Take back the data – part 3

I have decided to stop using cloud services and move all my data back to my own computers. In Take back the data – Part 1, I listed all the services that I use. In Take back the data – Part 2, I described how I plan to replace my cloud services with my own web server. In this post I’ll describe the process of setting up the web server hardware and software in more detail.


A web server typically doesn’t need to be a powerful machine unless you are getting a lot of traffic. An ideal web server is probably a low cost, low power machine. A computer marketed as a home theater PC would work well. I had spare hardware from my last desktop computer upgrade so I used that. I did need to buy a power supply and found that an 80+ certified supply pays for itself in energy savings pretty quickly:

Assuming that the machine is going to idle at 180 w, I compared several power supplies. Our electricity costs 13 cents per kilowatt hour when all taxes and fees are included.

[table] Power supply rating,Purchase cost, 1 year total cost, 2 year total cost, 5 year total cost
Non certified (~70% efficiency),$20,$362,$703,$1729
80 plus (80% efficiency),$25,$324,$623,$1395
80 plus bronze (85%),$40,$321,$603,$1448
80 plus gold (90%),$63,$328,$594,$1392
80 plus platinum (92%),$95,$355,$615,$1395

As you can see, the sweet spot is either bronze or gold and the power is a very significant cost to consider when starting up your own web server.

Static IP and Hostname

To get an address that the outside world can use to see my home web server, I need a Static IP from my DSL provider. CenturyLink will provide a single static IP for $6 per month. Getting a static IP can be done on a web page and took less than a half hour.

I was given the address This is like having a phone number that other people can always use to call me. To add myself to the internet version of the phone book, you have to register a domain name that points to that address.

I did that through namecheap.com. This costs about $10 per year and I registered the name billandchad.com. This was also quick and easy. The default setting at namecheap was to point my name to one of their web servers that has a standard “squatter” page. I changed that to point to my static IP address. They also had ways to setup email addresses that would forward to another email account, but I set it up to send the mail directly to my machine.


I decided to go with a Linux based machine. Both Windows and Linux can be used to run an Apache web server, but it is a little bit easier to find DNS and mail server software for Linux. Linux is also free.

I installed the latest version of Ubuntu (13.04). I installed the desktop version instead of the server version so that I could use the machine as a home theater PC.

Once the OS was installed and a user created, I installed an ssh server so that I could log in from my main desktop PC.

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

# setup a static ip address and hostname so that I can log in remotely from inside my local network
# Edit /etc/network/interfaces to look like this
# auto eth0
# iface eth0 inet static
#        address
#        netmask
#        gateway
#        broadcast
#        dns-nameservers
# Edit /etc/hostname to have one line with the name of the machine

sudo service networking restart

The “sudo” command runs the rest of the command as root (administrator). Ubuntu strongly recommends that you don’t create a root account and use the “sudo” command instead. The “apt-get” command is how you install new software in Ubuntu on the command line. With an ssh server, I can use putty (or something like it) to log into my server from my main Windows PC by going to its hostname or

I setup my router to forward all incoming traffic on port 80, 443, 25, 465, 585, 993 and 995 to Port 80 is used for http and port 443 is used for https, the rest are used for email. These settings mean that if someone online connects to billandchad.com it will connect to my home web server instead of being dropped by the router.

Next I installed Apache, php, and mysql. These three pieces of software make up a common web server configuration and has been named the “LAMP” stack. I also installed phpmyadmin which is a nice webapp for maintaining a mysql database.

sudo apt-get install lamp-server^
sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin

# This next command may not be necessary. Should have been done my phpmyadmin installer
sudo ln -s /etc/phpmyadmin/apache.conf /etc/apache2/conf.d/phpmyadmin.conf

# Edit /etc/apache2/conf.d/security and make following changes:
# ServerTokens Prod
# ServerSignature Off

Now that a web server is installed, you can point a web browser to billandchad.com and see a default web page served by Apache. Next I installed the OwnCloud web app. I had to add the ownCloud repository to apt:

# Add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list.d/owncloud.list
# deb http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/isv:ownCloud:community/xUbuntu_13.04/ /

wget http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/isv:ownCloud:community/xUbuntu_13.04/Release.key
apt-key add - < Release.key
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install owncloud

Use phpmyadmin to create the owncloud user and a database with the same name.

CREATE USER 'owncloud'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON owncloud.* TO 'owncloud'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Now we can use the OwnCloud webapp to finish the installation and create OwnCloud users. To do this just point a browser to

USB Drive

We have a network shared drive to store music, photos, and other shared data. Ubuntu auto mounts the partitions on a USB drive when it is plugged in. However, these mount points are only created after a user logs into the machine. I don’t want to have to log in after a reboot, so I will create my own mount points.

# First get the UUIDs of the drive partitions
# next add lines to the /etc/fstab file. One line for each partition.
# The first column is the UUID from the first step
# The second column is where the drive will be mounted
# The third drive is the format type. NTFS is the windows standard
# 	UUID=1294CE3B94CE2159 /media/ChadsDrive ntfs-3g defaults
#	UUID=72601D93601D5EE3 /media/WilliamsDrive ntfs-3g defaults
#	UUID=50C0308BC0307974 /media/DataDrive ntfs-3g defaults
# make the mount points
sudo mkdir -p /media/DataDrive
sudo mkdir -p /media/ChadsDrive
sudo mkdir -p /media/WilliamsDrive
# re-mount drives
sudo mount -a

Now we can go to /media/DataDrive to and see the files on the USB drive. I’d like to be able to see this files from my windows machines too. To do this I’ll use Samba.

sudo apt-get install samba
# Add these lines to /etc/samba/smb.conf for each partition that should be shared
# [DataDrive]
#        path = /media/DataDrive
#        browseable = yes
#        writable = yes
#        guest ok = yes
sudo service smbd restart

Now we can access these shared drives by going to a Windows machine on the local network and pointing the file explorer to \\\DataDrive.


DNS is what computers use to turn a human friendly name, like billandchad.com, into an actual IP address. When you get broadband internet service, the ISP provides you with a DNS server that your web browser uses to lookup addresses. This works fine, and when I lookup billandchad.com at CenturyLink’s DNS, it comes back with my static IP address. This is good, but causes a problem inside my home network. If I try to go to http://billandchad.com it goes to My DSL router sees that as my own external IP and drops the request (on the theory that you wouldn’t want to route your traffic through the external internet just to get back to a computer in your house). Of course that is exactly what I was trying to do, but there is a “better” way to do this.

I can setup my own DNS that will tell my local computers how to get to billandchad.com. So if I lookup billandchad.com I will get the address, but if anyone else looks up billandchad.com they will get

The standard DNS server is called “bind” and it is a bit of a hassle to setup. I am going to first setup bind to just be a caching DNS for my local network. That means that it will do all the DNS lookups for my home computers. The first time a site is requested (say google.com), my web server will ask CenturyLink for the address. The second time a site is requested, it will have the answer cached. This will be quite a bit faster than going back to CenturyLink every time. Most modern DSL routers already have a DNS cache, and Windows also caches DNS entries, so the actual speed improvement for browsing will be small.

# install bind
sudo apt-get install bind9
# edit /etc/bind/named.conf.options to have the following.
# These are the DNS servers I will use when the site isn't cached
#        forwarders {
#      ;
#      ;
#      ;
#        };

Next, I will tell bind that if someone is asking about billandchad.com that it can provide the address itself. This makes my DNS server the “master” for billandchad.com. Of course, the only people using this DNS server are other computers in my house.

# edit /etc/bind/named.conf.local to:
#	zone "billandchad.com" {
#	        type master;
#	        file "/etc/bind/db.billandchad.com";
#	};
# create the file db.billandchad.com with:
#	$TTL    604800
#	@       IN      SOA     ns.billandchad.com. hostmaster.billandchad.com. (
#	                              2         ; Serial
#	                         604800         ; Refresh
#	                          86400         ; Retry
#	                        2419200         ; Expire
#	                         604800 )       ; Negative Cache TTL
#	;
#	@       IN      NS      ns.billandchad.com.
#	;
#	        IN      A
#	ns      IN      A
#	                MX      10 mail
#	                TXT     "Necropolis"
#	www             CNAME   ns
# Edit /etc/network/interfaces to point to for DNS
sudo /etc/init.d/bind9 restart
sudo service networking restart


Now I need to setup my own DHCP server so that I can tell all the computers in my house what DNS server to use.

My DSL router has a DHCP server built in, but it insists upon listing itself as the DNS server. So the first step is to turn off the DCHP server in the router.

Next I install and configure the default DHCP server for linux

sudo apt-get install isc-dhcp-server

#edit /etc/dhcp/dhcp.conf to have the following settings
# option domain-name "billandchad.com";
# option domain-name-servers,;
# option routers;
# option subnet-mask;
# option broadcast-address;
# authoritative;
# default-lease-time 7200;
# max-lease-time 86400;
# subnet netmask {
#   range;
# }

sudo isc-dhcp-server restart

Finally I can go to http://billandchad.com/owncloud from either my phone, my computer or another computer connected to the internet and get to my local web server.

My local web server is also providing several network services for the other computers in my house. When my desktop computer is turned on, it asks the network for an IP address. My web server responds that it is the DHCP server and hands out an IP address to my desktop computer. At the same time, it tells my desktop computer that it is the DNS server. When my desktop computer tries to go to billandchad.com, the web server tells it that the IP address is and the connection is made internally.

If a computer on the internet goes to billandchad.com, a real DNS server will tell it that the IP address is Connecting to that address will connect to my DSL router on port 80 or 443. My router will forward that request on to my web server. The apache server on my web server will respond to the request because it is listening on port 80.

Setting all of this up has been a good reminder of what is really going on behind the scenes to make the internet work.

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