If you haven’t heard of ownCloud, you probably should have. Especially in today’s privacy-aware climate it is important to know about projects that are designed to explicitly counter a number of the privacy concerns that arise when you use a third party service.
In contrast to services such as Google Docs, Picasa, Dropbox and other cloud services for storage, sharing, and syncing of files, ownCloud is an open source solution that one can install on their own private server. The software is not tied to a single provider, so you can move from one hosting to another while keeping your data intact. All you need is a hosting that offers support for PHP, and MySQL / PostgreSQL. It is a cloud application that offers features such as file storage, calender, and address book. It can also stream music, synchronise calenders, and address books; it includes a PDF viewer, photo gallery, a text editor and more. Since ownCloud supports WebDAV, you can easily mount ownCloud as a remote storage accessible directly from Explorer, Nautilus, or Dolphin. ownCloud also supports apps, which can extend its functionality and add support for features such as webmail, or editing SVG files online.
Till now the project has been available under the AGPL for personal use, or offered as a hosting service; however now ownCloud is also a commercial offering that with supported versions of ownCloud that can be run in enterprise environments. In the highest “Enterprise Edition” tier it’s even available in a licence that allows for proprietary extensions.
Another major update is the availability of new desktop and mobile clients. Desktop and mobile synch clients are available that can work with ownCloud hosted anywhere. The sync clients themselves are open source. Work is also under way for better, deeper integration into KDE software, from where ownCloud first arose.
Development on ownCloud continues, and even as ownCloud 3.0 just released two months ago, ownCloud 4 can be expected in 4 weeks.
As more and more of our computing moves to the cloud, there are more reasons to be worried than just your privacy. The issue of privacy is quite important to many and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but remember, that by hosting your data with a third party you are also subject to their terms and conditions. Break them, and your data could be gone, just like that.