to the Dropbox professional (30 days) trial, and started to upload things. If I decide to stick with it, I’ll be billed after the trial ends.
When I originally wrote the article, I brought up a concern about my files being deleted if I fail to pay. I looked into it, and it turns out that Dropbox keeps your files even if you don’t pay. If you surpass the free storage quota, you simply won’t be able to upload new files or use the sync client. But you can download them from the web interface. This is good news. But I still need a backup of the emergency backup somewhere else. You never know. (:
Update: I have now ordered an external 2 TB Samsung SSD to use as backup drive for my laptop, which I’ll use in parallel to my existing NAS backup solution.