As data privacy concerns drive demand for solutions that let users control their files, open-source platforms like ownCloud and Nextcloud have emerged as popular self-hosted alternatives to closed cloud storage services. Offering easy file syncing, sharing, and collaboration without relying on third-party servers, these projects empower personal and organizational users alike.
However, for IT teams considering a switch to self-hosted storage, a pivotal question arises in the ownCould vs Nextcould debate– which solution best fits their needs? While ownCloud and Nextcloud share common origins, key differences distinguish them today. In this in-depth comparison, we’ll analyze the history, features, community support, security, and use cases of each to help guide your decision.
ownCloud: Pioneering an Open Source Cloud Storage Alternative
ownCloud was created in 2010 by developer Frank Karlitschek, who recognized the need for a self-hosted storage platform with the usability of consumer-friendly services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, but without relinquishing data control.
From the start, ownCloud positioned itself as an open-source alternative accessible to non-technical users. Its intuitive web interface enabled easy file syncing across desktop and mobile devices, while supportive features like sharing, versioning, and collaborative document editing made ownCloud a functional, privacy-focused solution.
ownCloud’s open approach also cultivated an ecosystem of third-party developers who created custom apps and integrations. As the software matured, ownCloud Inc. formed to offer commercial support and enterprise services around the platform, though community development continued through the open-source edition.
Nextcloud Forks for Greater Openness
While ownCloud grew popular across individual users and organizations seeking self-hosted storage, tension emerged within the open-source community over the project’s changing direction. As ownCloud Inc. increasingly focused on monetizing enterprise features, some felt it came at the expense of open-source contribution and advancement.
Controversy reached a boiling point in 2016 when Frank Karlitschek resigned as CTO from ownCloud Inc., citing disagreements about the company’s commitment to community-driven open-source development versus commercial interests.
Shortly after his departure, Karlitschek announced Nextcloud as a fork of the original ownCloud codebase. Nextcloud aimed to realign with the open, collaborative ethos of the early ownCloud project.
Under an AGPLv3 license, Nextcloud maintained a strict policy of 100% open-source development, accepting community contributions and eschewing any proprietary code or features. This approach quickly earned Nextcloud favor among the open source community, with many of ownCloud’s original developers migrating to the Nextcloud project.
Over the following years, Nextcloud saw rapid development and innovation driven by its community-centered model. While ownCloud progressed steadily, Nextcloud’s more open approach and collaborative culture allowed it to evolve faster. As a result, Nextcloud pulled ahead of ownCloud in terms of features, apps, and overall momentum.
ownCloud vs Nextcloud: Comparing Key Features and Capabilities
Thanks to their shared origin story, ownCloud and Nextcloud have substantial overlaps in their core functionality for file management and collaboration. However, some key areas of divergence have also emerged, enabling each platform to play to its unique strengths.
File Sync and Sharing
As expected given their common ancestry, both ownCloud and Nextcloud excel at syncing and sharing files across desktop and mobile. Support for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android gives users platform-agnostic access to stored files. Both also offer important sync and share capabilities like:
- End-to-end encryption of file transfer and storage
- File versioning for easily rolling back changes
- Advanced permission controls on shared files and folders
- Password protection and expiration of shared links
- File commenting for better collaboration
Overall, ownCloud and Nextcloud are on par in handling the fundamentals of file management and sharing. Users can comfortably rely on both platforms to deliver a streamlined, consistent experience across devices.
Data security is understandably a top priority for organizations considering self-hosted cloud infrastructure. ownCloud and Nextcloud both incorporate essential security capabilities like SSL/TLS encryption, brute force attack protection, and two-factor authentication (2FA).
However, Nextcloud’s position as a 100% open-source platform gives it an edge in transparency and vulnerability response. With all code out in the open, Nextcloud benefits from many more eyes identifying potential issues. ownCloud’s open-core model means some code remains proprietary and thus less scrutinized.
In terms of encryption, ownCloud reserves its most advanced Encryption 2.0 capability exclusively for paying Enterprise customers. Nextcloud has no such restrictions, giving free open-source users access to cutting-edge security features.
Custom Apps and Integrations
A major benefit of self-hosting is the ability to customize your cloud storage platform through apps and API integrations. Both ownCloud and Nextcloud have app marketplaces enabling users to augment functionality, but Nextcloud’s is significantly broader:
- Nextcloud Apps – Over 300 apps spanning storage, productivity, communications, integration, and more
- ownCloud Apps – Around 140 apps currently available
With Nextcloud’s more active open-source community continuously contributing new apps and updates, it generally outpaces ownCloud in expanding potential functionality through customization.
Accessing files from mobile devices is a baseline capability for any modern file storage platform. Both ownCloud and Nextcloud provide official mobile apps for iOS and Android that enable similar functionality like:
- Browsing, searching, and managing cloud-synced files
- Sharing files internally and externally through public links
- Automatically uploading photos/videos from mobile
- Passcode locks and device-specific access controls
While core mobile capabilities are on par, Nextcloud’s app sees a higher velocity of updates and improvements. Recent additions like auto-upload over WiFi and file suggestions reflect Nextcloud’s more agile open-source development.
Let’s examine ownCloud vs Nextcloud for teams wanting to collaborate closely on documents. Both incorporate useful productivity features like:
- Real-time collaborative document editing
- File version histories for tracking changes
- Commenting on files
- Calendar and contacts syncing
- Instant messaging
Here capabilities are nearly even, though Nextcloud offers richer formatting options in its online document editor. Both provide the basics teams need for close collaboration, with room to augment via third-party apps.
Interface and User Experience
Within the ownCloud vs Nextcloud debate is the UI and UX perspective. Both share a similar visual style and layout given their origins. However, Nextcloud’s open-source community has invested heavily in refining and modernizing user experience.
Enhancements include streamlined navigation, mobile optimizations, and overall smoother performance. Nextcloud also offers dark mode and other visual customizations not available in ownCloud. While not radically different, Nextcloud does lead in UX refinement.
Release Cadence and Support
By nature of their open source models, ownCloud and Nextcloud show some divergence in release schedules and availability of support:
- ownCloud follows scheduled major version releases every 4-5 months with “point” updates in between. Paid enterprise support is required.
- Nextcloud follows a continuous delivery model with new features added weekly. Offers paid enterprise support alongside community forums.
Ultimately, both operate frequent release cycles enabling regular improvements. Nextcloud’s open source model enables more fluid updates, while ownCloud follows a more structured cadence.
ownCloud vs Nextcloud: Factors to Consider in Your Decision
With an understanding of their respective strengths, let’s examine key points to consider when choosing between ownCloud and Nextcloud:
- Open source philosophy – If maintaining a completely transparent, community-driven platform is paramount, Nextcloud is likely the better choice based on its unwavering open-source commitment.
- Pace of innovation – The open collaboration model of Nextcloud enables it to iterate and release new capabilities faster than ownCloud in most cases.
- App ecosystem breadth – Nextcloud provides significantly more apps and integrations to extend functionality.
- Security requirements – Nextcloud’s fully public codebase arguably allows more rapid detection and patching of vulnerabilities.
- Budget constraints – ownCloud’s open core model requires payment for some advanced features, while Nextcloud is 100% open source.
- Support needs – ownCloud provides integrated enterprise support, while Nextcloud offers community help to free users.
By weighing these key variables against your organizational needs, you can determine the right self-hosted platform for your environment and use case.
An Alternative: MyWorkDrive
For Windows-centric organizations seeking secure remote file access without migrating infrastructure, MyWorkDrive offers a streamlined solution purpose-built for this goal. Rather than a separate Linux-based file hosting platform, MyWorkDrive integrates natively with Active Directory and Windows file shares to extend access.
Key advantages of MyWorkDrive include:
- No databases – MyWorkDrive utilizes existing AD users and NTFS permissions, avoiding user data replication.
- Native file locking – Enables collaboration alongside mapped drives, unlike OwnCloud/NextCloud sync clients.
- IIS and .NET framework – Familiar Windows server technology, no LAMP stack management required.
- Office Online editing – Only MyWorkDrive enables browser-based Office document editing.
- Reduced administration – AD integration provisions users automatically versus manual management.
- Intuitive browser interface – File manager style access reduces user training needed.
- Robust security – Leverages AD and NTFS controls rather than storing credentials.
By uniquely integrating with Windows environments without disruption, MyWorkDrive simplifies secure remote file access for distributed teams. Avoiding migration complexity makes it a compelling alternative to consider alongside OwnCloud and NextCloud.
Specifically compared to OwnCloud, MyWorkDrive delivers proper simultaneous file locking, Office document editing, automated AD user provisioning, and a robust browser interface lacking in OwnCloud.
And versus NextCloud, MyWorkDrive similarly provides unparalleled native AD and Windows share integration, avoiding the LAMP stack entirely for easier Windows management.
For IT leaders balancing evolving remote work needs with legacy infrastructure realities, MyWorkDrive warrants evaluation as a frictionless enabler of secure file access for distributed teams.
Evaluating the Right Path Forward
Transitioning to self-managed infrastructure for privacy and control is a complex undertaking with many technical and business factors at play. For organizations weighing a move to self-hosted storage, the ownCloud vs Nextcloud debate represents compelling open-source options, each with unique strengths.
By taking a thorough, needs-based approach, IT leaders can chart the right course between these community-driven platforms or alternative solutions like MyWorkDrive. With shared aims but different open-source philosophies, each brings benefits to today’s distributed enterprises.