by Swapnil Bhartiya

Nextcloud is the open source answer to mass surveillance

Dec 15, 2016
Cloud ComputingCloud StorageLinux

Keep your data out of the prying hands of governments.rn

The Nextcloud team has released version 11 of the fully open source file sync and storage platform. This release boasts a plethora of security features.

Frank Karlitschek, co-founder and managing director of Nextcloud, told me in an interview that the “privacy of a self-hosted solution depends on its security, and staying in control of data is the main motivation for our customers to deploy Nextcloud. Security is thus obviously a core focus for us. Second to that is reducing the costs of hosting Nextcloud instances by improving its scalability and performance.”

According to the Nextcloud press release, some of these features include:

  • Support for cutting edge browser security features CSP 3.0 and Same-site Cookies
  • Support for Kerberos authentication and Two-factor Authentication providers based on Universal 2nd Factor and Time-based One-Time Password
  • Expanded brute force protection to all API access points
  • More secure Federation through use of SSL/TLS
  • Our new app store automatically checks apps and enforces signatures

Where does Nextcloud fit?

Nextcloud fits somewhere between pure cloud storage products like Dropbox and massive suits of online applications like G Suite and Office 365. While the core of Nextcloud remains file sync and storage, it has evolved into a platform that enables developers to plug in services like contacts, web chats, word processing, calendar and much more. This expands the scope of Nextcloud and brings it a bit closer to G Suite or Microsoft’s online offerings. Though it does need a lot of work to become a true competitor of Google Docs or Office 365, but it’s close and it’s the only open source project to do so, other than Collabora Online.

However, there is one huge difference between Nextcloud and G Suite/Office 365 — Nextcloud is fully open source and runs on users’ own servers, eliminating all the potential risks that come with commercial public cloud solutions.

It’s not perfect, but close

That said, Nextcloud is not perfect. I use it heavily as a service to keep a backup of my files, but I am not fan of its inability to sync incremental changes made to a file. As a writer I like the idea of having a backup of my novel and stories in the cloud. When I make a change or add a line, I want only that change to be synced with my server and connected devices and not the whole file. While Dropbox can do incremental changes, Nextcloud syncs the whole file. To be fair, this is the only gripe I have about Nextcloud and I hope some future updates may fix it.

Nevertheless, Nextcloud is my preferred file sync and storage service, especially when the political landscape is changing and governments of some of the most powerful countries are becoming more aggressive when it comes to mass surveillance. If you want to be in control of your own data and your own files, go with open source Nextcloud.