UPDATE: This post is quite old and somewhat outdated. The Owncloud project was forked into Nextcloud, which I wrote about here.
In a Nutshell
Owncloud is a very easy to install, free and self-hosted cloud-storage service. It’s extendable and rather feature-complete. Due to its open-source nature, non-paying customers can only rely on the community for help.
What it does
Recently Google Drive, the long anticipated Google version of much loved Dropbox was finally revealed. Time to have a look at possible self-hosted online storage alternatives.
I did not really expect to find one even close to what Dropbox or the plethora of other services offers, but I was proven wrong (in a way).
Owncloud is an open-source online storage suite and it’s really quite amazing. It’s a breeze to install (upload and set a few permissions, that’s it), has an interface that’s really easy on the eye. It comes pre-installed with a music, photo and file-viewer. It can also host your calendar and your contacts. And you can of course add other users, creating a small little network for your organisation, family or friends. Oh, and it syncs with your local files.
The fact that it’s open source allows for a plethora of add-ons. These includes gems such as downloading files into your storage via URL, a streaming add-on for your music, or adding bookmarks. Last but not least, there’s even mobile apps.
Here’s a few downsides: While it’s way more advanced than anything I’d hoped for, it is still quite rough around the edges. Some supposedly pre-installed apps don’t work out of the box and need to be reinstalled manually (upload via SSH, setting of permissions, etc.). While I don’t mind these things terribly, I see this as a bit of a problem with people who are not into tinkering.
Also, some changes I made (like adding bookmarks), didn’t go through. Checking the forums did nothing for me, even though people complained about the same problem.
Their mobile app (I only had a chance to test the Android one) is very rough still. It crashed on me a couple of times and is slow. I’m hoping and expecting this to get better soon, though.
Installation is a matter of uploading the unzipped folder via SSH, then running a very quick setup process. You do need access to a database, but Owncloud sorts out all the complicated stuff for you with one click.
If you want to try OwnCloud but don’t have your own serverspace yet, you can sign up for free with OwnCube. It’s basically an online storage space using OwnCloud. While this defeats the whole idea of self-hosting your files, you can check out the functionality of OwnCloud and once you’ve got your own server, you’ll know your way around already.
Owncloud only just released version 4.0, which boasts an impressive feature list. Find it here.
Owncloud is free, but they do offer a supported version for businesses at owncloud.com