Some companies need big public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Others are working on hybrid or private clouds with OpenStack. And, then there are small businesses and small office/home office (SOHO) companies that want a private cloud they can run in a closet-sized server room. For those, the ownCloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) program may be all they need.
In particular, they might want to kick the tires of the open-source, ownCloud 7 Community Edition beta. This edition promises to bring better, more granular control over files and data, while simplifying data privacy and security deployment, management and configuration, to administrators and users alike.
In a statement, Frank Karlitschek, founder and leader of the ownCloud project said. "OwnCloud 7 Community Edition enables greater collaboration even across ownCloud instances, as well as greater admin control, updated user management and improved external storage control. And at the same time, added or improved installation and configuration wizards, completely overhauled sharing, and a new user interface significantly simplifies the ownCloud experience."
For system operators and managers, here's what the new ownCloud promises to bring to the table.
Object Stores as Primary Storage: OwnCloud can now leverage SWIFT object stores [the OpenStack object store] as primary storage for ownCloud files. Users can choose the best option for their specific need: local storage, network file-system mounts, or SWIFT object stores.
External Storage: Major improvements to the external storage app – the ability to add FTP, Dropbox, Google Drive, sFTP, Swift, S3, WebDAV, SMB/CIFS and more storage locations to the ownCloud instance. Improvements include the ability for an admin to specify which storage type can be added by end users in their personal tab, providing more granular control over external storage mounts. Further performance improvements make externally mounted storage far faster and more responsive.
New User Management: Administrators can now view all ownCloud users in a single scrolling window, filter user lists by group, and search by user display name using the new text filter. User attributes have also been added, included the storage location for each user (where files are stored) and the last time they logged in. New groups can be added with a click of a button.
Improved File Sharing Management: Sharing has been dramatically enhanced and streamlined, making it more flexible, faster and accessible. Managers can now force users to set a password when they create shared links. This ensures that files shared outside of ownCloud via a link are properly secured by users. And when sharing a file with a link, administrators can now require users to set a password, and also set a specific expiration duration for the link, or a guideline policy.
Additional Anti-Virus Choices: The antivirus app has been enhanced to allow the use of external virus scanners, rather than the default ClamAV, in scanning files as they arrive on the server.
SMTP Config Wizard: It is now simpler than ever to connect ownCloud to an email server with a simple GUI config wizard, enabling ownCloud to send automated messages to users. ownCloud can connect via PHP or using standard SMTP.
Active Directory/ Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Enhancements: Several improvements have been made to the LDAP and AD plug-in application. These are meant to improve both the performance of the application as well as the compatibility with OpenLDAP, AD and more.
The improvements aren't just for administrators. The company promises to give end-users a "Dropbox-like" experience. This will be done with an "entirely new Web interface, mobile Web browser support, file notifications in email or activity stream, and significant performance improvements. "
As part of that new interface, users will now be able to sort file by name, size and last modified. A new view will also enable users to list the files stored in an external storage location, such as ftp, S3, Swift, Dropbox, Google Drive and so on.
Managers can also set ownCloud 7 servers to work with services on another instance. This will enable users on one ownCloud instance to seamlessly share files with a user on a different ownCloud installation without using share links. This should enhance sharing and collaboration while maintaining security and privacy.
Users will also no longer be required to have a "Shared" folder. They can, of course, have one if they wish to. It will also be possible to turn sharing off by group. If, for example, there includes a group of employees and contractors, users can turn off sharing for the "employees" group, or the "contractor" group, or any other user group.
Finally, ownCloud documents release includes the ability to convert Word documents on the fly for online editing. The actual editing is done with ownCloud Documents, a cloud-based Open Document Format (ODF) editor. Once edited, the documents are converted back to Word format.
Sound interesting? You can try the ownCloud 7 Community Edition beta today. For now, the open-source group and company are both and recommending it only for experienced ownCloud users, but I think any Linux power user or a system or network administrator can get it to work without much trouble. The final release should be out by August.