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How to make your own cloud!

How to make your own cloud!

January 5, 2014 9:51 pm2 comments

Hi Everyone,

For the past couple of years I have had a complete cloud solution for our home and it’s not that hard to do. My attempt with this blog post is to help you do the same.

What the heck is a cloud?
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All the word “cloud” means is that your data is stored somewhere else. Think of it like having a hard drive located somewhere else that you access via the internet. The idea that I am presenting to you today is to just move that hard drive from e.g. DropBox to your home. Here is some more information on “the cloud,” if you want.

Why would I want to have my own cloud?
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Pros:
-You can have as much data storage as you want for significantly less cost than buying a cloud from someone else. You can have 2TBs of storage (How big is 2TB?) for a one-time expense of $90. If you were to  use DropBox as your cloud storage, it would cost you $50/month for only 0.5TB (i.e. %25).
-Your files are stored at your home on your external hard drive, not on someone else’s server. The best part is that you can still access these files from anywhere that has internet! Would you like to access your files from your phone anywhere you go? You still can with this setup.
-You can setup automatic backups for your computer that will run over WiFi (i.e. you wont have to remember to plug in your external hard drive to backup). You can just setup your backup software to backup to your cloud! Let me know in the comments if you want me to write a post on how to set this up.
-Andrea and I use our cloud to stream media (i.e. music, video, pictures). If you have a PS3, XBOX, Apple TV, ROKU, or any media streaming device, they can all access these files. We put our DVDs onto the cloud and stream them to our iPads and other devices. This is really nice for our iPads because they only have 16GB of storage and your average DVD is 4GB of data. This way we don’t have to store all of those large files actually on the iPad. Same goes for the loads of music we have accumulated…
-You can setup wireless printing.

Cons:
-The transfer rate when accessing these files from outside the home will be slower than having someone else host your cloud. Google and Dropbox have huge bandwidth so downloading and uploading from/to them is usually faster. If you have a good internet plan, you wont notice much difference.
-If your internet at home goes down, then you won’t be able to access your files from outside the home. Honestly, our internet never goes down, but this is more of a concern if you have satellite internet. Or are in da UP, eh?
-Getting support involves web searching your issues (or asking me) as opposed to emailing/calling tech support.
-Security? This is only a con if you don’t set up your router correctly (explained below)

Reasons you would not want to do this:
-The technical setup is too difficult (see guide below). If that is the case, I would recommend checking out DropBox, SkyDrive, or Google Drive to start your cloud experience. You usually only get 2GB of free storage to start, but that works great to store basic Office files and some pictures or music.
-If you just want to be able to access files around only your home then this set up will work great for anyone. If your main goal is to access these files from outside your home, then you will need an internet connect that has at least a 1MB upload rate. If you are not sure what you have, check with your internet service provider (ISP). Remember this is upload rate. Usually ISPs list download rates in their advertisements, but you need to make sure your upload rate is at least 1MB. This will make sure your outside interactions with your cloud are not too slow.

How much is this going to cost me?
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To do this you will only need to buy two items: A router and an external hard drive. If you already have an external hard drive, you can use that, but if the drive is older (1 year+) I would recommend just starting fresh because these drives do fail after time and you don’t want to have to deal with replacing the hard drive anytime soon. You’re going to leave the drive on basically 24/7 so I would plan for a 2-3 year life for the external hard drive itself. 

Here is the router that I use: Asus N56U-$99, but if I was buying today I would buy the Asus N65U-$110. They are the exact same router, but they updated the USB ports to the latest version (USB3) on the N65U, which will allow for significantly faster transfer rates. I wish they had the N65U when I got my setup going :), but eh that is technology–always upgrading right after you buy, haha.

A step-by-step guide to creating your own cloud
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To start I would like to explain what a router is. All of us have a “modem.” This converts the internet service provider’s (ISP’s) signal to internet we can use. Then this device is plugged into a “router.” The router takes the internet from the modem and broadcasts it to multiple devices via WiFi. So this guide explains how to setup the router to be your personal cloud. Basically, we will be plugging the external hard drive into the back of the router and doing some set up to get everything running.

I will be writing this guide rather briefly, and while the steps are accurate, I do not always include every single click needed. Feel free to comment if you have problems and I’ll be more than happy to help you out!

The following guide assumes that you either have an Asus N56U router or an Asus N65U.

Step 1: Set up the router

  1. Unbox router
  2. Make sure everyone at your home is okay with the internet being down for a few minutes
  3. Unplug your current modem and router. Note: If you just have 1 device that is your modem and router (AT&T does this a lot), then you’ll need to follow their guide to setup your device in “bridge mode” and then connect it to the router from there. Here is AT&T’s guide.
  4. Wait 60 seconds. During this time, unplug the ethernet cord from the old router and plug it into the internet port on the ASUS router
    InternetPort
  5. Plug in the modem to power (not the router-shown above). Wait 20 seconds. During this time, use another ethernet cable to plug your computer into the ASUS router. You will plug the ethernet port into any of the four ports below the port you just used. If you are using a laptop, shut off the wifi.
  6. Plug the Asus router into power. Wait 20 seconds.
  7. Now on the computer, open a web browser and type 192.168.1.1 in the top. If needed, login with a blank user name and password= admin
    19216811Login
  8. A start-up guide should appear. Go through the guide and setup your home network. Remember, an SSID is the name that will be broadcasted to computers. I.e. if you set your SSID to MyRouter then people will have to connect their computers to “MyRouter” when trying to access your internet.
  9. Now we need to update the firmware. Once you get done with the start-up guide, at the top of the screen you will see the word “firmware.” Click that and it will bring you to a page to upload new firmware.
  10. Click on the names here: N56U or N65U to download the right firmware for your router. Then right-click on the downloaded file and extract it to reveal the .trx file.
  11. Open the web browser back up. Click “Browse” next to “New Firmware File.” Then select the .trx file.
  12. Hit upload and wait 3 minutes.
  13. Once 3 minutes have been over you should see a new screen with a new display.  If not, refresh the page [F5].
  14. Now plug the external hard drive into your computer. If the drive has files already on it, you will want to copy everything off of it to a temporary location while completing the remaining steps. 
  15. Format the external hard drive to EXT4 (the latest linux file system). Formatting the drive will delete all data on the drive. So make sure you copied the files off of it to a new place first. Here is a guide on how to format the drive if you are running windows.
  16. Now plug the drive into the back of the router. You should see it show up on the “Network Map” page like this:
    Drive
  17. Okay, now we have to get the cloud applications running. Click on “AiDisk”
  18. Go through the setup. This will assign a website address to your drive that you pick. E.g. example.asuscomm.com
  19. Once you’re done, head to “USB Applications” page under “Advanced Settings.” Make sure it looks like this:
    USBApplications
  20. Next we need to set up the users. Click the “FTP Share” tab at the top of the “USB Applications” page and add/remove users. Then for each user make sure they have access to the folders you want and that their passwords are long (8+ characters) and complex (use crazy symbols!). R=read which means the user can view the files. W=write which means the user can write files into the folder. R/W means the user can read and write to the folder. Important security note: Plain FTP (file transfer protocol) like we have just setup is known for being not secure. This means the login, passwords, and files themselves are sent not encrypted (meaning if someone wants to and knows how to, they can view your login, passwords, and files if they look at the right time), which is fine for around the house. If you want your cloud to be more secure than the FTP protocol for interacting with your cloud outside of home, use this simple guide to setup SFTP (aka Secure FTP).
  21. Setup the user settings on the “Network Neighborhood Share” tab to the left of “FTP Share.”
  22. You’re done! If you open a windows explorer page (or Finder on a Mac), you should see your router like this:
    WindExplor

 To access files on any computer when you are not home, open windows explorer and type in ftp://example.asuscomm.com (replace example with the name you created) and hit enter. It will ask for your login and password and then you’ll be in! If you use the SFTP setup, you will need to install a program like FileZilla (free) to interact with your files (note: use the login for your router, not the accounts you made, when using this method). To access files from an android device, use this app. For iOS users (including iPads), I suggest this app.

Important Note: The external hard drive attached to the router will run a lot more than normal. It should still last you a long time (e.g. ours is going on over 2 years of consistent use), but you need to remember to backup that drive if it does contain important files. For any and all of your devices, think about if it died tomorrow…would you lose anything important? To mitigate this, I use another external hard drive to backup our cloud every month or so.

Once you have this all setup, you can now look at even more advanced steps like plugging your printer in the back for wireless printing, setting up your own VPNsetting up your own transmission server that runs 24/7, and more!

Conclusion
You can do this. Access your files anywhere you have internet. Stream all of your media to any of your devices in your home. You will have $200 of start up costs for the router and hard drive, but that’s it!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think, if you linked my expand/collapse attempt, if you are doing this, if you plan to do this, or if you have any questions. I am here to help, if you need 🙂 As always, comment on other ideas for blog posts you have!

Update (3/25/14): If you have a computer/server that is on 24/7, I suggest you look into OwnCloud (www.owncloud.com). It’s basically DropBox, but it allows you to use your external hard drive.

-Troy

www.TroyBouman.com

2 Comments

  • Andrew Kincaid

    I think I like the expand/collapse thing. It works great on my phone where I have a lack of space.

    Great post. I never knew it was this easy!

    • Ahh good call on the phone aspect of the expand/collapse…never thought of that! Haha thanks for being such a dedicated reader/sharer of my blog Kincaid. Must appreciated man! Let me know if you ever want help setting this up.

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