Which cloud solution is best? ownCloud vs. Nextcloud compared

When storing files, security is always top of mind, especially when it comes to sensitive data. Hosting your own cloud service is a great way to ensure your files are secure. Two powerful solutions for self-hosted cloud storage are ownCloud and its spin-off Nextcloud.

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ownCloud vs. Nextcloud at a glance

ownCloud Nextcloud
Website owncloud.com nextcloud.com
Developer ownCloud GmbH Nextcloud GmbH
Release year 2010 2016
License Open source / proprietary Open source
Clients for Cloud access Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android
Paid features
Option to self-host

(Updated: February 2024)

ownCloud vs. Nextcloud in-depth comparison

On June 2, 2016, Frank Karlitschek, founder of ownCloud, left the financially weakening ownCloud project as did most of the developers. In the same year, the newly formed team released its own cloud solution, which focused more on collaboration. It was named Nextcloud. The software has been continuously expanded over the past few years and today, the platform is one of the most popular self-hosted collaboration solutions in the world.

Licensing issues were a significant factor in the split. The key difference between the two open-source clouds lies in their approach to licensing. This is because ownCloud restricts certain functionalities to its Enterprise edition, which requires a commercial license, whereas Nextcloud offers all of its components under the free AGPLv3 license. In what follows, we will explore the two cloud applications and the features that set them apart.

ownCloud

ownCloud Pros ownCloud Cons
Desktop clients and mobile apps are available for all major platforms Updates are irregular
Minimal system requirements (hardware and software) Room for improvement in terms of security (slow bug fixing and vulnerability disclosure)
Highly expandable thanks to its modular structure (various apps are available in the marketplace) Performance issues with many small files

The ownCloud project was launched by Frank Karlitschek in 2010. It was intended to offer users a free alternative to commercial cloud services. Prior to this project, the German-born software developer had primarily been an active member of the KDE community, which is dedicated to the development of free software. At the heart of ownCloud is the server application ownCloud Infinite Scale, which can be installed on any server or web hosting space.

In terms of additional software, manufacturers have provided the following specifications for the current version of ownCloud:

ownCloud System Requirements
Operating System Ubuntu 20.04 and 22.04, Debian 10, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 (SP 4/5) and 15, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 and 8, openSUSE Leap 15.2
Database MySQL 8+, MariaDB 10.2+, Oracle 11 and 12, PostgreSQL 9 to 14, SQLite (not for production)
Web server Apache 2.4 (with MPM Prefork module and mod_php)
Scripting language PHP 7.4+

When the ownCloud server is installed and set up (there is a Digital Guide article that explains how to do this on a Raspberry Pi), files can be uploaded to it using the desktop program. In addition to free desktop clients for macOS, Windows and Linux, there are also mobile apps for Android and iOS in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Using these applications, you can create your own local directory, which can be synchronized with the cloud server whenever and wherever you want (assuming you are connected to the internet). Thanks to the file-sharing feature, files can also be shared with other users (password-protected if necessary).

The ownCloud client interface provides information about which files have already synchronized and which have not.

If you own a business, the ownCloud team offers professional, paid support with two different subscription plans to choose from.

The Standard subscription includes email support from Monday to Friday and pricing starts at around $5 per month per user (minimum 25 users). The price decreases as the number of users increases. This support model is based on the free AGPLv3 license, so any customizations to the cloud software are also shared with the community.

With the more cost-intensive Enterprise subscription, which starts at around $13 per month per user (minimum 25 users) and is linked to the ownCloud Commercial License, companies not only receive global email and telephone support but also access to a range of exclusive enterprise features.

(Updated: February 2024)

ownCloud offers users and administrators various additional features that optimize the cloud’s usability. Here is an overview of the product:

ownCloud Features
Activity stream The activity stream provides an overview of all the cloud users’ actions. When a file is uploaded, edited or shared, it is automatically recorded in this event log.
Managing groups and user access Create groups to make file sharing easier for a specific group of users. Access to shared content can also be restricted based on different permissions (delete, modify, create, share).
Unlimited file size The online storage software allows you to store and share files of any size. ownCloud theoretically supports files up to 8 exabytes in size.
Collaborate on Office documents Thanks to integrations of Office suites such as Collabora Online or OnlyOffice for ownCloud (requires Enterprise or ownCloud SaaS), Office documents can be edited in a team directly via the web frontend of the cloud storage service.
File saving and versioning Files can be locked at any time to prevent complications when accessing them. ownCloud also ensures that the clouds are versioned, so previous versions can be restored at any time.
Impersonation Admins can log in as any user if the cloud storage is configured appropriately. This can be helpful when dealing with technical issues, for example.
Note

Other features can be added using ownCloud Marketplace apps.

The ownCloud plan is rounded off with various security features, although there are some minor differences between those included in the free version and the Enterprise edition.

ownCloud Standard ownCloud Enterprise
Server-side encryption (AES-256)
Two-factor authentication
SAML/SSO authentication
Virus scanner (ClamAV)
Ransomware protection
File firewall
Password rules
Audits logs
Tip

If you are unsure whether you need the enterprise features for your cloud, you can test them for 30 days. All you have to do is request the test version via the contact form. You’ll then receive an email with the download link.

Nextcloud

Nextcloud Pros Nextcloud Cons
The interface design can be easily changed at any time to suit the user In the SME sector, this option is only recommended with an external hosting service provider
Brute force protection and various other security features enabled by default Not all of the available add-on apps are as high-quality as the cloud solution itself
Provides file-sharing and other collaboration features, like audio and video entertainment Performance issues due to many small files

When Nextcloud was released for the first time in 2016 as an independent spin-off of ownCloud, it was essentially just an open-source version of the same software, but with a new design. Since then, Nextcloud GmbH, which includes Karlitscheck and other former ownCloud developers, has sped up their software redesign.

The basic application is Nextcloud Server and can be installed on almost any web hosting space or server. The development team recommends at least 512 MB of memory for stable cloud operation. Nextcloud does not differ significantly from its predecessor in terms of software requirements either.

Nextcloud System Requirements
Operating system Ubuntu 20.04 and 22.04, Debian 12, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 and 9, CentOS Stream, Open SUSE Leap 15.5
Database MySQL 8.0+, MariaDB 10.3+, Oracle 11g, PostgreSQL 12+, SQLite (recommended for testing and minimalist instances only)
Web server Apache 2.4 (mod_php, php-fpm), NGINX (with PHP-FPM module)
Script language PHP 8.0+

Desktop clients are available for all common operating systems so that users can upload files onto the ready-to-use Nextcloud server. Windows and macOS users will find the installation files on the program’s website. Linux users (openSUSE, Arch Linux, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian) can find them in their distributors’ package management. Free apps for Android and iOS can be used to access the server on mobile devices.

The client allows one or more local folders to be synchronized with the server. File manager and file sharing features make it easy to locate and share the stored files with other people in the cloud.

Nextcloud website (Source: https://nextcloud.com/)

The development team believes strongly in the principles of open-source software, which is why every component of Nextcloud operates exclusively under the free GNU AGPLv3 license. Despite this commitment to free licensing, Nextcloud GmbH offers fee-based enterprise plans designed for organizations with over 100 users. These plans include professional support, advanced collaboration tools and a variety of integrations. Clients can choose from four distinct pricing options:

  • Basic: The Basic plan, which starts at around $40.00 per user per year, includes long-term support for one year in addition to email support (answered within 72 hours) and access to the Nextcloud knowledge portal.
  • Standard: Branding, installation verification, phone support during official business hours and one year of long-term support is available in the Standard subscription from around $75.00 per user per year.
  • Premium: Those who opt for the Premium plan pay around $110.00 per user per year and in return receive planning security for 5+ years, phone and email support (extended business hours) and - if required - support for scaling cloud storage.
  • Ultimate: The Ultimate plan, which starts at around $210.00 per user per year, gives you access to Nextcloud’s full feature set. This includes 24/7 support and professional tool integration to a SIP bridge that connects Nextcloud Talk to a SIP provider for professional IP telephony.
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Nextcloud is not just limited to uploading and downloading files, it is also packed with features that make it easy for both basic users and administrators to simplify file storage:

Nextcloud Features
Workflow management Workflow features such as file access control or automatic file capture help administrators stay in control. Based on an easily configurable set of rules, certain actions can be blocked for specific user groups.
Server monitoring Nextcloud provides an overview of user activities and informs users about actions like making changes or downloading shared files, for example. The monitoring module also provides information on the performance and stability of your own cloud server.
Integrated Office solutions Nextcloud Hub has natively integrated tools for real-time document management. With popular solutions such as Collabora Online or OnlyOffice, you can work together with other people on Office documents (LibreOffice/Microsoft Office).
Branding & theming The theming app can be used to modify the look of your cloud. Without additional costs, you can insert your own logo, select a different background image and change your name and slogan.
Full-text search In combination with the Apache Solr or Elasticsearch indexing service, you can set up a full-text search for cloud storage. Solr can search through text, PDF, image, and audio files, as well as Office documents (Microsoft office and LibreOffice).
Collaboration Workspaces give Nextcloud users the ability to populate folders with notes, to-do lists and other collaborative tools. Users can edit this information in real time or mark it as done, for example. The dashboard also provides information about the status of other users: Are they online or offline? Have they opened a file or are they currently replying to a comment?
All-in-one installation To simplify installations for small and medium-sized companies, Nextcloud is available as an all-in-one Docker or VM image. Direct installation in various cloud environments such as Azure and AWS is also possible.

Thanks to its modular structure, one of the cloud storage platform’s strengths is its high degree of expandability. Nextcloud apps can be used to add a wide range of functionality to different Nextcloud areas such as Integration, Multimedia, Office & Text and Authentication & Authorization. Nextcloud lists all officially supported extensions in its app store. You will not only find documentation and download links for the over 200 extensions available, but also a guide on how to program modules.

Equally crucial to having an extensive range of features is the safeguarding of data stored within private clouds via the software. This is why Nextcloud provides operators with effective tools to ensure the best possible protection:

Nextcloud Security & Protection
Server-side encryption (AES-256) In addition to standard data transfer via SSL/TLS, all information can be encrypted on the server.
End-to-end encryption Nextcloud enables files/folders to be stored and exchanged with end-to-end encryption.
Brute force protection By default, Nextcloud provides protection against brute force attacks.
Content Security Policy 3.0 The open-source cloud’s web interface can be secured thanks to Content Security Policy 3.0 (CSP).
Two-factor authentication Administrators can enable or disable two-factor authentication from the command line.
SAML/SSO authentication Nextcloud supports SAML markup and single sign on.
Password rules Administrators can set up password creation policies (login, file sharing).

To test Nextcloud, you do not have to download and install the cloud software. On the website, you can try a demo of the software and try out the features listed here for one hour.

What are the main differences between ownCloud and Nextcloud?

In many respects, it has become clear that Nextcloud, while not entirely new software, is much more ambitious than ownCloud when it comes to collaboration. Since the 2016 release, Nextcloud has evolved from a simple file syncing and sharing solution to a premium alternative to cloud suites like Microsoft 365. The differences in terms of file storage and file sharing are only minor.

Key differences come when you look at add-on and security features. On the one hand, ownCloud’s licensing policy ensures that certain components such as full-text search, workflow management or branding are only available to paid Enterprise customers. Nextcloud users do not have these limitations, as only support and update services cost extra.

With features such as integrated real-time document management or audio and video calling, Nextcloud has outshone its predecessor in terms of functionality just as it has in terms of security. Built-in brute force protection, easily implemented two-factor authentication and server-side file encryption are just a few of the Nextcloud security features worth mentioning.

What Nextcloud solutions does IONOS offer?

Cloud collaboration software also plays a major role at IONOS. Self-employed professionals and small and medium-sized enterprises can use the Nextcloud app to install the application directly on their rented server. As a user, you benefit from a simplified installation and setup and a hardware and software framework that suits your needs. With an IONOS Nextcloud solution, you are also always up to date.

HiDrive Cloud Storage with IONOS!

Based in Europe, HiDrive secures your data in the cloud so you can easily access it from any device!

Highly secure
Shared access
Available anywhere
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