ownCloud Review
Self-hosted file sync tool used to deploy custom web UIs.


What is most valuable?

I think it’s probably the best self-hosted file sync tool on the market.

It’s a full web application platform, an indispensable tool for a business of any size that needs to deploy any kind of custom web UI.

If you build an ownCloud app, you’ve got authentication, storage, security, caching, and database layers already fully baked for you. You just need to build your UI and custom logic. Your app doesn’t even need to interact with files, sync, or interact with other ownCloud features.

Any web UI can be included without ownCloud. It can even be a portal to web interfaces of other applications within a business using the external app to display external sites within ownCloud. This is the case as long as that site allows itself to be displayed within a frame.

How has it helped my organization?

We did a highly available deployment with:

  • Two redundant load balancers
  • Multiple redundant network links between our various remote offices and data centers
  • The internet
  • Four web servers
  • A highly available Redis cluster for session management and caching
  • A highly available MySQL database using Galera replication

For how long have I used the solution?

I used numerous versions of ownCloud at my previous employer for three years. However, I have no experience with the current version (released shortly after I left). I upgraded them to the new version just before leaving.

I’ve also been a contributor to the ownCloud GitHub project for about two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We did have two problems with locking due to the nature of Galera, but ownCloud was always quick to correct those bugs when they popped up. It’s something that’s difficult to test for, until you’re under production level loads. We didn’t always catch these issues in our development environment.

We only had two outages of approximately 30 minutes each due to these bugs over the course of three years with near 24/7 uptime. This is pretty good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Using highly available backend services and redundant web servers allowed us to do patching and upgrades without service interruption. We only needed to have scheduled downtime for ownCloud when doing upgrades to the product itself.

For minor upgrades, it only took a minute or two. For major upgrades, it could take a couple of hours due to database schema changes. Due to the number of users, several thousand, the database was many GB in size. Even with fast disks, it still takes a fair bit of time to write most schema changes to multi-GB tables.

Our backend storage was from EMC Isilon with SMB connections to the webservers. However, any kind of storage environment that can connect to multiple servers will work well. Being just a standard PHP application, like Facebook, it scales very well. You just need to setup the appropriate backend services to scale with it.

In fact, ownCloud will work extremely well in AWS using services like EFS for storage, ElastiCache, Aurora, and Elastic Beanstalk for automatically scaling webservers.

If your needs are more modest, you could just install it on a small NAS running Apache. Even a Raspberry Pi can run ownCloud.

How is customer service and technical support?

Our relationship with the vendor was excellent. It was one of the best vendor relationships I’ve ever had. They always took the time to understand our needs and the use cases behind our feature requests.

Sometimes they said no, because our requests were too unique. However, they usually took our ideas, combined them with the needs of others and came out with great features. While my contributions were relatively minor, I was able to help find and fix several bugs and add a small feature here and there. It’s a fairly easy project to get into if you know PHP.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

An enterprise support subscription with ownCloud, plus hosting cost, is far cheaper than a company Dropbox or Google Apps account. We saved tens of thousands of dollars a year by switching from those to ownCloud. With LibreOffice Online integration, as well as numerous other free apps, it offers far more.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated over ten other products, including cloud storage vendors. In the end, ownCloud was the only one that met all the needs of our user base.

What other advice do I have?

I’d highly recommend ownCloud to any business that:

  • Needs to self-host file storage and sync capabilities
  • Needs a web application platform or
  • Has needs beyond what the cloud storage vendors offer (ownCloud goes way beyond them)
  • Has security and privacy concerns when using cloud storage vendors
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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