ownCloud: your own secure online storage platform

Kangaroot can install ownCloud on your premises

Online file storage services are great. They allow you to access your files from any location with an internet connection, whether that is from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Products like Wuala, Dropbox, Box and most other online services offer some space for free. For a fee, you can scale up and get space for teams to share their files. So far, so good. These companies provide the maintenance of the servers, the redundancy and security.

And there lies the problem. You hand over control over the safe-keeping of your files to an outside company. If your files are stored on servers that reside in the USA, you need to know that privacy laws in the USA are less stringent than those in Europe. For example, if the US government just asks Dropbox for a user's files, the company will decrypt them and hand them over. Dropbox keeps the keys, not you. And Dropbox uses data deduplication: if a file that you are uploading already exists on their servers, Dropbox simply links to that file. That way, you know someone else has that file, since it already exists on the system. That works great for reducing storage costs, but less so for privacy. 

If your files are stored with encryption and the company has the encryption keys, they are responsible for keeping those keys safe. But the bigger the scale, the more complex the security demands. All it takes is a disgruntled employee to abuse those keys or install a back door. Of course, we're not bashing just Dropbox here; it's a good solution if you just want to keep pictures of the kids safely and security is not that important for you. And there are a few solutions. You can use TrueCrypt or BoxDecryptor (free for non-commercial use). Great for your personal files, but less practical for an enterprise. Companies require different solutions given the nature of their data.
 

Alternatives

Wuala, part of LaCie, is a more secure alternative. It provides server side and client side encryption, where the password never leaves your computer. Bitcasa and Box are other feature-rich options. But you're still handing over the control over your files to an external company. We like to keep our files accessible yet secure, and running our own online file storage platform like ownCloud is a good way to do that. 
 
ownCloud is open source software that allows you to run your own online file storage platform. The latest Community Edition, version 4.5.2, has been released on October 11, 2012. After some initial growing pains, ownCloud is increasingly growing into a solid product for enterprises. There are three possible scenarios, depending on your use case: you can run it on your own server, rent a virtual machine from a service provider or get it on a per-user basis like Dropbox et al. Your choice depends on your existing infrastructure and the number of users you have. There's the Community Edition (free), the Business Edition (€80/month or €800/year) and the Enterprise Edition (€1250/month or €12.500/year). Here's a comparison between the different versions. There are clients for Windows, Linux, Mac OS, iOS and Android. With any WebDAV app, you can use a Blackberry too. There's LDAP support and an API for developers.
 
 

Benefits of an installation on your premises

Installing ownCloud on your server is the best way to make your files accessible to the internet, in our opinion. It is your own server, so you keep full control over it. You have root access, you can maintain it yourself and keep the system as secure as possible. You decide which files will be available online on your ownCloud server. And you can add as much storage as you need, providing your own redundancy. ownCloud is open source, so there's no vendor lock-in, as usual.
It's not complicated: the platform only requires a web server with at least PHP 5.3, a few php5 libraries and a database. If you're itching to get started, here's the installation guide. The installation can be painful for the unexperienced, but once set up, it works well. ownCloud also provides the ability to sync contacts, calendars and bookmarks across all devices.
 

Drawbacks

Maintenance. You need to keep a constant eye on your server through monitoring, to insure that service is not interrupted and that no security patch is missed. You are responsible for your own upgrades and redundancy. Another drawback is the hardware cost: you have to invest a server to store all the data.
If you have in house staff who can pick up these tasks and keep your data safe, great. If you don't, give us a call!
 
 
 
Author: 
Wouter (communication)
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Date posted: 
20.11.2012