Cloudron is a complete solution for running apps on your own server.
It fits into a category of selfhosting – you provide the server either at home or in the cloud, and Cloudron helps you manage the entire server including installing and updating apps, managing DNS, running email, backups, operating system updates, user accounts, and so on.
It's designed to run on Ubuntu LTS versions. The server interface will take care of keeping the Ubuntu operating system packages maintained.
I run Commons Computer as my personal Cloudron instance.
The Cloudron code itself is source-available, with a subscription license required if you want to self host more than 2 apps and have full access to all features like email. Paying for the license means the team supports you in the forums and will help troubleshoot via email.
The team creates, contributes to, and directly supports a number of open source packages. All of the app packages that are deployed on Cloudron are open source.
A number of app packages they support installing (e.g. Atlassian Confluence, Outline, Cal.com) have various non-commercial / subscription required licenses as well.1
- Cloudron license: $15/month, paid annually
- Backup: $5USD/month
- Hosting: $11USD/month
Total: $31USD per month, $372USD per year.
For many services like email ($5-$10/user/month), file sharing ($5-$10/user/month), calendaring ($5-$10/user/month), you can quickly see that ~5 users of a hosted service will be more expensive than the hosting costs of a Cloudron powered server. If we benchmark $10/user/service as a typical service cost, Cloudron hosting can be much cheaper.
10 users = $100/month, vs $30 Cloudron costs.
That does assume someone willing to do basic Cloudron admin. You don't need to use the command line, but you do need to be familiar with DNS, email, and other services with API keys and relatively technical settings.
OVH Bare Metal Servers
For CoSocial, I wanted to keep hosting in Canada. OVH has a data center in Quebec and low cost bare metal servers.
Example OVH for $29.99CAD/month
- Intel Xeon E3-1245v2 - 4 c / 8 t - 3.4 GHz / 3.8 GHz
- Memory: 32 GB DDR3
- Storage: 2 x 480 GB SSD SATA Soft RAID
A bare metal server will be able to host many more apps than a VPS, but it's also a single point of failure: if something goes wrong with the hardware of that server, that's your problem.
For the difference in price, I'd recommend at least the KVM 4 with 16GB RAM. Those are USD prices. You can use my referral code for one-click Cloudron installs on a Hostinger VPS
I'd love to try running a Cloudron install at home, but it all seems quite a bit trickier. You're still looking at a ~$500 mini server purchase, which is like 2 - 3 years of VPS hosting costs!
DNS and Domains
You'll need at least one domain name and more likely will have at least 2, so add another $10 - $30 per year in domain registration fees.
Cloudron will automatically manage all your DNS settings for you if you add them using a registrar that supports API access.
For production services of things like mailing lists, you may have trouble with deliverability of self-hosted email. You can setup SMTP relay from a number of different providers. Any provider that provides SMTP services will work.
There are some apps (like Ghost) that require Mailgun for their subscription services.
Example starter pricing: Postmark $15USD/month, Mailgun is free for up to 10,000 emails and the first paid plan is $35USD/month for up to 50K emails.
There are many "open source clones" of various commercial services. Listing them this way may help people find apps that are new to them or figure out what to look for to meet the needs that they have:
- Dropbox: use Nextcloud for file syncing and sharing.
- Google Email & Calendar: SoGo or Nextcloud both have webmail that can sync contacts and calendars
- Airtable, Typeform: NocoDB has both Airtable-like interfaces for spreadsheet style data storage, as well as a survey mode that could be used instead of Typeform.
- Figma: Penpot
- 1Password, LastPass: Vaultwarden is the self-hostable backend that connects with Bitwarden apps
- Zoom, Google Meet: Jitsi does video-based. Nextcloud Talk is another alternative.
- Slack, Microsoft Teams: Mattermost chat
- Help Scout, Shared Email Inbox: FreeScout
- Mailchimp: Listmonk
And there are open source apps that are themselves well-known that can be complicated to install or maintain:
- Mastodon, ActivityPub enabled micro-blogging
- Discourse, forum and community server
- Gitlab, self hosted Github alternate. Gitea, a simpler "forge" software is also available
- Peertube, ActivityPub enabled video platform. Can sync with or import from YouTube
- Wordpress, self-hosted version that is setup and maintained for you
- MediaWiki, the wiki platform that powers Wikipedia and other sites (DokuWiki, HedgeDoc, WikiJS, Confluence, BookStack, and Outline are other supported apps that are wiki variants with slightly different specializations)
The Cloudron forum has lots of great discussions on apps, setup and use cases, as well as wishlists for new apps, and more.
I have a whole page on Open Source Licensing. There will definitely be people who don’t like Cloudron because it’s “not open source”. If anything, I don’t think they’re charging ENOUGH. It would be interesting to see if license holders “voted” for the software packages they want to allocate resources to. ↩