A set of Ansible playbooks to build and maintain your own private cloud: email, calendar, contacts, file sync, IRC bouncer, VPN, and more.
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Sovereign is a set of Ansible playbooks that you can use to build and maintain your own personal cloud based entirely on open source software, so you’re in control.

If you’ve never used Ansible before, you might find these playbooks useful to learn from, since they show off a fair bit of what the tool can do.

The original author's background and motivations might be of interest. tl;dr: frustrations with Google Apps and concerns about privacy and long-term support.

Sovereign offers useful cloud services while being reasonably secure and low-maintenance. Use it to set up your server, SSH in every couple weeks, but mostly forget about it.

Services Provided

What do you get if you point Sovereign at a server? All kinds of good stuff!

Don’t want one or more of the above services? Comment out the relevant role in site.yml. Or get more granular and comment out the associated include: directive in one of the playbooks.


What You’ll Need

  1. A VPS (or bare-metal server if you wanna ball hard). My VPS is hosted at Linode. You’ll probably want at least 512 MB of RAM between Apache, Solr, and PostgreSQL. Mine has 1024.
  2. 64-bit Debian 8.3 or an equivalent Linux distribution. (You can use whatever distro you want, but deviating from Debian will require more tweaks to the playbooks. See Ansible’s different packaging modules.)
  3. A Tarsnap account with some credit in it. You could comment this out if you want to use a different backup service. Consider paying your hosting provider for backups or using an additional backup service for redundancy.

You do not need to acquire an SSL certificate. The SSL certificates you need will be obtained from Let's Encrypt automatically when you deploy your server.


On the remote server

The following steps are done on the remote server by sshing into it and running these commands.

1. Install required packages

apt-get install sudo

2. Get a Tarsnap machine key

If you haven’t already, download and install Tarsnap, or use brew install tarsnap if you use Homebrew.

Create a new machine key for your server:

tarsnap-keygen --keyfile roles/tarsnap/files/decrypted_tarsnap.key --user me@example.com --machine example.com

3. Prep the server

For goodness sake, change the root password:


Create a user account for Ansible to do its thing through:

useradd deploy
passwd deploy
mkdir /home/deploy

Authorize your ssh key if you want passwordless ssh login (optional):

mkdir /home/deploy/.ssh
chmod 700 /home/deploy/.ssh
nano /home/deploy/.ssh/authorized_keys
chmod 400 /home/deploy/.ssh/authorized_keys
chown deploy:deploy /home/deploy -R
echo 'deploy ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL' > /etc/sudoers.d/deploy

Your new account will be automatically set up for passwordless sudo. Or you can just add your deploy user to the sudo group.

adduser deploy sudo

On your local machine

Ansible (the tool setting up your server) runs locally on your computer and sends commands to the remote server. Download this repository somewhere on your machine, either through Clone or Download > Download ZIP above, wget, or git as below

git clone https://github.com/sovereign/sovereign.git

4. Configure your installation

Modify the settings in the group_vars/sovereign folder to your liking. If you want to see how they’re used in context, just search for the corresponding string. All of the variables in group_vars/sovereign must be set for sovereign to function.

Setting password_hash for your mail users is a bit tricky. You can generate one using doveadm-pw.

# doveadm pw -p'YOUR_PASSWORD' -s SHA512-CRYPT | sed -e 's/{.*}//'

sed is used here to truncate the hash type from the beginning of the doveadm pw output.

Alternatively, if you don’t already have doveadm installed, Python 3.3 or higher on Linux will generate the appropriate string for you (assuming your password is password):

python3 -c 'import crypt; print(crypt.crypt("password", salt=crypt.METHOD_SHA512))'

On OS X and other platforms the passlib package may be used to generate the required string:

python -c 'import passlib.hash; print(passlib.hash.sha512_crypt.encrypt("password", rounds=5000))'

Same for the IRC password hash…

# znc --makepass
[ ** ] Type your new password.
[ ?? ] Enter Password: foo
[ ?? ] Confirm Password: foo
[ ** ] Kill ZNC process, if it's running.
[ ** ] Then replace password in the <User> section of your config with this:
<Pass password>
        Method = sha256
        Hash = 310c5f99825e80d5b1d663a0a993b8701255f16b2f6056f335ba6e3e720e57ed
        Salt = YdlPM5yjBmc/;JO6cfL5
[ ** ] After that start ZNC again, and you should be able to login with the new password.

Take the strings after Hash = and Salt = and insert them as the value for irc_password_hash and irc_password_salt respectively.

Alternatively, if you don’t already have znc installed, Python 3.3 or higher on Linux will generate the appropriate string for you (assuming your password is password):

python3 -c 'import crypt; print("irc_password_salt: {}\nirc_password_hash: {}".format(*crypt.crypt("password", salt=crypt.METHOD_SHA256).split("$")[2:]))'

On OS X and other platforms the passlib:https://pythonhosted.org/passlib/ package may be used to generate the required string:

python -c 'import passlib.hash; print("irc_password_salt: {}\nirc_password_hash: {}".format(*passlib.hash.sha256_crypt.encrypt("password", rounds=5000).split("$")[2:]))'

For Git hosting, copy your public key into place:

cp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub roles/git/files/gitolite.pub

Finally, replace the host.example.net in the file hosts. If your SSH daemon listens on a non-standard port, add a colon and the port number after the IP address. In that case you also need to add your custom port to the task Set firewall rules for web traffic and SSH in the file roles/common/tasks/ufw.yml.

5. Set up DNS

If you’ve just bought a new domain name, point it at Linode’s DNS Manager or similar. Most VPS services (and even some domain registrars) offer a managed DNS service that you can use for this at no charge. If you’re using an existing domain that’s already managed elsewhere, you can probably just modify a few records.

Create A or CNAME records which point to your server's IP address:

  • example.com
  • mail.example.com
  • www.example.com (for Web hosting)
  • autoconfig.example.com (for email client automatic configuration)
  • read.example.com (for Wallabag)
  • news.example.com (for Selfoss)
  • cloud.example.com (for ownCloud)
  • git.example.com (for cgit)

6. Run the Ansible Playbooks

First, make sure you’ve got Ansible 1.9.3+ installed.

To run the whole dang thing:

ansible-playbook -i ./hosts --ask-sudo-pass site.yml

If you chose to make a passwordless sudo deploy user, you can omit the --ask-sudo-pass argument.

To run just one or more piece, use tags. I try to tag all my includes for easy isolated development. For example, to focus in on your firewall setup:

ansible-playbook -i ./hosts --tags=ufw site.yml

You might find that it fails at one point or another. This is probably because something needs to be done manually, usually because there’s no good way of automating it. Fortunately, all the tasks are clearly named so you should be able to find out where it stopped. I’ve tried to add comments where manual intervention is necessary.

The dependencies tag just installs dependencies, performing no other operations. The tasks associated with the dependencies tag do not rely on the user-provided settings that live in group_vars/sovereign. Running the playbook with the dependencies tag is particularly convenient for working with Docker images.

7. Finish DNS set-up

Create an MX record for example.com which assigns mail.example.com as the domain’s mail server.

To ensure your emails pass DKIM checks you need to add a txt record. The name field will be default._domainkey.EXAMPLE.COM. The value field contains the public key used by OpenDKIM. The exact value needed can be found in the file /etc/opendkim/keys/EXAMPLE.COM/default.txt it’ll look something like this:

v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=MIGfMA0GCSqGSIb3DQEBAQUAA4GNADCBiQKBgQDKKAQfMwKVx+oJripQI+Ag4uTwYnsXKjgBGtl7Tk6UMTUwhMqnitqbR/ZQEZjcNolTkNDtyKZY2Z6LqvM4KsrITpiMbkV1eX6GKczT8Lws5KXn+6BHCKULGdireTAUr3Id7mtjLrbi/E3248Pq0Zs39hkDxsDcve12WccjafJVwIDAQAB

For DMARC you'll also need to add a txt record. The name field should be _dmarc.EXAMPLE.COM and the value should be v=DMARC1; p=none. More info on DMARC can be found here

Set up SPF and reverse DNS as per this post. Make sure to validate that it’s all working, for example by sending an email to check-auth@verifier.port25.com and reviewing the report that will be emailed back to you.

8. Miscellaneous Configuration

Sign in to the ZNC web interface and set things up to your liking. It isn’t exposed through the firewall, so you must first set up an SSH tunnel:

ssh deploy@example.com -L 6643:localhost:6643

Then proceed to http://localhost:6643 in your web browser.

Similarly, to access the server monitoring page, use another SSH tunnel:

ssh deploy@example.com -L 2812:localhost:2812

Again proceeding to http://localhost:2812 in your web browser.

Finally, sign into ownCloud with a new administrator account to set it up. You should select PostgreSQL as the configuration backend. Use owncloud as the database user and the database name. For the database password ansible has created a set of random passwords for each service and stores them in your local folder secret, use the one in the file owncloud_db_password.

How To Use Your New Personal Cloud

We’re collecting known-good client setups on our wiki.


If you run into an errors, please check the wiki page. If the problem you encountered, is not listed, please go ahead and create an issue. If you already have a bugfix and/or workaround, just put them in the issue and the wiki page.


You will need to manually enter the password for any encrypted volumes on reboot. This is not Sovereign-specific, but rather a function of how EncFS works. This will necessitate SSHing into your machine after reboot, or accessing it via a console interface if one is available to you. Once you're in, run this:

encfs /encrypted /decrypted --public

It is possible that some daemons may need to be restarted after you enter your password for the encrypted volume(s). Some services may stall out while looking for resources that will only be available once the /decrypted volume is available and visible to daemon user accounts.


Ask questions and provide feedback in #sovereign on Freenode.