Pretty much everyone deals with media. Most people have a bunch of pictures on their phone and Google Photos/iCloud, or something similar. For most people, this media eventually finds its way onto some cloud service, probably through auto-sync on their phone or computer, or by uploading to Facebook or Instagram...
But is that a good thing?


The vast majority of people don't really have a problem with their media being uploaded to giant cloud media hosts, and go on with their lives not caring where their pictures and videos are being stored, just assuming they will always be present and accessible. The problem is, for anyone who has used cloud services like iCloud and Google Photos, and platforms like Facebook and Instagram, they will likely know the lack of control they have over their own media. Most of these services just have two options: upload and delete. Not very useful for organization, and less so for trying to perform more complicated actions on those files. On top of that, you also don't have any control over what those services do to files. For instance, when uploading to Facebook and Instagram, photos are compressed and lose some of their originally quality, making them less useful for storage, and sometimes (in the case of art especially), you will most likely need to upload to other services that don't compress just to display the file in its original quality.

Look at this image:

original PNG, uncompressed

Now look what happens when it's compressed to a thumbnail, which is typically what is done on social media sites:

thumbnail JPG, compressed

The second version of the image is compressed, is smaller in file size and dimensions, and has lost its transparency. Similar treatment is given to images uploaded to social media, making it a poor choice for media hosting.

What if image/video/audio quality is not an issue?

What I just showed probably isn't much of a problem for most people, since they won't care all that much about the quality of an image as long as they can still view it. At that point, it starts getting harder to convince people that trusting their media with other services is a bad idea. But media compression isn't the only argument against using services you don't control to host your media. In fact, I think it's reasonable to say it's not even the most convincing.

You do not have control over other services

When you upload something to Google Photos, for example, you have no idea what it does to the file you just sent it. The things we do know that Google Photos does should be disturbing to a lot of people. It analyzes all photos uploaded to it with AI image recognition to label it, and will try to organize your photos based on it if you wish. Is it not disturbing that a giant company like Google would analyze all of your photos, no matter what they are? If that still doesn't matter to you, then consider the following.

Popular services are big targets for hacking

It's pretty self-explanatory, the bigger the service, the more people will be trying to break into it. That's not the fault of the services, but it has the ability to affect you. And this has happened before, at a large scale. Services as large and secure as iCloud have been hacked before, and caused giant scandals like having celebrity photos leaked publicly. It'd be unfair to say that these services are less secure than a self-hosted solution, but they have the massive disadvantage of being giant targets, and again, you have less control and have to rely on their security and decisions.

Popular services can delete your files at their discretion

Giving other people your files means that they have the power to delete them. Since they are actually the ones who own the files, they have ultimate power over them, and often they exercise this power. For example, it's very common for storage services to delete porn. If you want to reliably store all of your media, you can't use a service that exercises their own arbitrary rules over your files. Want to see this in action for yourself? If you have a YouTube account (virtually everyone does, since they have a Google account), go upload a copyrighted music video and see what happens. The video will be taken down or have restrictions applied to it.

(Don't actually do that since you can get your account in trouble if you do.)

Popular services often put restrictions on how you use your media

Let's say you have a 20mb raw photo file. It's unlikely that you will be able to upload this to any typical image hosting service, since they only accept images processed into typical image formats. Or, how about you have a 2 hour video you would like to upload to YouTube. Unless you've given YouTube your phone number, you will be unable to upload the video. But let's say you do have a phone number linked, and you upload it successfully. Your YouTube upload will be watchable, but YouTube provides no features for viewers of your video to download it, and something like that can only be done with special software like youtube-dl. Services often place restrictions on how you can use or distribute your files, and issues like that can be fixed if you host your media on your own.

Since I host my own media, I can offer people downloads of videos very easily. To save this video, just right click and hit "Save video as".

If you host your own media, privacy is a lot easier to maintain

Remember when I said that services such as Google Photos analyze your photos? If every photo or video you post is processed and analyzed by a server, it becomes very trivial to make automated assumptions about you. I'm not even talking about the possibility of some staff of one of those services looking at your photos, the chance of something like that happening is incredibly low, but the possibility of automated systems making connections about you is much, much higher, and more dangerous since it can be done at a massive scale, and be done on people that normally wouldn't be of interest to actual people.


If you care about any of these factors, then you should really consider hosting your own media. Options for that are Plex, NextCloud (installation tutorial here), Jellyfin, and Lunasea, among others.

If you can't host something like this yourself, you could ask a friend to host one for you, and you could both share it. I do that with my media server. It's always encouraged to help other friends out if you can host but they can't.

Even if you think you wouldn't benefit from hosting your own media, I strongly encourage you to look into it, because even though it may not seem important now, eventually you will want one of the benefits that hosting your own media provides. After all, we deal with media everyday.