Many people are understandably concerned over outside companies handling their data, and a new crowdfunding campaign is hoping to make it easier for them to take their text, images and videos into their own hands.
Indie Box One is a new personal web hosting project seeking $50,000 from Indiegogo backers. For $499, supporters can get a server with all the software needed to run and manage popular web applications. The Indie Box software is also available for people to run on their own hardware such as a standard server or a low-cost Raspberry Pi.
The concept of a “personal server” where people can store their personal documents is gaining steam, as suspicion grows around third-party hosting services that could provide user data to government agencies or mine it to benefit advertisers. Another issue is that with our digital lives strewn across different social networks, storage services, and devices, many wish to have a centralized place for their content, and one that they control. Last year, a Montreal-based software developer launched arkOS, an open-source solution that allows users to host websites, files, and photos from Raspberry Pi hardware in their own home.
But contrary to a network storage device, Indie Box One is designed to serve content to the wider web, and provide an easy platform for web applications such as WordPress for blogging, Owncloud for storage, and Idno for social networking. Indie Box One will also provide periodic offsite backups in encrypted form to Amazon S3 or Glacier.
Running a web server from home, however, isn’t as simple as having the right hardware and software. Many Internet Service Providers don’t allow people to run servers from home, and many have poor upload speeds. So, many Indie Box One users might just use it as a home media server that they can access remotely through a VPN.
With this obstacle in the way, it doesn’t look like Indie Box One will be replacing hosting services for many web-facing applications.
Also, to assure users that their data is safe, Indie Box One will have to ensure that its software can stand up to hacking attempts. It’s not always safe to assume that data is safe just because you can see the device that’s hosting it, and there are plenty of off-premise services that enforce strict security and encryption policies.
It would be interesting to see something like Indie Box One use MESH networks to connect local communities outside of the wider internet, which is something that helped people communicate when the Egyptian government blocked Internet access.
Another major issue with Indie Box One, from an economics perspective, is that it’s an inefficient use of hardware. Virtualization has allowed servers to be shared between many different users and applications. And while it’s certainly possible to have different applications running on Indie Box One to fully use its resources, a cloud provider is able to more efficiently assign resources so that less hardware is used, and less power is consumed.
But overall, Indie Box One is a very important project in that it helps people (who may not have a technical background) better understand how the internet works by running their own server. And projects like Indie Box One are undoubtedly going to be a major part of how we deal with a society where we increasingly have to take our own security and privacy into our own hands.