OwnCloud provides on-premise file-sharing software alternative

OwnCloud began as an open source community project and now offers a commercial version of its file-sharing software to compete with enterprise Dropbox, but for on-premise use.

OwnCloud might be the answer for companies that don’t trust the cloud’s security, but still want the benefits of file-sharing software.

OwnCloud Inc. began as an open source community project in 2010 and just released its first commercial file-sharing software for businesses.

Unlike other cloud storage software and file-sharing services, such as Dropbox, SugarSync and Box, ownCloud doesn’t sell hosted data storage. Rather, ownCloud offers IT administrators the software to set up a “private Dropbox” within their own data center, the company said.

The primary advantage of ownCloud file-sharing software over its competitors is that users still get anywhere, anytime access, but IT knows where the data is, said Svein-Erik Larsen, technical manager at Telsys AS, a Norwegian IT solutions provider.

“Remaining in control of our data is something we see as a great advantage,” Larsen said.

The commercial version of the ownCloud file-sharing software provides customer support, access to files via a secure Web-based client, mobile clients for iOS and Android, and a Windows system tray folder for desktop syncing.

With ownCloud, data is stored locally in a data center or with services from Amazon or Google, said Matt Richards, ownCloud’s vice president of products. Because of this, IT can use the file-sharing software to create a private cloud that functions in a similar way to the personal cloud services and file-sharing software users have become familiar with.

The secondary benefit to ownCloud is that it gives admins the ability to use plugins and extensions to expand what the service can do, Larsen said.

“The plugins gives us the ability to disable features we don't have any use for, as well as add additional functionality as we see fit, making it possible for us to tailor the private cloud to our needs,” Larsen said.

Currently, the number of available plugins is “small but growing” ownCloud said. The company organizes the plug-in repository based on whether ownCloud supports them or not. OwnCloud vets supported plugins to ensure they won’t negatively affect the software, while unsupported plugins may work well, but the company hasn’t vouched for them.

The file-sharing software also offers several data security controls.

“Across the board we’re doing HTTPS, server side encryption and IT can choose to encrypt a file,” said Richards. Admins can also require that the ownCloud mobile app be PIN-code protected. Plus, files aren’t stored locally on the mobile device unless users download them, Richards said.

The biggest problems facing ownCloud in the crowded file-sharing software market are gaining recognition and attracting customers outside the open source community, experts say. Other  vendors include Eucalyptus Systems, Microsoft, Rackspace, IBM, VMware Inc., and Abiquo, Inc.

The file-sharing software, especially the browser-based client, is also buggy at times, said Bob Brentson, founder of InTech Solutions, an IT solutions provider and training center in Rochester, N.Y.

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For instance, users might run into issues with “the file upload button not working properly or missing completely,” Brentson said. But those bugs are usually fixed with a simple refresh of the browser or file-sharing software, and despite some small annoyances, Brentson’s overall experience with ownCloud has been fairly positive, he said.

The ownCloud Business Edition costs $999 per year or $100 per month for up to 50 users. It includes customer support for 12 hours per day, five days per week.

The ownCloud Enterprise Edition costs $15,000 per year or $1,500 per month for up to 250 users. OwnCloud Enterprise Edition includes customer support for 24 hours per day, seven days per week.  For each additional 50 users, ownCloud charges $800 per year or $80 per month.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush  on Twitter.

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