Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cost of Privacy

EDIT: Blog moved to https://blog.tintagel.pl/

No time to read the whole thing? TL;DR around 250 USD per year and growing rapidly excluding the cost of personal time spent on maintaining my own services.

More frequent readers of my blog will notice that I didn't write a single blog post in quite a while. The main reason is that I planned to move off from blogger to my personal server - I also had a lot of stuff to do at work so there's always that. Those readers also know that I host my own mail server and an OwnCloud instance. So what is this blog post really about? Summing up how much it costs to get off the Google band wagon and how it went for me & my wife for the past year.




We have our vultr.com server up since March 2015. Had the luck of grabbing a 15 USD plan for 640 GB of data, 1 CPU core & 2GB's of memory. Add the tax on top and the server amounts to 18.45 USD per month charged against me. Which is quite fine for the amount of storage I get (remember I planned the server mostly as owncloud + email). Regardless of what people say - vultr.com is really nice on the tech support side. Getting them to unblock outbound port 25 for my email server took literally 5 minutes and an instance reboot. Soon we started moving almost all of our services to new self hosted email & slowly migrating our data to the OwnCloud instance with the OwnNote plugin to kill some old bad Evernote habits. It's quite nice and liberating.

I love the fact of being able to do a smtpctl monitor / smtpctl show queue and to know where & why a specific email got stuck. I love reviewing my logs and knowing why a file upload didn't went through instead of a generic error message that tells me nothing. Though rose colored glasses rarely last MIL standard grade long. First issues started with SSL certs.

In this day & age you have to shell out money to a trusted certificate authority for an SSL ceritifcate so other people who trust you but don't give a shit about the CA will trust you. I got hit by that both with OwnCloud & email but those are a bit easier to ignore. My service users are limited to myself & my wife so it's not hard to verify that this specific self signed certificate is actually ours. Stuff breaks when you try to run your own jabber server and federation just refuses to work because well - shell out money to people we don't trust.

It's only a cert. We can live with that. True. Though vultr.com had it's slew of slight problems. So far I registered 8 support tickets against vultr.com. All of them are solved, but they all amount to 5 times a server was rebooted without notice.

One should be happy with a wife well versed in IT. Dudes, run if your service provider reboots your service with no notice and your answer to the big question 'are you doing backups' is 'not yet'. I quickly fixed my error by setting up a tarsnap backup account. I was really glad about it since a couple of months later vultr.com rebooted me suddenly again and I found myself back a few days without any emails that happened since the 'lost' state. The end result was that they moved us from one virtual node to another but didn't kill the old one so it suddenly took over taking us back into the past.

Backups are an additional cost that I didn't fully account for when setting up a 640GB node. I am extremely happy with tarsnap which so far costs us 0.25 USD per month for backing up 83GB data out of which 1.8GB is unique and 1.0GB when compressed. Though you can quickly see how this cost will grow if my instance is actualy used up to the limit by backing up our family dog photos. Backing up 600GB of data per month would cost us an additional 150 USD per month... I am currently paying for a 640GB instance and preventing myself from using it fully since the backup cost would thwart the instance cost & I can't count on the service provider to secure a reliable backup of the node.

So what is our current cost? 18.45 USD for the vultr.com instance. 0.25 USD for tarsnap backups and 27 USD per year for domain registration renewals. 250 USD per year for little direct benefit. Yes, I am currently paying for a server that I prefer not to utilize fully because doing that and backing up would mean a bill monthly that we can't afford.

What did we gain? We control our email & data. We are responsible for our own backups (for better & worse). I had a bad experience in the past where Opera (you know, those guys who made a decent browser in the past) allowed me to download a fucked up archive of all of my old blog posts because they decided to kill Opera community blogs before killing the nicest browser around. That won't happen again.

Which brings me to the huge blog post gap I had. I want to move to a static blog served on our server. Why? Because this blog is not for making money (if you spot an add it's not from me). The only unethical thing this blog does is tracking you with google analytics as the whole thing is on the blogger platform. Though, moving a blog costs time & traffic. If this post hits a popular service it can generate a load. I have 3TB traffic per month on my vultr.com instance but I have a hunch that hn/reddit/lobste.rs would be able to eat it in a day.

I frankly don't care. It's nice to know how many people read the blog post but I can get the same info from running logswan or other log analysis tools on my webserver logs. All of which are far less intrusive than Google analytics. This would of course mean me killing the comments section of this blog, and I would be quite fine with getting blog feedback on my email (mulander -at- tintagel dot pl) including 4096R/092BB571 encrypted feedback.

So, being private and in control costs me. Do you appreciate it as a reader? I'm willing to move this blog to my own server & actually paying for the traffic but I would like to know that it means something more to my readers than a dumb page refresh on a random link.