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What Is Self-Hosting?

There was a post on Fosstodon recently where one of our members shared their thoughts on what they think self-hosting is.

Following the post, a conversation started about what different people considered self-hosting to be. The different trains of thought where:

  1. It’s only self-hosting if you have physical access and complete control over the server.
  2. It counts as self-hosting if you’re responsible for the entire software stack, no matter where the server is physically located.

I’m on the fenceā€¦I think

I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, you don’t control the physical tin box that your software is running on, so the service provider could pull the rug from under you and close their service. You’re not in complete control.

Having said that, you are responsible for all of the software, including the OS on that server. If you break something, you’re on your own. One could argue that this is definition of self-hosting something, as you’re solely responsible.

The problem I have with the rationale of “it’s only self-hosted if you have complete control” is that I think the argument is flawed. You may have complete control over the server, but you don’t have complete control over the network infrastructure.

If you’re self-hosting at home and your ISP decides to cut you off, or has connectivity issues, you have very little control over that. You can then make an even more tenuous link and say what if there’s a black-out? You don’t control the power grid.

Yes, it’s far-fetched, but the original argument is based on the premise that a self-hoster has to have complete control.

Then again

I host Nextcloud and Plex at home. I consider myself to be self-hosting those services. I also have a VPS that I have full root access to, which runs this website. Personally, I don’t see myself as self-hosting this website.

For me, it boils down to this – if someone asks me “who do you host your website with?” I would respond with “Ionos” as that’s who I rent the VPS off. However, if the same person asked me who I host my Nextcloud instance with, I’d probably reply with “I self-host it at home”.

But then again, I can certainly understand it when people are of the opinion that they self-host even though they’re on a VPS that’s hosted in a data centre somewhere.

Conclusion

As I said at the start, I can see both sides of this discussion. To me, what’s far more important than where your server is located, is that you use privacy respecting services. Self-hosted or not.

Are you a self-hoster? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.

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