A little bit more than a year ago, my attitude to the "cloud" changed dramatically when a combination of an inexpensive Raspberry Pi and Owncloud enabled me to run my own calendar and contact synchronization service from a server at home. Also, exchanging large files and files between my mobile devices that I don't want to upload to a commercial server to a has become very easy, again thanks to the amazing Owncloud software.
While for contacts and calender synchronization the Raspberry Pi is fast enough, there is a noticeable delay when logging into the web interface or when someone I share a file with clicks on a link. A couple of weeks ago I decided to do something about that and started thinking about an alternative hardware setup. In the end I chose an Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) with a Celeron x86 processor, as it's only about twice the size of a Raspberry Pi but has significantly more processing power for the times when it's needed.
The picture on the left shows the two devices side by side. In terms of power consumption there is of course a difference. The Raspberry Pi requires 2.5 watts on average when running Owncloud while the NUC requires around 6 watts. From a yearly power bill point of view that's a difference of around 10 Euros and thus quite acceptable. Unlike the Raspi, the NUC has a fan but it's almost not audbile at all and the box gets hardly warm at all, at least with the type of usage I have.
There are also NUCs with faster processors and newer architectures available, such as for example Haswell based i3 and i5 processors but they are still significantly more expensive than the older Celeron version. The NUC itself cost 139 Euros, the 32 GB mSATA SSD drive cost 35 euros and the 4 GB RAM cost another 30 Euros. In total I paid around 200 euros for the hardware which is around 6 times more expensive than a Raspi.
As far as processing speed is concerned, the difference is very noticeable. The delay of 15-20 seconds when logging-in the first time or before a web page is shown when someone clicks on a download link is now virtually gone. Also, it now only takes around 3 seconds to initially load the 300 contacts into the web interface when I click on the icon for this feature.
Server software wise I decided to go for 'Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Server' as 14.04 LTS wasn't quite around the corner when I installed the system. Installing the OS was almost a breeze but I had to do it twice as for some strange reason it couldn't write the boot sector the first time I tried. Perhaps this had something to do with disabling UEFI in the BIOS and some other boot related settings because things worked when trying once more after changing these values in the BIOS. Fortunately it's also possible to enable auto boot in the BIOS when power becomes available so a power outage doesn't leave the server out of action.
I've been running the new setup for a while now and I'm very happy with it. So if you run a similar Owncloud setup at home an need more speed I can fully recommend moving over to faster hardware at a still quite affordable price.