This article reflects my opinions and experiences with few file server services.
TL;DR : I think NextCloud is a far superior product for the price.
Digital cleansing is about reowning personal data and regaining control over how it is processed. When I started digital cleansing, I wanted to start from where the most of my data is stored. There are 2 such services, Google Drive and Photos. I started by looking for alternatives. OwnCloud and NextCloud seemed like affordable and FOSS alternatives that allow self-hosting.
I started my journey by renting a VM on Digital Ocean, droplet. I installed LAMP stack and OwnCloud. As a new comer to OwnCloud, I started to click every button in every menu to discover and learn more about OwnCloud. Marketplace, a feature manager to add/remove more features, has many stuff that can appeal to enterprises and teams working from home. Next, I browsed the available Android apps for OwnCloud. To my surprise, there aren't many. I expected niche apps on Android for using niche features on marketplace. Instead, I would run into more apps branded for NextCloud. Meanwhile I updated the droplet, because updates are important, but ran into "kernel updates rendering server unbootable" kind of issues, I switched to Linode and NextCloud after strugling on Digital Ocean for a week.
Just like Owncloud's marketplace, NextCloud has its own "app store", I'd like to them "feature manager" instead because both marketplace and app store are used for en/disabling features on the platform. But NextCloud has niche apps for Android and I believe this provides more convenience to mobile users like myself.
Since NextCloud is a file server in its core, it was the drop-in Google Drive & Photos replacement I needed. It also has built-in WebDAV, CardDAV and CalDAV support, which means I can use NextCloud as Google Contacts & Calendar replacement as well and access files in native file manager as if it was a USB drive 🎉️
After enabling more services from feature manager (yes, I am sticking with this name) it also became my notes, tasks, bookmarks manager as well. All powered by a VM that costs 5$/month to run, +2$ for backup.
One who loves roses should endure thorns - Turkish Proverb
NextCloud is great. But just like every other artificial thing in this world, it isn't perfect. The biggest problem I face with it is the performance of web interface. It is written in PHP and being not compiled program is not doing any favors. Image preview loading can be called sluggish by many. Since I use mobile app most of the time which caches the previews, user experience isn't bad in my opinion.
Synology's home server sound like a great product. I am happy for you and your family that your data is safe and accesible without giving up your privacy. After reading your blog, I wanted to try Synology as well. Upon seeing the price for Synology 420+ is 500$ and another 400$ for 4x 4TB HDD for RAID 6, I believe NextCloud is the best choice I have. I am 1 student who has no movies, musics, 4K family photos or video project for YouTube channel to utilize TBs of storage not do I have budget for it. Under these requirements and constraints, I want to offer an alternative to Google to my family. Since I can't just ask for ~900$ for Synology, NextCloud on a VM is the best option I have. I still have option of increasing VM disk size or mounting external block storage as our storage needs grow.
It is nice that we have different perspectives on same topic. I wrote this answer because I wanted you to see from the eyes of a student living on pocket money and still afford for privacy of his and his family. May your Synology system last long and serve your family well 🙂️
If you think Google services aren't that bad and I would be better off keep using Google services, here is my reasoning #1 and #2. But if you still think that I should use Google services, tell me your reasoning and help me see your side of the coin. I would like to stay open minded.