Nextcloud Hub takes on Google Docs and Office 365

Best known as a do-it-yourself cloud storage service, Nextcloud challenges SaaS vendors with launch of Hub.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

For years, Nextcloud has set the standard for run-your-own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) private clouds. Now with the open-source Nextcloud Hub, it's taking on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) office programs such as Google Docs and Office 365.

Nextcloud has long offered Collabora Online Office, a SaaS version of the open-source LibreOffice office suite to its customers. Hub, though, is a new product. It combines Nextcloud's outstanding cloud file system, Nextcloud Files, with Ascensio System's ONLYOFFICE. Together they are a complete productivity office suite with word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software  document management, project management, customer relationship management (CRM), calendar, and mail.   

Also: 8 ways you can (maybe) get Microsoft Office 365 for free or cheap 

This office suite is compatible with both MS Office and Open Document formats. This removes one of the major obstacles of moving from one office suite to another.  

It also comes with Nextcloud Talk. This program provides IM, screen-sharing, video-conferencing, and Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) callings. Nextcloud claims Talk provides better security than Microsoft Teams or Slack, since your data stays on your servers instead of a third-party's cloud and it's encrypted for further protection. It also supports General Data Protection Regulation (GFPR) privacy restrictions. 

In addition, it includes Nextcloud Groupware. This is an email, calendar and contact package, which runs and stores your communications data on your own servers. You can use it with either a web interface or with native iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Outlook, and Thunderbird integration. 

All three fundamental Nextcloud services come with improvements. Files now comes with Workspaces. This enables you to add context to folders with notes and to-do lists. It also now comes with Flow, which makes it easier to automate repetitive tasks. For example, when a file is added to a specific folder, you can create a shared link to it, which would be sent through Nextcloud Talk to the appropriate users.

Nextcloud Talk now comes with an improved user interface. It includes message delivery notifications and better custom group management. Nextcloud Groupware has improved advanced recurrence, busy-view, and resource booking with Talk integration. For instance, you can easily book virtual meeting rooms when planning a meeting. Mail 1.0 introduces the ability to extract travel information from emailed itineraries. This lets you automatically add travel data to a user's Calendar.

Why go into competition with the giants of online office SaaS like Google and Microsoft? Nextcloud's founder and CEO,  Frank Karlitschek, explained, "The market has been asking for an on-premise alternative to foreign cloud services that protects the digital sovereignty of its users. Nextcloud Hub is the first, complete and well integrated collaboration platform that can be hosted on internal enterprise infrastructure."

In addition, Karlitschek said, "Data sovereignty is an essential requirement for many customers when using cloud services to protect trade secrets. This applies to customers from the public sector as well as the private sector." Achim Weiss, CEO of IONOS, Europe's largest web hosting firm, which offers Nextcloud Hub hosting, added: "As German providers, IONOS and Nextcloud guarantee their users the sovereignty over their data -- we rule out access by third parties as permitted by the US CLOUD Act. Our cooperation therefore gives Nextcloud customers the legal security they need."

Lev Bannov, ONLYOFFICE's founder and CEO, added, "We are excited to bring our innovative office technology to more Nextcloud users. The closer integration with Nextcloud platform gives a complete solution for home use, and allows enterprise users to easily get started and sample the benefits of efficient document collaboration."

"There is growing demand for an on-premises cloud collaboration solution which puts the IT department in control," concluded Nextcloud's head of marketing Jos Poortvliet. "Being forced on the rolling release schedule of a SaaS vendor and lacking real infrastructure integration is causing headaches in many organizations."

The community version of Nextcloud Hub is free. If you need support, you need to talk to Nextcloud or a web hosting company, such as IONOS, which supports Hub. Nextcloud Enterprise pricing starts at 3,400 Euros for 50 users a year. Premium support, which includes 24/7 phone support, begins at 4,900 Euros for 50 users a year.

The real bottom line for Nextcloud Hub is it returns control of the online office to you and your staff from the big cloud powers. Yes, that means more work for your IT staff too, but which would you rather have? Control of your IT destiny or ease of use and hope that your data is safe? It's your choice. 

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