back to article OwnCloud: Fiddly but secure host-from-home sync 'n' share

Phones in our pockets, tablets down our sofas, and laptops in our bags. Never have we had so many devices in our possession. It makes sense to start syncing and sharing folders and data between them – not just for the sake of convenience, but for our sanity. Many companies are offering to bridge the connection gap - from Apple …

  1. Quentin North


    In the EU if you require good privacy you might consider which is EU hosted and provides client side encryption.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shame Android often isn't fit for purpose

    i.e. the broken offerings put out by the likes of Samsung and HTC. HTC certainly don't give two shits about their customers and hacking around their garbage in order to get basic CardDAV and CalDAV features working is not for the faint of heart.

    Why Google didn't include such basic protocols OOTB is beyond me.

    My guess is that it would stop people being bound to Google's own services.


    1. petur

      Re: Shame Android often isn't fit for purpose

      Indeed, Google is very picky with support for open protocols, and likes to close them when they consider them a threat, like XMPP for example (they'll come up with some technical reason that just doesn't stick).

      I'm waiting for them to drop IMAP support, to be honest. They dropped everything else, this is the last one to go. May they close http(s) after that and close their shop :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shame Android often isn't fit for purpose

        Indeed. Whilst Android "is a" Linux it's not Free Software or even Open Source. It depends solely on proprietary services that require you to breach privacy (upload contacts etc) in order to function.

        That said, it(s still less bad than iOS or anything vomited out by MS.

  3. Jedibeeftrix

    "Previously OwnCloud offered a single folder for sharing - you dropped documents in that folder and then shared them via a link"

    I think the shared folder is more for content that other users (on the owncloud server), have shared with you...

    Owncloud is brilliant. Been running it on opensuse since 6.0 came out end of 2013, now running 7.02 and love the changes.

    Looking forward to seeing whether PHP 5.6 makes large files easier to manage with Owncloud 8.0.

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      mod up and...

      I was ALARMED about dropbox and what it did on my system!!!

      Their piece of binary blob code that needs to be run in a chroot jail, or perhaps even its own VM!!

      Owncloud is much more sane, although I will add that the documentation has a few missing use cases included (what to sync or not, the answer is ~/.local/share/data/ownCloud//sync-exclude.lst )

      You can choose both end points so this is definitely to be recommended.


      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: mod up and...

        What exactly alarmed you about Dropbox?

        After all, the entire point of it is to take your files, and upload (and sometimes download) them to the internet, so the minimum set of permissions you can give it would still be full R/W on your personal files, and network access.

        You either have to trust Dropbox with your personal information, or not use it.

  4. goldcd

    Also might be worth looking at Bittorrent Sync

    Still pretty new and not particularly feature rich - but is another option if you have multiple machines (and phones) you want to share across and not have a 3rd party vendor involved.

    Had a quick play with it and seems to 'just work' - also has nice little features, like throwing up a QR code on your PC, you can scan from your phone, if you want to setup a sync.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Also might be worth looking at Bittorrent Sync

      I've been using BTSync since announcement and it's pretty brain-dead simple especially for keeping all my current working-set files in sync. I use Spideroak for full backup of all my devices for hardcore DR. (I have unlimited with SO which actually works out to just 4 TB on Comcast intertubes.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also might be worth looking at Bittorrent Sync

      For personal use BTSync I'd OK but it can't handle large numbers of users (as some podcasts have found out). After ~200 connections they will get silenlty dropped and no sync will occur.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also might be worth looking at Bittorrent Sync

      > Had a quick play with it and seems to 'just work' - also has nice little features, like throwing up a QR code on your PC, you can scan from your phone, if you want to setup a sync.

      The "Show Barcode" option has been on KDE's clipboard tool for a few years now. You just click on it then scan the resulting barcode on your phone, which works great for transferring small snippets of info.

      However, enter stage KDEConnect, and everything else gets blown out of the water. The thing works over the local network (no cloud!) over an encrypted connection, and besides seeing any phone notifications (calls, SMS, etc.) on your computer, it automatically shares the clipboard so I can go Ctrl+C on my PC and Paste on my phone (great for links) or viceversa (great for banking codes), allows you to transfer files both ways (just right-click on a file in Dolphin and go "Send to [yourdevice]"), use your phone as a multimedia remote, etc. It is a beautifully designed piece of software.

      As for ownCloud (please note the capitalisation), indeed it's the only cloud option I consider currently viable (worth noting it's sort of a KDE spin-off, btw). I have been running one instance for a year or so and it has solved so many problems it's beyond belief.

  5. DropBear Silver badge

    Not to argue the point of the article (I prefer to run my own CardDAV/CalDAV server too), but 'taming' Dropbox is no hassle whatsoever - it only takes one click: "install EncFS / EncFS4Win". I never fail to giggle looking at Dropbox's popups alerting me that file !@#^%er57$E%$Vfdvgd^$%gf has just been synced...

    1. TReko

      Encrypt Google Drive too

      Taming Google Drive is pretty simple too, just install Syncdocs to encrypt Google Drive on the client. Adding an extra layer of security to these cloud storage products is pretty simple, and they manage the disks.

  6. c-hri-s

    Seafile is another alternative - I preferred it to OwnCloud when I tested them both.

    Seafile is essentially Dropbox but you can use your own server. Useful on an Intranet.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      ... And Seafile has a Raspberry Pi version. I have absolutely no idea how good it is.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Server to server

    Yes, this is an interesting development, especially as Owncloud runs rather sweetly on a Pi. I find that running php-pfm with lighttpd and postgresql as the database, the response is not much worse than running Owncloud on a more powerful machine. It's surely a matter of time until an SD card of Raspian with owncloud pre-installed is available, at which point the technical side of owncloud will be reduced. An ad arrived this morning for a 64G USB stick for £15 - a one-off cost of £50 for a Pi, SD card and 64G of storage seems a good deal.

    But I wish they'd called in "woncloud" as that's what my fingers type more frequently than "owncloud".

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Server to server

      Yes, that combination is tempting.

      I don't have quite that much confidence in my own abilities.

      I do keep some stuff on Google Drive, mostly stuff such as fiction texts I am working on.

      It does bother me that Google Drive doesn't support Linux, you need a 3rd-party product. I have an old ASUS EEE that still runs Linux, and it could be a useful machine. A lot of the time I don't need to burrow in the Linux stuff, it just works.

      I maybe should get something such as a Pi. But could I cope with it?

      1. Paul

        Re: Server to server

        My previous employer used Google drive and the Windows clients would regularly stop working.They previously used dropbox and everybody was happy, but reached a size where would have pay for it, and switched to G Drive because was free, the only good thing I could say about it.

        Web based g drive is ok.

  8. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    easy to share on owncloud

    I've been running v5 for about a year now(both on my colo server and at work), it's very easy to share with people that do not have accounts, simply click on the "share" link, click on "share with link" check box, optionally assign a password to it(either file or folder), as well as an expiration date among a couple other options.

    I do this all the time.

    Maybe owncloud v6 and 7 are different I am not sure.

    I've never used any of the public cloud services so I don't know how they compare.

  9. Spiracle

    Server side encryption has one advantage...

    OwnCloud may 'only' offer server-side encryption but, if you're mostly accessing your files via a mobile device, it's probably the preferable option. Hard sums eat your battery.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    Earlier versions of Owncloud attracted criticism for poor performance. Have recent versions tamed this?

    A comparative review with Kolab would be useful.

    1. Jedibeeftrix

      Re: Performance?

      i run it on a 15W AMD kabini box running at 1.4GHz and it seems reasonably responsive if that helps.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another server-side alternative

    Been meaning to try Owncloud, and this article (plus the above comments) are even more incentive. For the lazy, I just came across a company called Golden Frog. They offer secure dropbox-like storage, VPN for all devices, and secure messaging. But hey, no reason for those who know how not to self-host.

  12. Gert Leboski
    Thumb Up

    Like it a lot.

    I've been running an ownCloud7 instance from home, for a month or so now. I have it running in a VM on my home hypervisor. It takes very little resources and I've yet to have a problem with it. It is geared up for home users, an example being that it'll create you a self-signed SSL certificate and then whilst it will warn you, when you go to synch a client to it, it offers a straight forward option to accept the self signed cert.

    I'm considering implementing it for the charity that I work for, which was the main reason that I created my home instance as a test. However, I'm that impressed with it, that I'll be keeping mine going and just stop using dropbox as a matter of course. I'll likely only keep dropbox around to be able to share with others who only use dropbox.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Like it a lot.

      I stumbled on OwnCloud (back in v5) when I went looking for a shared calendar/files solution. I help with my local branch of the Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network here in Brisbane and we needed a way to keep track of upcoming emergency communications exercises.

      When I saw OwnCloud, I immediately jumped to it. I run an instance on a server I control, and we're able to keep relevant forms, meeting minutes and upcoming events all together. Since I host it locally, it's also feasible to make some of it accessible via an AX.25 BBS for packet radio access.

      Most have been able to figure it out and it works quite well on modest hardware. It would also work on shared hosting. For charity groups, I'd recommend it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like it a lot.

      > I'll likely only keep dropbox around to be able to share with others who only use dropbox.

      As long as those others have access to a web browser, you can share with them too via ownCloud: you just go Share > Share link, then you can email the (optionally password-protected) link to anyone you want to share your stuff with. You may optionally set an expiration date too, after which the link will expire. Couldn't be easier. :)

  13. sam tapsell

    Raspberry Pi FTW

    Never mind the real kids, the raspberry pi is the server box for us overgrown kids who want to try a bit of hacking.

    Looks like owncloud is up next...I had great fun trying to optimize wordpress. nginx. varnish. Very good for static pages, but dog slow when logged in (and running php rather than from the cache). I Then started reading about HHVM, up to 10 times faster php handling, and just when I think the Pi will do great wordpress handling, I discover it will likely never be available for ARM 32bit, only 64bit (and some time in the future). Hope they wait another couple of years for the pi2 (pi squared?) with 64bit quad ARM processor and gigabit networking...pretty please.

  14. Quentin Finknottle Again


    A Canadian company, as mentioned by Trevor Pott. $50/year for 500GB space - I had to bite!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Owncloud and Wuala

    I've got an Owncloud instance running in a VM on the Internet for my day-to-day work (calendar, non-sensitive files, smartphone photos, music and podcasts) and use LaCie's Wuala for my more sensitive data. The really big (and nonsensitive) stuff goes on Amazon S3. I don't have client-side encryption (where only I have the keys) enabled for either Owncloud or S3, but will be incorporating that soon. These aren't solutions for the masses, of course, but frankly they're not my concern at the moment. Eventually one of the big guys (Microsoft, Amazon, etc) is going to give in and start offering client-side encryption by default in an idiot-proof package because they'll make lots of money doing it -- and be able to drastically reduce their compliance costs ("You want the data on that server in Ireland? Sure, here it is, all encrypted by the user with keys only they have possession of. Knock yourself out breaking into it."

  16. BB


    I've been using AeroFS for the past year and have found it to be a great replacement for Dropbox. It has the same near-real time syncing with Windows and Mac clients, although it does use Java which chews up the CPU cycles. Your files are synced directly between your devices and the encryption keys are never shared outside them making it quite secure. They have a bit of a silly pricing policy but it's free unless you want to add many users for sharing, etc.

  17. DainB Bronze badge


    on your own server in the cloud for 5$/mo.

  18. Paul 135

    What about MEGA?

    Client-side encryption and 50GB free.

  19. kokoro

    Been running OwnCloud for a year on VPS. Really like it a lot, uploading big files is stable and 6 to 7 is a big improvement.

    2 criticisms:

    + It is a 100mb upload of umm what exactly and it keeps getting bloatier in a way that gives Joomla a run for its money. Everytime you create a new user there's a mb's of useless bloat sample docs created.

    + You can't easily use it as a faux CDN because it creates special links to files and likes to open a page on a shared link. I wanted to use it to manage a lot of audio files into a website that can load into a flash-based mp3 player and it simply won't play despite a lot of link hacks tried. They need to fix this as stuff like rackspace cdn just works and a link is a link.

  20. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Another happy ownCloud user here

    Been very very surprised how slick it is...

    Being able to "mount" up SMB/CIFS shares or NFS is great

    Hooked up DropBox & GoogleDrive to it as well

    1. Stuart 22

      Re: Another happy ownCloud user here


      Using Kubuntu the Dolphin File Manager will just 'place' the webdav connection. Which gives me an another way of getting at my files. I am running Kubuntu because I believe in 'personal computing' aka 'user control' which has been pretty much eroded by Apple & Microsoft. Going into the cloud is even riskier. Donating your user files to a proprietary (or is it predatory) supplier in the sky is asking for trouble.

      Already had that when my first foray came a cropper when the supplier completely reneged on their deal. When they do that you either have to give in to blackmail or take time out to re-implement clouds (and when you have a few hundred gigabyes you don't want to be winging up and down a broadband line).

      The good news is OwnCloud is a fast developing product. The bad news is that in two months I have gone through four versions. Whilst the upgrades, for me, have gone cleanly that has not been the case for everyone - and the prime requirement for a cloud is security and stability. New stuff breaks old stuff. Maybe they need to more clearly differentiate a stable route from the bleeding edge for those that don't want to fiddle with it more than once a year.

      Oh and the capitalisation - I just can't write it without a leading capital. But otherwise its brilliant and looking to be brillianter. I have always had my newbie issues answered quickly, efficiently and kindly on the support forum. Thank you for that which is sufficient for personal and small users. There is a paid enterprise option for, err, enterprises.

      I'm not sure I would yet go with OC for a major mission critical project. But I would strongly recommend considering it for smaller projects and familiarisation. You are not going to get the best out of it until you have had some experience.

  21. Dom 1

    You forgot Wuala

    Wuala offers client side encryption and is available for all platforms. OK, you only get 5GB free, but that enough for many people. There is also a business version available.

    Alas, Spideroak (being an American company) is now subject to the same issues that M$ is fighting in the US courts whereby a standard warrant can be used to force the operator to give up your data - even if is stored on another continent. Wuala is owned by LaCie (French, therefore subject to EU privacy laws) and run out of Switzerland, with data being spread across servers in France, Germany and Switzerland, so no risk of the US Gov. running off with your holiday snaps!

  22. lys


    I know it is a very different thing from ownCloud, but, since someone mentioned BTsync, I believe it is important to keep an eye on Syncthing ( It is really open and free and it works already well at this early stage, at least for simple personal use.

    I wonder whether it would make sense for ownCloud to allow integration/interaction with Syncthing in the future.

  23. boatsman

    and this might help a little

    if you have your own ssl provider, replace the private key with your own and you are good to go.....



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