Internet Productivity

Start Hosting These Popular Web Apps Yourself to Save Money

Aaron Peters 30-10-2017

If you’re a tech enthusiast of a certain age, you can still recall the following: “Wait, I can check my email in a browser?”


We’ve been enjoying the benefits of web-based applications for many years now, and they’ve only grown more sophisticated over time.

But as our lives have migrated online, it has raised many privacy concerns Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More . Furthermore, many providers start by offering free services to consumers, only to introduce paid or “freemium” models later. Some of these still can’t find their footing, and end up going out of business, maybe even taking your data with them.

Luckily, software has matured as well, to the point where it’s possible to set up your own applications that rival those of the online providers. In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of hosting important web apps on your own, and look at some popular web apps you can host yourself.

The Benefits of Self-Hosting Web Apps

We’ve briefly touched on some of the benefits of the self-hosting route, but let’s restate them in a bit more detail:

  • Data Assurance: We’re not talking here about reliability, as online providers are set up much better than you to ensure their servers are running 24/7. We’re talking here about being in control of your own data and making sure that a corporation doesn’t go belly-up overnight. While rare, if it happens your information could be stuck in an unusable format or worse, disappear entirely.
  • Privacy/Control: Now, the reputation of online services is built on the premise that no one will root around in your data unless it’s to solve some issue. But the fact is that you don’t really know, at least until your “intimate” selfies are being passed around the internet. Hosting these yourself guarantees that won’t happen.
  • Best-of-Breed Selection: When you’re using an online service, you sometimes use a particular app because it’s part of “the package.” Let’s say you prefer the simplicity of Google Docs, but need the extra features of OneNote rather than Keep. When self-hosting you can assemble a portfolio of apps to satisfy your exact needs without creating accounts all over the internet.
  • Lower Cost: Self-hosting means you’re able to get all your apps for free, in all likelihood. You may even be able to get some of the same apps that are available for payment by using their free “community edition” and hosting yourself.

Self-Hosted Applications to Consider

There are many popular apps you can host yourself, everything from your own local instant messaging service Instant Message Anyone On Your Home Network With LAN Messenger One of the worst things in a household full of poeple is when conversations consit of shouting throughout the house. More families are turning to instant messaging as a solution for in-home communication. Heck -... Read More to social networks Your Own Social Network: How to Set Up a Mastodon Instance on Linux Twitter's echo chamber is stifling discussion. If you want to get people talking, you can create your own social network with Mastodon. All you need is a web domain and server to get started... Read More . We’ll take a look at a few common services that have self-hosted options below — this useful page on GitHub has an expansive list of other options.


We’re not looking at the following commonly used services for some important reasons:

But the next section lists applications that, for reasons of privacy or desired feature set, you might think about trying to host on your own. Just make sure you’re accessing them over a VPN or similar service, and they’re not open for anyone to start poking around.

Image Sharing

Why Consider It?

Selecting your own image gallery can ensure only the people you want to can see your images. While online providers have privacy settings, they aren’t always clear, and it’s up to you to figure them out and use them Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About As with everything regarding privacy on Facebook, managing your photos' privacy settings isn't always easy. Read More . Sharing self-hosted galleries means no one will even know where to get them unless you tell them where.


You also won’t need to deal with your images being used to help serve up ads. However, you won’t necessarily save any money since Instagram and Pinterest are both free.

self hosted apps ownstgram

Though they might lack a social facet, these applications do include basic features such as organizing images into albums and comments, as the screenshot from Ownstagram above illustrates.

What does it replace? How much could you save?

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • iCloud (5 GB free, $2.99/mo for 200GB)
  • Google Photos

Software Examples:

self hosted apps lychee

File Storage/Synchronization

Why Consider It?

This one is all about storage. Whether Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google’s Drive, or storage-only services like Dropbox, they all want to charge you for space. Maybe not at first, when they give you anywhere from 2GB (Dropbox) to 15GB (Google Drive) or more. But this space is nominal, and once you reach its limit you’ll need to pony up some cash, anywhere from $24/year (Google Drive) to $120/year ( You also have the benefit of knowing there’s not some bored admin rooting around in your stuff How Secure Are Your Documents In Google Drive? Read More .


self hosted apps seafile

What does it replace? How much could you save?

  • Dropbox (2GB free, $8.25/mo for 1TB)
  • (10GB free, $10/mo for 100GB)
  • Google Drive (15GB free, $1.99/mo for 100GB)
  • OneDrive (5GB free, $6.99/mo for 1TB + Microsoft Office)
  • iCloud (5GB free, $2.99/mo for 200GB)

Software Examples:

Music and Video Streaming

Why Consider It?

One of the big downsides to streaming services is that you’ll pay for them, even if you don’t watch or listen to anything that month. It takes a measure of dedication to make sure you’re getting the most out of your subscription. And hopefully, you don’t sit down to watch something on your service of choice only to find it’s been removed Netflix Removes 50% of its Catalog to Fund Original Content Have you noticed the Netflix catalog getting smaller in recent years? We now know the number of titles available on Netflix has been halved since 2012 to fund original content. Read More because of the constantly in-flux license agreements.

A different approach is to store up the content you want in a self-hosted service, then stream it at your leisure. Now, doing so will take a bit more elbow grease, as you’ll need to rip the content (presumably DVDs or CDs, as shown in the Ampache screenshot below) you want. And you’ll obviously be behind the current season if you’re getting your content honestly. But once you have it, you can use self-hosted media streaming solutions to consume it whenever and wherever you like.

self hosted apps ampache

What does it replace? How much could you save?

  • Amazon Music ($7.99/mo for Prime members, $9.99/mo otherwise)
  • Spotify ($9.99/mo)
  • Apple Music ($9.99/mo)
  • YouTube Red ($9.99/mo)
  • Plex Pass ($4.99/mo, although the free version is also listed below)
  • Netflix ($7.99/mo to $13.99/mo)

Streaming services typically run between $10 and $15 a month. Most users will subscribe to a preferred audio provider, but exclusive shows mean many folks have two, three, or more video services. (I have four: Hulu, Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime. Actually, five if you count the Showtime addon to Hulu.) This means that you can keep up to $50/month in your pocket if you stream your own content.

Software Examples:

News Feeds

Why Consider It?

Everyone loved Google Reader. Since Google shut it down in 2013, most of the alternatives (such as the popular Feedly Unofficial Guide To Feedly: Better Than Google Reader Do you hunger for the best desktop and mobile RSS reader ever made? For both the hungry and the hopeful, Feedly satisfies. Read More ) provide you the basic feed management features. You can collect sites, set up the feeds to store articles as they come in, and mark those stories as read as you go through them.

Those are still available for free, but since then users have come to expect some added functionality. They want to share to social media, archive to services like Dropbox or Evernote, and integrate with other applications like Hootsuite. And these “advanced” features usually come with a price.

What does it Replace?

  • Feedly Pro ($7/month)

Software Examples:

self hosted apps rssmonster
Image Credit: RSS Monster


Why Consider It?

Note-taking is a very personal activity. You want to take notes quickly Too Lazy to Take Notes? Try These Faster Notetaking Tips Instead There are several shortcuts you can take to capture everything from lectures to meeting minutes to to-do lists. Let's explore some of those shortcuts today with these tips for faster note-taking. Read More and fit it around your thought process. Leading solutions may be too full of features (e.g. Evernote), too sparse for your taste (Simplenote), or have a layout that just doesn’t work for you (OneNote’s sections and tabs).

The security benefit also applies to note apps. For example, you may want to use it to keep passwords. While dedicated password apps exist Is Your Password Manager Secure? 5 Services Compared Unless you have an incredible memory, there's no way you can possibly hope to remember all your usernames and passwords. The sensible option is to use a password manager -- but which is best? Read More for this, they may be overkill for just a few usernames and passwords. You can use one or more notes to handle this, and be sure that a bored server admin somewhere isn’t snooping around for your email credentials. Just make sure you have a way to keep these encrypted Keep Your Notes Private: 5 Encrypted Alternatives to Evernote Evernote doesn't encrypt and secure your notes by default. If you're looking for an encrypted notes app, try these alternatives. Read More in the event you lose your device.

What does it replace? How much could you save?

  • Evernote Pro ($34.99/year to $69.99/year)
  • OneNote
  • Simplenote
  • Keep

Software Examples:

self hosted apps meemo


Why Consider It?

We look at this last because a full office suite is a complex piece of software when it’s installed locally. Making an alternative available by self-hosting shares some of that complexity. Thankfully the work of organizations like the Open Document Foundation and Collabora have started to package these up nicely. But you will have to be a little more hands-on to get it up and running.

You get many of the same benefits as described above: your data is secure and storage is limited only by your server’s physical drives. But more importantly, the solutions below (which are based on LibreOffice) give you an honest-to-goodness online version of those applications.

The other options below aside from Office 365, are less feature-rich than either MS Office or LibreOffice. If those features are important to you (think features like conditional text in word processors, very advanced charts in spreadsheets, or fancy animations in presentations), you’ll either need Office 365 or else one of these self-host options.

self hosted apps onlyoffice
Image Credit: OnlyOffice

For stalwart open source proponents, these will also provide better support for the ODF formats. iWork doesn’t open these formats at all, and Zoho only provides support for documents and presentations (not spreadsheets). Furthermore, these applications commonly support them through import/export, rather than working with them natively. The means you import a file to work on it, and export it to save it back, two conversions that risk messing up your content.

What does it replace? How much could you save?

  • Office 365 ($6.99/mo and up depending on storage)
  • Google Docs ($1.99/mo and up depending on storage)
  • iCloud (5GB free, $2.99/mo for 200GB)
  • iWork ($2.99/mo and up for iCloud depending on storage)
  • Zoho Office ($5/mo and up depending on storage)

Software Examples

If You Want It All, Try OwnCloud

We did say that selecting best of breed apps was an advantage. But, if you want to host all the above with a minimum of fuss, consider OwnCloud. Out of the box, it includes support for Files and Email — installing optional apps will provide functionality for streaming media, sharing images, news feeds, writing and syncing notes, and working on full-fledged office documents.

Managing all these from one platform will save you the hassle of installing and configuring seven or eight different solutions. Do note that NextCloud will also provide many (if not all) of the same capabilities.

Is the self-hosted DIY approach for you? Do you think you have what it takes to install and maintain your own cloud? Let us know if you have any tips, stories, or thoughts below in the comments!

Image Credit: lightsource/Depositphotos

Related topics: FeedReader, LibreOffice, Media Streaming, Note-Taking Apps, Photo Sharing, Web Hosting.

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  1. maxblessed
    April 4, 2018 at 5:16 am

    appreciate the great work! keen to give nextcloud or owncloud a go.

    October 31, 2017 at 8:43 am

    nice work done above.