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Situation: I want to set up some home servers that can store my files. Currently in the planning stage of the setup.

Problem: Security and stuff comes to mind when doing such things, especially exposed servers.

Question: Does it make a difference if I set up a VPN server at home and only expose the VPN server vs exposing the file server (or any other server for that matter) to the internet?

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  • Why do you suggest that you have to expose your file server and any other server to the internet? If you configure it correctly, you can only expose the file server to the internet.
    – user163495
    Dec 6, 2019 at 13:18
  • Say for example I have a web server running together. Sorry if the question is a little unclear Dec 6, 2019 at 19:36
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    If you have a file server running on port 8080, then you can run a web server on port 443 and just choose to expose port 8080.
    – user163495
    Dec 6, 2019 at 19:58
  • I can do that -- but the question is whether tunneling through a home VPN server makes any difference vs accessing the web server directly from the internet. But it's okay -- accepted answer has addressed this Dec 8, 2019 at 1:41

2 Answers 2

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If you don't use a VPN, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would the connection from your client to your file server be encrypted?
  • How would the client and the server mutually authenticate each other?
  • How would the keys used to build this encrypted connection be managed on the client and the server?
  • How strong is the encryption, and how strong are the keys?

VPN's are used, because they provide reasonably good solutions to all of the above problems.

If your public-facing file server provides acceptable solutions to all of the problems above, then maybe you can consider accessing the server directly, without using a VPN. For example, using key-based authentication with an SSH server may be an acceptable solution in your case.

But even in this case, if the VPN is integrated with a hardware firewall protecting the server, this provides an additional layer of security - because the hardware firewall blocks stray packets from random bots, etc. from even reaching your server. This way, in the event that a vulnerability is discovered in the file server (which would otherwise be public-facing without the VPN/firewall), the server is still protected by the firewall.

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Yes, it makes a difference. It makes the setup much more secure, especially if you use 2FA for your VPN accesss. So go ahead and do it!

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