ownCloud – the Dropbox alternative. Control your own data!


Mr Snowden’s revelations have confirmed that the “land of the free” has transformed itself into an Orwelian nightmare. So what to do? Don’t use IT and cloud computing anymore? Well, good luck. If you don’t rely on technology, good for you. But I don’t want to miss the convenience of IT services and cloud computing. So I was looking for an alternative for Dropbox, box.net or iDrive. And I found one. I’m proud to introduce ownCloud to you!

How to get it?

As the name suggests “ownCloud” is your cloud. That means, you control your data.

And it works as follows. ownCloud is freeware open-source software, free of charge, and can be downloaded and used by anyone. Simply go to http://www.ownlcoud.com, download  and install it on your server or shared webspace. If you run a server at home, you can install ownCloud on this server.

“But hold on” you might say. “I have no idea about that stuff. So this solution isn’t for me.”

Yes, it is! There’s an even easier way to set up your ownCloud!

If you don’t have a server or shared webspace you can purchase ownCloud in a package from external providers. I bought my ownCloud through a company in Austria. http://www.ownCube.com provides an ownCloud installer bundled with storage on a server in a location of your choice.

Why is ownCloud more secure

“Now what’s the difference to Dropbox?” you might ask. After all, it’s on a server that you don’t physically control.

There is actually a massive difference. Dropbox and other cloud computing providers are basically one huge cloud. And in that huge cloud you have a login and a password. Anyone who has access to this cloud (employees, government, hackers) are free to mess around with your data.

ownCloud is following a totally different approach as each install is done on a different server. Instead of having one cloud (like Dropbox, box.net, iCloud, etc) you have thousands of independent clouds, your is one of them.

How’s the installation process?

If you go through a service provider like ownCube, the installation process works as follows:

1) You buy a package, starting from EUR 2 (USD 2.7) a month. You can choose your server location. If you prefer privacy, don’t choose a server in Eastern Europe, Russia or the U.S.

2) You can choose your own domain (if you own one). If you don’t have a domain, you can purchase one through ownCube. Alternatively, you can use a domain under their domain, e.g. xxyyyzzz.owncube.com

3) You will receive an email from ownCube with the setup instructions. After login in to the “Cpanel” (an administration software for server) you need to setup a database, username and passwords. The whole process takes 5 minutes and is a piece of cake. All you need to do is to click buttons and enter a few names and passwords- a child can do it. Please read my comment on passwords in my previous post. The database password is very important so make sure it’s really strong.

4) Once your database is set up you have to link it to ownCloud. This process is also very easy. The entire procedure can be done without any programming skills

5) Your ownCloud is ready!

OwnCloud vs. Dropox

So how does ownCloud compare to Dropbox? Personally, I think it offers a lot more features.

In your ownCloud you can add as many users as you want, the only limit you will face is storage space which can be added easily. And, compared to Dropbox, files you share will only count once against your storage limit.

If I share a file in Dropbox with my friend, the file size will be deducted from both my and her quota. So if I share a 100MB file, my storage allowance will be reduced by 100MB and her storage allowance as well. (Dropbox only keeps one file on their servers though).

That doesn’t happen in ownCloud. The available space will only be deducted by 100MB.

Dropbox allows sharing files via a public link so users that are not using Dropbox can access the file as well. ownCloud offers the same feature but it goes even further. In ownCloud you can create a link, set a password and even set an expiry date. That amount of data control is far superior compared to Dropbox.

Furthermore, if you share a file with other users on ownCloud you can clearly define what they are allowed to do (or not to do). You can provide read-only access and set special permissions on a file-by-file basis for delete, update and change files.

And mobile devices? 

ownCloud offers apps for iOS and Android. Whereas Dropbox apps are free, you need to pay USD 0.99 for ownCloud. A fair price I’d say.

There’s one huge advantage compared to Dropbox. Dropbox only allows you to access one account on your iOS device. If you have a private and a company account you need to log out first and log in with a different ID.

ownCloud allows multiple accounts on a mobile device. You can switch around easily. I uploaded a file to an ownCloud server in Germany, in the U.K and in Hong Kong all from my iPhone.

Is there a desktop sync software

Yes, there is. A free sync software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t support multi-user accounts yet. So you’re limited to synching your files with one ownCloud. However, it seems the developers are already working on adding multi-ownCloud support.

One feature one needs to get used to is the following: Whereas Dropbox creates a single folder on your hard-disk and synchronises anything you copy in that folder, ownCloud allows customisation. That means you can sync ANY folder on your hard disk, even folders on an external storage or network storage can be synched to ownCloud.

While that allows a lot more freedom, users that are not as IT savvy might face some issues setting it up in the first place.

The speed?

Entirely depends on your internet connection speed and server location and speed. I uploaded a 200MB file to my ownCloud based in Hong Kong (from Hong Kong) in just 108 seconds! The same file takes more than half an hour when I try and upload it to my server in Germany.

The verdict

ownCloud beats Dropbox by far! It’s a lot cheaper compared to Dropbox, you control your own data, you can have unlimited users and, what’s best, you can even customise the login screen and appearance. That’s a great feature for small businesses that want to provide a solution to share documents with clients.

No drawback? Really? 

The only drawback I could think of is the appearance. The standard web interface doesn’t look as nice as Dropbox. But I’m not using the web interface much anyway.

Where can I get it again? 

ownCloud software (free): http://www.owncloud.com

ownCloud bundle with storage: http://www.ownCube.com – prices start at EUR 2 / month for 10GB. If you use your domain, you can use the Cpanel to set up your own emails under your domain as well!

7 thoughts on “ownCloud – the Dropbox alternative. Control your own data!

Add yours

    1. I tried a similar service called iDrive. From a security point of view it’s the same issue though. Dropbox, iDrive and BackUpThat are US based. As we’ve seen, this is a massive disadvantage if you’re not a US citizen. If you’re looking for easy file storage try ‘Wualala’. They offer end-to-end encryption, i.e. they can’t access your files as they don’t have the key. That’s not the case with Dropbox and other services. They claim ‘not to have
      access’ but in fact they do. Files are encrypted but they hold the key to the files, hence viewable any time….

  1. Great post but just to clarify, own-cloud is open-source not free-ware. Freeware is proprietary software that is free and you can not check if the software is secure. OwnCloud is open sorce which means it can be audited and checked for secuirty flaws. Addtionally, you can get commercial versions which have full support and added features.

    As for the interface, check out version 6. Great new look!


  2. I found one flaw with OwnCloud – As I develop I tend to keep all of my developed code on there. In total there are now some 400K files. However occasionally if something made a lot of changes, the syncing would fail, or the product would shutdown, or I got odd syncing errors where file changes were missed. Eventually I did not have enough faith in the product. Again this only happened when large numbers of files were being change (for example during a build, some 10000 files may be generated in a short period).

    1. I had the same issue. I wouldn’t use ownCloud for business but for private file sharing it’s ok. For backing up stuff I use Dropbox in combination with Boxcryptor and Spideroak.

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