Battle of the Clouds

Interested in finding the private cloud package that’s right for you?

Yes, so are we. πŸ™‚

In the open source private cloud marketplace, there are several options, such as ownCloud, Nextcloud, Seafile, Syncthing and Pydio as well as smaller players such as SparkleShare.

To see what’s happening in this market, let’s take a brief look at this Google Trends graph of interest in the top four packages over the past 3 years:

Google Trends

Shows pretty clearly that ownCloud and Nextcloud dwarf the competition, and it also seems fairly clear that since its inception, interest in Nextcloud has been growing fast and now has as many Google searches as ownCloud.

Which project is actually bigger however is not clear. On a 2018 press release Nextcloud notes that they had “over 100K downloads of the Collabora Nextcloud app” in 2017 and in another 2018 press release claim that they have over 35 employees and “over 100 customers and partners.” ownCloud, on the other hand, in a 2018 blog post claim that they have almost 500 customers and that they hired 17 new employees in 2017. Both appear to be growing fast.

Not a surprise then that people are asking every day for details about Nextcloud vs ownCloud. What’s the difference?

This is indeed an excellent question and below we’re going to detail exactly what differences exist. Yes, we are entering now the Battle of the Clouds! πŸ™‚

We will examine four areas:

  1. History – when and how did these two projects get started
  2. Who – what people are funding and supporting the software
  3. License – what is the license for each
  4. Product – what differences exist in the actual product

The last section Product is certainly the largest section and may be of most interest to many, so if you want, just click on the word Product to jump straight there.

A Brief History

ownCloud was launched in January 2010 by Frank Karlitschek and the first beta release came out in March 2010. In 2012 ownCloud Inc. was formed to serve the needs of the community of users of ownCloud. After the Nextcloud fork, ownCloud Inc. was shut down and today ownCloud is still managed by ownCloud GmbH.

Nextcloud was launched in April 2016 when Karlitschek forked ownCloud to create Nextcloud. Most of the core contributors of ownCloud left with Karlitschek to join forces in the new Nextcloud project, managed by the new company formed at the same time, Nextcloud GmbH. Within 6 months Nextcloud GmbH was profitable and remains today profitable and still manages the Nextcloud project.

Regarding why Karlitschek left ownCloud, he himself expresses most clearly in his blog post big changes: I am leaving ownCloud, Inc. today. How this affected the community and for other responses to the fork you can read up in various other places like ownCloud’s blog, The New Stack, TechRepublic, CIO, ITWire and others.

Who

The ownCloud project is split into two components, the open source Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition, which is not open source, but the code can be downloaded without obfuscation. The Standard Edition is represented by owncloud.org and managed by ownCloud GmbH and the list of contributors is online.

The Enterprise Edition is represented by owncloud.com, has more features, and is also managed by ownCloud GmBH. They also have an exclusive partnership for North American clients with a company called XTIVIA and there is an XTIVIA page on the ownCloud site describing this relationship. ownCloud also has an official Meet the Team page.

Nextcloud has one open source edition and is represented online by nextcloud.com and managed by Nextcloud GmbH and the list of contributors is online and boasts that over 1000 people have contributed to Nextcloud.

License

ownCloud Standard Edition is licensed under the GNU AGPLv3 and the core code is covered by the ownCloud Contributor License Agreement (CLA)

ownCloud Enterprise Edition is not open source and is licensed under the ownCloud Commercial License.

Nextcloud is licensed under the GNU AGPLv3.

The Product

The latest release of ownCloud Standard Edition released May 2017 is version 10 or ownCloud X, as they call it. The rest of our review is only regarding the Standard Edition, which is open source. The ownCloud Enterprise Edition does have more feature not listed below.

Nextcloud’s latest release, from February 2018, is version 13.

Below we have these sub-sections in this section:

  1. Screenshots
  2. Technology
  3. Security
  4. Features
  5. Community and Support

Here’s the first one:

Screenshots

Preview the two login screens head to head — they’re quite similar:

Here we show you the top left corner of the initial screen, known as the “Files” page. This is essentially the Home page of a private cloud:

Nextcloud Files Screen
ownCloud Files Screen

Click on the share icon for a file and you see on the right side the share menu for that file:

Nextcloud Sharing Menu
ownCloud Sharing Menu

On our installation with several apps installed, Nextcloud shows each as a small icon, accessible directly from the main menu top bar. If you install a lot of apps in Nextcloud, however, you also must use a dropdown menu feature to see the rest:

Nextcloud Apps Menu

In ownCloud you must first click on the dropdown menu, but then the app icons are larger and have text also:

ownCloud Apps Menu

Here is the initial apps page of Nextcloud:

Nextcloud Apps Page

If you select a category on the left, however, you do get a nicer view of available apps:

Nextcloud Apps Category

Here is the initial Marketplace page of ownCloud:

ownCloud Marketplace

Technology

Both packages are built in PHP and support SQLite or MySQL/MariaDB. The installation procedure is virtually the same for both. For details, see our own How to Install Nextcloud page.

Regarding the code base, both are public of course and so you can see exactly what progress is being made. Looking at the graphs of “commit activity” on GitHub for each, you can see that Nextcloud has 2 or 3 times as many commits as ownCloud does. They also have several more releases over the past year than ownCloud. Given that both packages started with the exact same code base when Nextcloud forked, this may or may not provide an indication of where the action really is, however. ownCloud commented to us offline that their approach is to make fewer, but larger commits.

Security

The Nextcloud team has invested a lot in improving security for their product, such as better password handling, brute force protection, rate limiting, integration with various enterprise authentication methods, CSP and more.

Nextcloud features a public Security Scan Tool which scans both Nextcloud and ownCloud instances and ownCloud also has a public Security Scan Tool as well.

Both, packages, however, feature an an up to $5,000 Bug Bounty Program at HackerOne, a vulnerability coordination and bug bounty platform. You can see more on the Nextcloud page there and the ownCloud page there — both are active and have awarded bounties.

Features

Feature Nextcloud ownCloud
Files
File Storage YesUpload, synch, comments, tags, multiple versions, move files via web interface YesUpload, synch, comments, tags, multiple versions, move files via web interface
File Sharing YesShare via user, email, link, social media sites, password protection and expiration date. Can allow user without an account (just email) to edit a document. YesShare via user, or link, social media sites, password protection and expiration date
Full Text Search YesThe Nextant app integrates Apache Solr YesIntegration with ElasticSearch available via a fee-based add-on
Folder Sharing YesShare via user, email, link, social media sites, password protection and expiration date. Can allow user to view and upload. YesShare via user, or ink, social media sites, password protection and expiration date. Can allow user to view and upload.
LibreOffice Online Integration Yes Yes
PDF Viewer YesBuilt in YesPDF Viewer app available
Photo Galleries Yes Yes
Document Editing for Email Users with no Login Yes No
Activity Tracking for Files YesBuilt in YesActivity app available
Large File Support Yes Yes
Storage Limitation per User Yes Yes
File Access Control Yes Enterprise Edition only
File Locking Yes Yes
Federation YesSharing files across Nextcloud servers is supported YesSharing files across ownCloud servers is supported
Clients
Web Client Yes Yes
Desktop Clients Windows, Mac, Linux Windows, Mac, Linux
Mobile Clients YesGoogle Play Android client, Apple App store client, F-Droid repository Android client and the MS Windows Store has an app still in testing YesWindows Mobile client, Apple App store client, Google Play Android client, and Blackberry World has a client
Apps
App Store / Marketplace Yes72 apps listed in the Nextcloud app store Yes62 apps listed in the ownCloud marketplace
Audio/Video Chat YesIncludes push notifications NoWe couldn’t find any app for chats for ownCloud 10
Audio/Video Player YesCouldn’t find any way to close the player however, aside from refreshing my web page Yes
Bookmarks App Yes Yes
Calendar App Yes Yes
Contacts App Yes Yes
Email YesSimple Nextcloud Mail app plus a RainLoop integration app YesRainLoop integration app
Notes Yes Yes
Weather Yes No
Security
Two Factor Authentication Yes Yes
Brute Force Protection YesFor both core and apps YesAvailable via the ownCloud Security app
Rate Limiting Yes No
Other Features
User Groups YesCircles app allows your users to create their own groups of users/colleagues/friends YesCustom groups app let users create and manage custom groups for sharing
API Yes Yes
External Storage Integration Yes Yes
Scability / Enterprise Support YesEnterprise level service is supported and the new Global Scale architecture is under development to expand this support further YesownCloud Enterprise Edition has Enterprise support, but is not open source nor free
Resource Monitoring Yes No
Third Party Authentication Yes Yes
Theme Customization Yes Yes
Role Based Administration Yes Yes
Workflow Yes Yes
Translations 33 languages available 103 languages available

Community and Support

ownCloud has a Support page with links to documentation, forums, IRC channel and other venues such as a Google Plus community, plus a mailing list. They then also have premium support for their Enterprise clients.

Nextcloud’s Support page has the same links for their documentation, forums, IRC channel and other venues such as a Google Plus community. They also provide premium support for clients who use their Enterprise hosting services.

If you prefer video, for Nextcloud there is a Nextcloud GmbH YouTube channel with over 60 videos, the most popular of which has 25,000 views.

For ownCloud there is the ownClouders channel, which, based on the logo used, appears to be focused on the Standard Edition and has over 250 videos and the most popular there has 170,000 views, and then there is the ownCloud channel apparently representing the Enterprise Version (here you see the Enterprise logo) with over 80 videos and the most popular video there has almost 3,000 views.

A quick Google search for “Nextcloud” brings up over 841,000 results and a search for “ownCloud” brings up almost 2 million results.

Conclusion

Both packages have a solid base and a growing set of addon apps, both have support available. Nextcloud appears to have more action and “buzz” but ownCloud appears to be a bit more established.

Overall, it appears that each tool has it’s place and it’s followers. It’s hard to make a clear decision that one is better.

Post Conclusion

If you’re looking for hosting for Nextcloud or for ownCloud, whether in the USA or Europe, we recommend CiviHosting. Get hosting with CiviCRM we install and secure your cloud for you:

About the Author
David Feldman is a Senior Technical Advisor for CiviHosting, your Nextcloud hosting and ownCloud hosting experts. You can contact him via our Contact Us page.

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17 Comments

  • Marcin

    Well, nice try but as a happy user of OwnCloud 9.1 with recently very successfully integrated Onlyoffice I do not intend to change cloud engine even if a thousand noobs reaches 6 million commits in github and Nextcloud has even more than β€œfar more features”. Long live Owncloud! You do not change things that work well or you go to an error hell. πŸ˜‰ ps. Not an ownCloud employee, just an open source user. πŸ˜‰

    • Aaron C

      I’ve been tempted to leave ownCloud on occasion, usually due to the havoc that ensues after upgrading (it almost NEVER seems to go smoothly), but sometimes “the hell you know” is the best one. Generally, it just hums along working fine if I don’t mess with it.

      • Yeah, upgrading is a major weakness of ownCloud, and one of the first issues we addressed when we started Nextcloud (together with the security aspect). We made huge strides – most users will tell you our major feature upgrades are now more reliable than minor bugfix updates used to be! Of course, we also don’t make major changes like rewriting LDAP in our minor releases, which keeps these updates even more safe and reliable.

  • Maciej

    well, I am now in the process of updating owncloud and this is a real pain the backside, as it does not support this or that after update. Having server in production environment based on CentOS/RedHat, you need to install additional development repos to get unsupported by the distro PHP engine and then risk being hacked only because owncloud does not support past versions of PHP.
    I think I’ll get into the nextcloud as I am using ownloud for around 2 years now and am ever since annoyed with update process. As Frank moved on, I can expect better update process, maybe even a script, from nextcloud rather than owncloud.

    • user

      Mhhh, shouldn’t you expect a better update process by a fresh minded / new owncloud team rather then the broken update process mostly designed by the team now moved to nextcloud?

    • user

      Sorry, completely forgot to mention. My update/upgrade experience with ownCloud drastically improved with all versions released after the Fork. You now can even skip major releases and e.g. jump directly from 8.2.11 to 10.0.4 without the need to go step by step like before. This is really a huge improvement.

      • As I also replied higher up, improving the upgrade process has been one of our very first priorities and I’m happy to report that we have made huge strides there πŸ˜‰

        Nextcloud 13 is certainly a testament to that, within a week more than 10.000 servers were already upgraded without any problems. If you recall how the 10.0 release of our ownCloud friends went (with fully broken LDAP, calendar and contacts just some of the issues), you probably understand very well what a big step forward that is.

        Of course, our minor bugfix updates are also very reliable – we strictly backport fixes, not major rewrites, so you can expect them to be limited in scope and thus go smooth. Updates are very important to keep a system secure, so this matters for security, too!

  • miksuh

    In the article it is said that:

    “On our installation with several apps installed, Nextcloud shows each as a small icon, accessible directly from the main menu top bar. If you install a lot of apps in Nextcloud, however, you also must use a dropdown menu feature to see the rest:
    Nextcloud Apps Menu

    In ownCloud you must first click on the dropdown menu, but then the app icons are larger and have text also:”

    Just great -P Based on the article Nextcloud is yet another open source project which is not accessible with the Orca screen reader. Ireally do not understand why too many open source developers do not seem to care to make their software accessible to blind and other visually impaired users. It really is not acceptable that the user interface has only icons because the screen reader can not speak icons or pictures, it can only speak text. So there really MUST be text labels. Really, what is wrong with you guys? It really can not be so hard to design the user interface so that it is accessible for everyone. I personally am blind and I would like to set up my own personal cloud. I will try both systems some day in the near future. But it really does not sound good that even as simple thing as that is designed so that it most likely is not accessible with the Orca screen reader…

  • Sebastien

    ok, I have read all these things regarding number of commits last month, fancy features you might find here or there, good. But one point I have not seen seen yet is a real performance analysis. Because you can always say “my product does this and the other does not” but you also have to prove that what is done is well done. So when you compare two features, you have t put these in stress conditions so that to see if both behave as expected: 2 products can display exact same features, but still, one can be good and the other show some weakness. And if you have to chose for production, you might pick the good one regardless spreadsheets.

    • Hi Sebastien,

      You are absolutely correct. Features does not equal quality! Luckily, our experienced engineers (most have 5-6 years experience working on this code, as almost all server engineers joined the new company) have made big improvements in reliability and stability as well. And performance!

      Check out the results from the migration of the TU Berlin, over 20K users and a massive (near 50%) performance increase: https://nextcloud.com/education and https://nextcloud.com/blog/tu-berlin-halves-database-load-by-migrating-22k-users-to-nextcloud/

      You can also simply look a bit on social media and see what people’s experiences are. Nextcloud has been widely praised for having massively improved the reliability of the upgrade process, for example, which was (and is) a major weakness of ownCloud. Of course, we also have a big advantage in security – while ownCloud also has a hackerOne project, the web is full of security experts complaining about slow response times and other problems with it.

      We’ve also made big strides in the mobile clients, which have consistently far better ratings and reviews on the various app stores.

      And there is much, much more. But try it out for yourself and you’ll see πŸ˜‰

  • We moved our projects to Nextcloud. For us, it was about community, responsibility and freedom. Also, we like to have Nextcloud because we are able to communicate within instead of using our separate ventrillo and irc servers — like when we were using owncloud.

  • Yes I am an ownCloud employee and sheesh, this article hurts. But putting all loyalities aside, some points are not quite right. You mentioned NC has 2-3 times more commits than OC. That might be but does it really say anything about how active or good a software is? We know the difference, we looked into it. NC does a lot of small commits, OC does more bigger ones. These numbers need to be but in relation.
    OC has a bounty program too: https://hackerone.com/owncloud
    I’m not trying to convince anybody and i’m surely not entering the bashing mode. Both products are active and both have their right to exist. But just stating things without looking into it might draw the wrong picture.

  • Craig

    I am currently running OwnCloud 9.1, have been running OwnCloud for years and am mostly happy with my installation. I’m here because of Floccus, specifically sync with newer versions of Mozilla Firefox. I’m still running Sync 1.1 with Palemoon and Firefox v33. It is getting harder to maintain this installation. Floccus promises similar capabilities with the newer Sync 1.5 which supports the latest Firefox releases. However as the Floccus developer points out, Mozilla doesn’t maintain the “API” and instead treats the interface as a “private interface”… bad news for us customers. But Floccus supports both Firefox and Chrome, so there is a potential escape to Chrome for Mozilla Firefox customers like me if Mozilla abandons/breaks the interface again. But I like Mozilla Firefox because of Mozilla’s focus on customer privacy/security, similar to what this article describes for NextCloud, which with Floccus, will support the latest FF with Sync 1.5/Accounts.

    The choices are still not clear. There are many issues and both sound like great products. Reading this comparison reminds me of the split between OpenOffice and LibreOffice, which I use heavily for editing Open Document files. With this in mind I suspect it isn’t a matter of “if”, rather “when” I’ll need to switch from OwnCloud to NextCloud.

    I’ll have to experiment to see if Floccus can replace OwnCloud’s Mozilla_Sync and still work (maintain full operation) without an internet connection. This will make my decision. I’m not in a rush, and I’ll keep watching OwnCloud to see what happens.

    Changing any significant part of my infrastructure usually requires a significant investment in time and effort which I’m not eager to accept. This kind of change takes time away from family and what I do for a living. I want to minimize the time any software change takes away from business and family.

    I also didn’t see support for SVN or local GIT (just GitHub). I need SVN support for Altium Designer/Circuit Studio, and GIT for everything else.

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