Are you nervous about storing your files in the cloud? Are you warey of the security claims put forward by cloud storage companies and are unsure about now having control over your data? Well, there is now an answer to that in the form of OwnCloud. OwnCloud is an open source cloud platform that provides common features such as calendar management, file storage and contact management; the difference is that rather than hosting your data in a third-party environment that you have no control over, OwnCloud can be installed on your own cloud or dedicated server, or even on a shared web hosting plan, so that you will always have control of your data.
The web installer means that you can turn any shared web hosting account into a personal cloud. With the web installer it is just a case of downloading a single file from http://www.owncloud.org, uploading this to your web space and following the on-screen instructions; the installation wizard will take care of locating the nearest and most convenient location to download the full package from to minimise the installation time.
Installing on your own server
A cloud or dedicated server would be recommended for where you are looking to establish an OwnCloud environment for an organisation. In enterprise environments the application can be integrated with existing LDAP and Active Directory deployments so you won’t have to supply colleagues with another set of login credentials.
Integration with desktop and mobile devices
As a user of Apple’s iCloud or any of Google’s apps, you will probably be a fan of the seamless syncing that is available between the different devices that you own – all courtesy of the cloud, of course. Well by choosing OwnCloud, you don’t have to lose these abilities, as indeed they are standard features of the platform.
Calendar syncing is available through a technology known as CalDAV, which also forms the basis of the calendar syncing functions found in third-party technologies. CalDAV enables you to download your calendar information from the OwnCloud server and also uploads new events as you add them to your calendars on the desktop, with this information being kept in constant sync with all devices that are accessing your OwnCloud account. CalDAV is available on Android, Windows Phone and iOS devices and is also supported by the major desktop operating systems.
Contact/address book syncing is available using CardDAV, a technology similar to CalDAV. With CardDAV syncing you are able to sync your entire address book across all devices that are connected to your OwnCloud account. In the same way that calendar changes are reflected across all devices, when you modify a contact or add a new one, this will be automatically reflected across all connected devices.
There are a number of third-party apps available for OwnCloud so that you can do different things with it. One of my favourites has to be the External Storage app that lets you mount your accounts from other cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox as local folders in your account, simplifying the migration process where you are using either of these platforms. Ultimately it allows you to maintain a foothold in these platforms however, so if for example someone would like to share a Dropbox folder with you then they can do and you won’t have to continue to use another service to access it – instead it will be accessible through your OwnCloud account.
Another app I’ve taken to use is Roundcube. A third-party app enables you to integrate any existing Roundcube installation into OwnCloud and with features such as auto-login, the integration is seamless and allows you to move between the two as if they are one application – this also goes to extend the functionality of OwnCloud and with it the application proves itself to be a stable cloud platform that can rival any public offering.
To offer a conclusion, I would say that OwnCloud only stands to grow in popularity as people and enterprises become more concerned about the true security of their data, given the recent leaks we have seen from the NSA and the co-operation of companies such as Google or Apple in sharing user data. With OwnCloud you maintain control of your data and no-one else will be able to access it.