Installing NextCloud

Posted on Tue 27 March 2018 in Technical Solutions


In the last post, I described how I set up ZFS on the new server. With a newly configured operating system and tons of space, it's time to start using it. One of the goals I mentioned when I set up this server was the ability to:

Back up data from all devices in the house automatically. As camera phones have gotten better, we've found that we carry our bulky digital camera less and less. The problem with the phone camera is that we need to get the pictures to the computer. I don't want to hunt down a data cable or email the pictures to myself. I'm also not a fan of posting everything to social media. I want my phone to send the pictures to a backup location automatically.

I'm going to accomplish that by hosting an instance of NextCloud on this new server. Fortunately, the install process is pretty simple for this one. NextCloud provides installation instructions. When I installed it in mid-February 2018, it was on version 12.x. As of this post, in late March 2018, it's on version 13.x. I'll cover install and upgrade processes in this post.



For NextCloud you'll need either MySQL or MariaDB. I host it via Apache2, so we'll have that installed too. NextCloud is written in PHP, meaning we need that too.

sudo apt-get install apache2 mariadb-server php7.0 libapache2-mod-php7.0 php7.0-mbstring php7.0-curl php7.0-zip php7.0-gd php7.0-mysql php7.0-mcrypt php7.0-bcmath php7.0-xml php7.0-json php7.0-tidy

Enable the Apache2 rewrite module and restart the web server.

sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo service apache2 restart

Set up the database

You'll need to create a database for NextCloud. Log into your database using credentials that can create new users and databases. root will work.

mysql -uroot -p

Next, execute a couple SQL statements to create a database and create a user that can access the database. Make sure you use a secure password.


Download NextCloud

As I mentioned above, I initially installed version 12 of NextCloud. The latest version can be found on the NextCloud install page. The URL from that page should be used instead of the version 12 link in the following code block. The code block below will be putting NextCloud in the default location Ubuntu has Apache look. You can modify that as needed. If you do so, the virtual host will need to be modified slightly.

sudo cd /tmp && wget wget
sudo unzip
sudo mv nextcloud/ /var/www/html

We need to adjust ownership of the files so that Apache can read them. The default user and group, in this case is www-data. If you have configured your server to use a different user or group, adjust this command accordingly.

sudo chown www-data:www-data -R /var/www/html/nextcloud

Create the Virtual Host

I'll be exposing this to the internet and I'll be accessing it via the internet. That means I really don't want to send data unencrypted to or from NextCloud. I'll be setting up the standard port 80 web server traffic to redirect to the secure port of 443. I cover generating SSL certificates in another post. I use Let's Encrypt. The keys referenced in the virtual host configuration file below created by that process.

Create a new virtual host.

sudo touch /etc/apache2/sites-available/nextcloud.conf
sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/sites-available/nextcloud.conf /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/nextcloud.conf

Now you need to edit this newly created file

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/nextcloud.conf

Paste the following:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot /var/www/html/nextcloud/
    Redirect permanent /

    <Directory /var/www/html/nextcloud/>
        Options FollowSymLinks
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        allow from all

    ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/
    CustomLog /var/log/apache2/ common

<VirtualHost *:443>
    DocumentRoot /var/www/html/nextcloud/
    RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^.*/index\.php
    RewriteRule ^(.*)index.php$ /$1 [R=301,L]
    SSLEngine on
    SSLCertificateFile /path/to/dehydrated/certs/
    SSLCertificateKeyFile /path/to/dehydrated/certs/
    SSLCertificateChainFile /path/to/dehydrated/certs/
    <IfModule mod_headers.c>
        Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15552000; includeSubDomains"

    <Directory /var/www/html/nextcloud/>
        Options FollowSymLinks
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        allow from all

    ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/
    CustomLog /var/log/apache2/ common

There are two separate virtual host configurations being created here. The first one, on port 80, is setting up the permanent redirect to the HTTPS site.

In the secure virtual host configuration, we're setting a small rewrite rule to provide nicer URLs and configuring the SSL certificates to use. The DocumentRoot variables should match the path you installed NextCloud into in the previous step.

Application Configuration

There are a few settings that you need to change in the NextCloud configuration. Do this by editing /var/www/html/nextcloud/config/config.php. If this file doesn't exist, you need to copy /var/www/html/nextcloud/config/config.sample.php to /var/www/html/nextcloud/config/config.php.

The important settings to check are:

- `datadirectory`: In my case, this was pointed at a dataset I created when I [set up my ZFS pool][1]
- `overwrite.cli.url`: Changed to point to the HTTPS version of the URL I want to use

Complete the installation

Restart Apache and the navigate to the domain you've set up for your NextCloud installation. I am assuming that you know how to set up a DNS record for the server name you specified in your virtual host configuration.

Once you've reached the domain in your web browser, follow the instructions on screen. You'll need the database username and password you created above. You'll also create an administration user.


After some time, NextCloud will update. You should apply these updates, as they'll include new features and security patches. Log into NextCloud using your administration user. Click on the Gear icon in the upper right and pick "Settings". On the left hand side, select "Basic settings". Half way down the page you'll see the version you are currently running and whether or not there is an update available. If there is, you can begin the update from here.

NextCloud does not support skipping versions when updating. This means if you are on version 12, you can upgrade to version 13. You can not, however, upgrade directly from 12 to 14.

Additionally, there was a very minor hiccup when I upgraded the underlying PHP version. I covered that process in a later post

Syncing data

NextCloud provides client applications that allow you to automatically sync data to your install. There are clients for both computers and mobile devices. My use case only requires the mobile clients right now, but that may change in the future. From the install page, you can find the clients for Android, iOS and Windows devices. Select the appropriate installer on your device.

Once the mobile client is installed, you need to provide the URL to your installation and a username and password that can access your information. I've enabled automatic uploads of new pictures from my devices only when I'm on a wireless connection (no sense wasting mobile data). This, however, is why I wanted the SSL certificates. The client doesn't let me whitelist uploading from specific networks. I'd prefer I don't send my pictures unencrypted.


I've been using NextCloud for almost three months so far. I love it. Previously, I'd have to find a data cable and remember to manually backup my pictures once and a while. Now, it "just happens". If I take a picture at home, it's backed up within seconds. If I take a bunch of pictures while I'm out of the house, my pictures are backed up within minutes of me getting home.

- is a father, an engineer and a computer scientist. He is interested in online community building, tinkering with new code and building new applications. He writes about his experiences with each of these.