Self-Hosted & Open Source Software Worth Trying in 2019

The open source community has been key to some of the biggest tech trends in recent years – notably Kubernetes and Docker. Both tools are undoubtedly impressive, and together they enable hyper-scalability, continuous integration and rapid software development. This is an exciting opportunity for many businesses. But what if that’s not what you need at this stage? What other software is out there that you could be making use of right now?

Championing a wide range of open source and free software has always been important to Bytemark. We’ve previously written guides to Outline, a VPN provider, and PiHole, a network-wide adblocker. So, to continue that thread, we’ve rounded up 5 more of our favourite open source projects. Some are already well established, others are still in alpha testing. But, whether you’ve heard of them previously or not, all are worth exploring if your company want a self-hosted alternative to existing software or if you just want something new to test in your spare time.

1) Kanboard

When did the project launch? 2014
What is it? Project Management Software

One of those pieces of software that does what it says in the name, Kanboard allows you to visualise your work by creating boards to manage projects using the Kanban methodology. Frédéric Guillot is the main developer but, over the last 5 years, the project has had over 245 contributors.

What is Kanban?

The term Kanban originates from the Japanese word for ‘billboard’ and refers to a simple, minimalistic approach to production planning which increases efficiency. The methodology was originally created by a Toyota engineer (Taiichi Ohno) and was used in car manufacturing.

Nowadays, Kaban is also commonly used by agile development teams to enable regular, efficient software releases. In that sense, it is similar to Scrum – which we’ve covered in more detail in our Scrum Product Owner training blog – but there are key differences. Namely, in Kanban you use continuous delivery, releasing each feature as soon as it’s ready; you can change priorities/tasks at any time; team members don’t have pre-defined roles.

Many of the key benefits are the same as Scrum – Kanban leads to shorter dev cycles, a user-centric workflow, and clear, actionable goals for teams. The added benefit is the increased flexibility that Kanban offers.

How does Kanboard help?

Kanboard offers a simple way for teams to visualise and track the Kanban process.

Kanban Board

Key Features:

  • Little to no training required to use
  • Edit, add or delete columns to customise your board for each project
  • Drag and drop tasks between columns
  • Highlights when you’ve got too many works in progress to increase efficiency
  • Search functionality
  • Break down large tasks into as many sub-tasks as you require.

Install and Hosting:

You can get simple, step-by-step instructions for installing Kanboard in their official documentation.

All you need to self-host is a server running a compatible OS, like Debian 9 or Ubuntu >= 16.04. Both are available as standard on Bytemark Cloud.

2) Kimai

When did the project launch? 2006
What is it? Time-tracking Software

Basically, Kimai was built with simplicity in mind. It tracks work time and prints out a summary of your activities on demand. As Kimai is based on bootstrap, that layout is fully responsive on both desktop and mobile.

How did Kimai come about?

Kimai was first invented over 10 years ago by Torsten Höltge, the app was proven to be a hit due to its responsive design (thanks to JavaScript). However, due to personal and time limitations, Höltge wanted to shut the app down. Luckily, Kevin Papst and other open source volunteers saw the potential and were able to keep the app alive and extended it for multiple years.

Like anything in the technology industry, something newer and shiny is just around the corner. Technical difficulties were the main cause for Kimai’s fall back, which allowed the PHP community to step forward. This led to Kevin’s desire to re-write Kimai with the modern framework, Webpack-Encore (which gives you a clean and powerful API for bundling JS modules). Then, before they knew it, Kimai v2 reloaded was born.

How does Kimai work?

Kimai was built for one purpose: tracking your working hours. It supports an unlimited amount of users and timesheet entries, so you can handle all of your teams/departments in one easy-to-use installation. Kimai is web-based, meaning all you need is a PHP enabled webserver.

As well as tracking time, Kimai allows you to print out a summary of your activities (whether that’s yearly, monthly, daily, by customer, by project etc) on demand.

Kimai has no limitations regarding target market, the app is great for freelancers to large enterprises as it constantly runs until you physically press stop, even if you quit your browser.

Key Features:

  • The interface runs on both desktop and mobile
  • It’s on-demand
  • Multi-language meaning it can be used Worldwide
  • Unlimited users and entries
  • You can tie your timesheets in with your invoices

Install and Hosting:

You can download Kimai directly from their website and install it on your servers. As mentioned previously, there are very few server requirements. You just need PHP 7.2 or higher, a database (MySQL, SQLite etc.) and a webserver e.g. nginx.

3) Listmonk

When did the project launch? 2019
What is it? Email and mailing list manager

Listmonk is the newest project to make our list (no pun intended) and is actually still alpha software. This means it is still under active development so changes or bugs may occur. But the fact that Listmonk is still such an active project makes it a great opportunity if you’re interested in newsletters or marketing and looking to get involved in the open source community.

How can I contribute?

Kailash Nadh is the creator of Listmonk, you can start contributing by accessing the project on GitHub. There you will be able to view previous code commits and any open issues, as well as adding a new issue. Specific features they are currently looking to develop include user auth and bounce tracking.

How does Listmonk work?

Listmonk is written in both Go (backend) and React (frontend) and it provides a streamlined, user-friendly dashboard allowing you to manage multiple mailing lists and email campaigns. Whether you want to deliver a simple monthly newsletter or large-scale multi-variable campaigns, Listmonk is working to add features that allow you to do so with high performance.

listmonk dashboard

A big part of Listmonk is that its a single binary and a Postgres database is the only dependency. This means it functions as standalone software and is simple to install and configure.

Key Features:

  • Active development – you can actually get involved with shaping the tool.
  • Fast, high-performance
  • Use SQL queries to segment subscribers (e.g. by location) for targeted campaigns
  • APIs automate bulk contact imports and syncs
  • Create dynamic templates with a WYSIWYG editor

Install and Hosting:

As we touched on, Listmonk is still in alpha so should really only be used for testing and development at this stage. However, their documentation does outline one active use case where a company has used Listmonk for several months across multiple campaigns.

So, if you were interested in giving it a go to see what features are already on offer, then you can follow this guide to running Listmonk on Docker. In Bytemark Panel, Docker on Debian 9 is an imaging option when creating a server – so it couldn’t be easier to get started.

4) Paperless

When did the project launch? 2015
What is it? Paperless archive and filling system

Here at Bytemark we naturally make business decisions to reduce our environmental impact, whether it’s utilising a fresh air cooling system to cool our entire data centre or carefully consider customer’s needs so we don’t oversupply servers. So, when we came across Paperless, we just had to draw attention to this software that shares our values.

What is Paperless?

Paperless came about back in 2015 by a developer frustrated with the endless amount of paper he had to scurry through in order to find that one piece of crucial information (we’ve all been there!).

To tackle the problem, he coded a user-friendly tool in Python 3 to store all your scanned documents. They are all reachable through a simple search function, so you can always access and share your records without having to print a new copy every time something needs checking. Then, when you no longer need to keep a document on file, you can archive it with the touch of a button. Keeping everything as clean and as organised as you like!

Paperless UI

So, it goes from piles and piles of paper to a shiny, easy to use software!

Key Features:

  • Saves on physical storage space and printing
  • Simple backups & restoration
  • Search function
  • Save straight from scanner to server
  • Clean, simple interface

Install and Hosting:

Paperless provides detailed documentation for installing the app using Docker or bare metal. This covers how to install each component to help you get the most out of the tool.


When did the project launch? 2016
What is it? A password manager

Security is one of the biggest reasons companies give for switching to self-hosted software. So what could be better than a self-hosted password manager where you have total control over your critical personal data? That’s exactly what Passbolt offers – a secure, free and open source password manager.

How is Passbolt unique?

A 2018 survey found that the average internet user has 23 online accounts which require a password (though, speaking from experience, the real number is likely much higher for many people). So it follows that password managers would be a popular tool for keeping track of all those different login details. But why use Passbolt, what makes it different?

The standout function of Passbolt is that it was built for teams. Of course, in an ideal world, every user would have their own unique password for every service and platform. But in business, there are plenty of case where that simply isn’t possible e.g. company social media accounts, office wifi or root passwords for servers. Passbolt allows you to keep these passwords secure whilst still being able to share them with team members.

Passbolt Password Sharing

Key Features:

  • Unlimited users and instances
  • Group and user management
  • Email notifications for changes
  • Favourite, filter and search functions
  • Browser integration available
  • Import and export passwords

It is worth noting that, whilst all these features are included in the free, community edition, Passbolt does also offer paid versions with additional features.

Install and Hosting:

Passbolt provides clear documentation for installing their software on Debian 9, Cent0S 7, Ubuntu 18.04 and Docker. They recommend a minimum server requirement of 1 core and 2GB RAM – which means the Bytemark Cloud basic plan would be an ideal option.

Try it for yourself

At Bytemark, you can get a 7-day free trial on cloud hosting. It’s an ideal way to test out any of the software we’ve covered in this article whilst getting to explore the features of our flexible cloud servers! Sign up for free to start your trial today, spin up a server and test out some software.

Already given any of these tools ago? Thought of another open source project that should be on our radar? Tweet us @Bytemark to let us know!