2020-12-30 | 6 minutes reading

Services you can selfhost on you personal Linux VPS

Fourth article of the Linux VPS series covers some of the services you can selfhost and and what are the pros and cons of selfhosting them compared to using established cloud services from big companies.

Previous articles of this series can be found here, here and here.

Web server

One of the most basic and simple services is web server. You can host your personal web page, blog, or even social network like mastodon. Web server can also be used as a proxy, that is hiding other services behind it and providing additional unified security features such as ssl with valid certificate, or simple DoS and tampering prevention with the help of fail2ban. Another nice thing is, that all those proxied services communication ports can be blocked by your firewall as they doesn't need to be visible to the public. When hosting your own web services, you have complete control over your data, access, server settings, modules and so on.

Mail server

This may be one of the hardest setups if done manually, but the reward would be lower level understanding of how it works and knowledge for making changes or fixing some problems if needed. Mail server setup consists of several parts. MTA (mail transfer agent) that routes, sends and receives the mail (Postfix, qmail...). POP3/IMAP client that provides your email data using specified protocol. (e.g. Dovecot). These two are necessary for standard use. There are some other, that are very important if you want to use it as your daily driver. It is spam filter (spamassassin, rspamd) and antivirus engine (clamav). These will check incoming emails and can inform you or take some actions if configured that way. Last but not least, you can also setup a webmail client to provide another way of access to your email besides POP3 and IMAP. All these things doesn't need to be configured manually and there are ready to go packages like mailcow or iRedMail that will do most of the work for you.

It is obvious why you would like to selfhost your emails. Complete control over your data, no limit for accounts or aliases, nifty ability to use your own domain for emails and so on. The biggest caveat is that sometimes, even if your setup is top-notch with all the bells and whistles regarding security, open relay, authentication mechanisms like DMARC and DKIM, big players like gmail or hotmail may still put your emails to spam folder.

RSS feed crawler and reader

Some people still like to use RSS even though current internet is strongly pushing towards social network news feeds. If you are one of those who still likes to get the news over the RSS but want to keep the data safe, you can self host it using several feature complete packages like Tiny Tiny RSS or FreshRSS. Most of the webpages still does have rss feed even though it is not publicly advertised. For example, in WordPress you only need to append /feed/ after the domain. You can even get RSS to your favourite youtube channel and use it instead of default subscription mechanism. Just use this url:

https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=[YOUR_FAVOURITE_CHANNEL_ID]

Task/Todo server

Most of us has some sort of task and/or todo apps. And most of us want it with synchronization between our daily used devices. There are at least two well known options. Nerdish taskwarrior and NextCloud/OwnCloud, which will give you much more than tasks and todos. They are complete selfhosted cloud mechanism features virtually all you would want in one package, which has its obvious positives but also drawbacks.

CalDav/CardDav/WebDav server

CalDav and CardDav protocols will give you the ability to selfhost, store, sync and share you contacts and calendars. There are several "one purpose" options like Davical, Xandikos or Radicale and you will get it from NextCloud/OwnCloud too.

VPN server

People use VPN for 4 main purposes. First one is creation of private network. That's what it was ment for. Another one is to bypass blockage and firewalls when trying to access some other resource on the internet. Third one is anonymity, especially when it is used many many other users. The last one is to fight your internet/network provider spying efforts. You can use your selfhow VPN server any of it.

DNS server

When talking about spying by internet provider, another thing you need to do to get rid of it is to not use your providers DNS. Using your VPN to anonymize yourself and asking your providers DNS for IP resolving everytime you are heading someshere on the internet is not the best idea. Luckily is not that hard to setup you own Bind instance. But if you are not into into it, you can still reconfigure your devices to use one of the public DNS server providers like 1.1.1.1 or 8.8.8.8

Chat server

What about moving your whole family to selfhosted jabber server and leave Facebook messenger or Skype for others? Basic jabber chat server for text messages and file exchange is very simple to setup. Use Prosody for example. It is CPU and RAM efficient with very good documentation. But you can setup even audio and video calls and conferences using Jitsi for example.

Version control system

If you are developer or at least have something with IT, you would probably know the benefits and use for version control system. Hosting your own git (mercurial, subversion...) is nice alternative to github. Setting up personal selfhosted git accessed only by ssh is piece of cake, but there are several full featured self hosting solutions like Gitea, BitBucket or GitLab.

File backup and synchronization

Oldshool people like me would use rsync or git. Most of the crowd would use NextCloud/OwnCloud with support for ios/android too, and some would look for single purpose, but user friendly alternative like syncthing, that also have its android app on F-Droid.

Summary

There is so much you can selfhost and gain the additional value of self reliance, data control, access control. It is also one of the ways to degoogle your internet presence. It will take your time and efforts at the beginning, but maintenance itself doesn't take more than couple of hours a month. If you care about degoogling your phone too, I wrote an howto article about it. But next article of this selfhosting series will be about setup and hardening of your first service: web service.


tags: VPS, Linux, Self-host