I am fortunate enough, to run most of my life between my local computer and another VM in a cloud. In this day and age of cloud native and serverless, why would anyone choose to run their life off a virtual server aka VM?
This post is me, thinking this through. I’ll return to this every now and then, and see if things have changed enough out there, for me to evaluate and make a change.
For now, I am happy using my dinky little box in the cloud.

Reasons I use a VM.

  1. Because I cannot have a cloud connected desktop.
    If I could I would. But commercial forces, at least in India don’t bode well for an always on, always connected desktop. The VM is a good compromise
  2. Because I can. Being an old sysadmin lets me do this. But don’t let that scare you off. If you can afford one, I’d venture to say you should. If you put in the time to learn Linux fundamentals, most hosting providers now have excellent guides that will let you have a box that is pretty secure.
  3. The amount of control it affords me. Most cloud services will handicap you, some way or the other. When you’re using a VM on the other hand, you have the power of the whole machine1 in the palm of your hand. You can do what you want with it. Install programming languages to your hearts content, access all the storage that you have, run containers if you wish. Your VM is your oyster :)
  4. I can host what I want to. Without paying per service. Or without letting outsiders slurp my data and attention to serve me ads. Right now I host — (goes and looks)
    1. This website
    2. ZNC, an IRC bouncer, so I can stay connected always to my favourite IRC channels along with
    3. The Lounge, so I can then access IRC from anywhere
    4. an instance of Miniflux, to read my RSS feeds, to keep my self update with all my interests
    5. Sendy, to send emails to my mailing list.
    6. Baikal, for my contacts and calendars and finally…
    7. Huginn, to let me do all sorts of wizardry with stuff on the net. Think of it as a self hosted Zapier / IFTTT
  5. My data is not held hostage!

Reasons I wouldn’t use a VM

  1. If I am sharing something with the world at large.
    Something that might have the potential of being abused, even if I made or shared out of the goodness of my heart. No concrete example of this, comes to mind right now.
  2. Serving or hosting something that my VM cannot handle. I wouldn’t serve video from my little box, for e.g.
  3. Storing data. As in long lived collections. I doubt I’d store, my audio or photo library on here. Too large. It’d probably run too expensive and too risky.
  4. Tradeoff between control and life. I outsource email and my fediverse, because for me, maintaining them, was too much of a time suck. (No matter how much I loved doing it)

Conclusion: Control

The more I think about it, the more I think it’s about control more than cost.
I want as much of my data and digital life, out of the control of the software giants and/or other third parties to extent, I can control.
As much as possible, I want to express myself without constraint. Most SAAS options in this day and age, don’t come close to the power and options that old desktop software gave us.
Having a VM lets me be creative, expressive and grab some semblance of control back for myself.

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  1. well, as much as you’re paying for 😂 ↩︎