Lean and simple cloud storage alternative, simpleDrive

Plain and Simple

© Lead Image © roywylam, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © roywylam, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 171/2015

If you value data security and privacy, you might want to build your own cloud storage. SimpleDrive offers a workable alternative to this time-consuming project.

Many enterprises compete for the job of storing your data in the cloud – Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive (SkyDrive), Dropbox, Box, Copy – and all of these services offer a good deal of performance for very little money. The basic offerings with storage sizes up to 5GB are often even free. Without a doubt, though, the user is not just the customer, but also the product.

For this reason, users who set store in data protection and privacy often choose to use open source solutions such as ownCloud [1] or Seafile [2], which are already in use in many companies and educational organizations. The open source alternatives run natively on hosted web space or a Raspberry Pi.

SimpleDrive [3] offers another alternative to the major commercial vendors. The program, written in PHP, needs a web server with matching support and MySQL. You can rent the web space for a small amount or keep your data at home, at the office, or on your own server with an SSL certificate: This ensures that any data you store on simpleDrive is encrypted during transmission over the Internet.


To install simpleDrive, unpack the ZIP file directly in the web server's data directory. If you have a full-fledged Debian-based Linux system, you can use a DEB package:

$ sudo dpkg -i simpledrive*.deb
$ sudo apt-get install -f

Ubuntu 14.04 has a PPA with the current version:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:paranerd-development/simpledrive
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install simpledrive

After installing, you need to set up a main user and tell simpleDrive where to find its database. To do this in a web browser, surf to http://<IP>/<simpleDrive> – where <IP> is the server's IP address and <simpleDrive> is your installation path – then log in with the credentials you stored to an initially empty simpleDrive.

File Management

SimpleDrive does not have desktop clients, so you have to use the browser to populate your data storage (see also the "WebDAV Share" box). SimpleDrive shows you the content of your data store in a grid. The grid icon at bottom right toggles between various views, including a clear-cut list. SimpleDrive only shows a preview for common image formats such as PNG or JPG; PDFs and movies do not have thumbnails.

WebDAV Share

If you want to use a file manager instead of a web browser to access simpleDrive, you can turn to WebDAV. Entering one of


accesses a WebDAV share in Dolphin or Nautilus. Using webdavs:// or davs:// adds encryption on top. Alternatively, the davfs2 [4] command-line tool

$ sudo mount -t davfs http://<IP>/<simpleDrive>/webdav.php /mnt/<WebDAV>

lets you mount shares on a Linux computer's filesystem.

New folders and files are stored via the context menu at top left via <New> | <File> or <Folder>. You can open existing files and folders by clicking on their names. If you simply click the icon, you are selecting the object (Figure 1). Right-clicking opens a context menu where you can opt to share, rename, delete, zip or download the selected object. To move a file to a different folder, just drag it to the target – this also works with multiple selections.

Figure 1: SimpleDrive provides a lean and fast alternative to ownCloud.

You can view a number of files directly in the simpleDrive front end; for example, the web app shows JPG and PNG images and PDFs directly in the browser. In folders with multiple images, you can even launch a slideshow. SimpleDrive plays OGG or MP3 music files, as well as OGV- and MP4-formatted movies directly in the browser.

You can edit text files and ODT documents (i.e., files using the Open Document Format of LibreOffice and OpenOffice) directly in the browser. SimpleDrive relies on WebODF [5] for ODT files and a JavaScript editor developed by simpleDrive initiator Kevin Schulz for text files (Figure 2).

Figure 2: SimpleDrive has an editor for TXT and ODT files.


The overview window under Settings shows you basic information about your simpleDrive installation, such as the amount of storage you still have available. You can use Upload max to enter the maximum file size for uploads, or use Force SSL to specify an encrypted connection. For this, you need to configure the web server accordingly, and install a SSL certificate.

If needed, simpleDrive manages data for multiple users. When you set up the tool, you automatically create the first user with admin privileges. You can create more accounts in Settings | Show accounts | Create user. SimpleDrive stores the uploaded files separately for each account in the installation directory below <simpleDrive>/documents/<user>.

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