Sure you could join everyone else and put your data on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud, or you could use the latest ownCloud 7 to run your own private cloud.
There's an enormous range of cloud options, but the newly released ownCloud 7 Community Edition is a great one for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) that value their privacy.
What ownCloud brings to the table is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud. In the company's own words, ownCloud gives users a "a 'Dropbox-like' experience while complementing the security and privacy on the back end." The program also comes with mobile web browser support, Android and iOS clients, file activity notifications in e-mails or the activity stream, and significant performance improvements.
I've run ownCloud myself and it delivers on its promises. Technically, ownCloud is a PHP web application running on top of Microsoft IIS or Apache. For its back-end DBMS, ownCloud can support Oracle, MySQL,SQL Server or PostgreSQL. Its storage layer is abstracted so you can use almost any storage you can mount on the server from Samba or Windows file CIFS shares to NFS to clustered file systems such as Red Hat Storage. With extensions, you can even use Windows Home Directories, FTP, or even external cloud storage services including AWS S3, Swift, Google Drive, and/or Dropbox.
The best new feature on ownCloud 7, as far as I'm concerned, is that its new "Server-to-Server Sharing enables users on one ownCloud instance to seamlessly share files with users on a different ownCloud installation without using share links." So, for example, you can share files with a business partner without a lot of fuss or muss while maintaining your own independent private clouds.
Frank Karlitschek, founder and leader of the ownCloud project, proclaimed that "Server-to-server sharing is a game changer, allowing individuals — and organizations — to more easily share across private clouds, while still maintaining complete control of their data." I can certainly see companies with close partner ties really liking this feature.
Administrators will like ownCloud's SMTP Config Wizard which makes it simpler than ever to connect ownCloud to an e-mail server with a simple GUI configuration wizard. In addition, several major improvements have been made to the LDAP and Active Directory (AD) plug-in application, improving both the performance of the application as well as the compatibility with OpenLDAP, AD and other directory services.
For end-users the most noteworthy feature is that ownCloud Documents can now convert Word documents on the fly for online editing. You can convert a Word document, edit it live with other users in the browser, and close it again. The file will automatically be converted back to its Word format and synced back to your desktop. While this isn't as comprehensive as , it can still be darn handy.
Looking ahead, ownCloud should be seeing more improvements. Karlitschek said that "ownCloud has had nearly 57,000 commits made by more than 550 contributors, currently developing ownCloud at a speed of about 1,500 commits (changes to code) per month. This makes ownCloud one of the largest open source teams in the world — in the top 2 percent of all project teams on Open Hub. "
"Over the past twelve months alone, nearly 300 developers contributed new code to ownCloud," said Karlitschek. "These contributors are what make ownCloud such a great way to protect the security and privacy of documents, photos, videos and even music."
In a blog post, Jos Poortvliet, ownCloud's community manager, added that "ownCloud has had almost 300 people contribute code to it in the last 12 months. That is a lot. Some perspective: WordPress has had 52 contributors over its lifetime! Drupal: 149. phpbb: 190. Mediawiki: 534. Joomla: 483. VLC media player: 662. ownCloud has had 566 contributors over its lifetime. This is just one metric out of many, and the comparisons are between often wildly different projects so take it with some salt."
He concluded, "One thing I think you can safely conclude: ownCloud is certainly in the big leagues." He's right. It is.
Enterprises may still want to look to Azure, OpenStack, or CloudStack for private clouds, but for SMBs that want to keep their data close at hand in a private cloud, ownCloud may just be the program they've been looking for. You can see it for yourself. The community version is free and available for Linux and Windows today.