Want a cloud where you call the shots? Consider ownCloud

If you want an easy-to-use, private open-source cloud for your needs, the new ownCloud may just be what the CIO ordered.

Nervous about the NSA, PRISM and your public cloud? Not sure you want to put all your data eggs in one Amazon Web Services zone basket? Then, maybe ownCloud's just released enterprise version of its open-source cloud program, ownCloud 5.0 Enterprise Edition, is what you want need.

OwnCloud gives your users all the goodies they like from public storage cloud services but puts the cloud under your direct control.

OwnCloud is as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud service. With it you can store your files, folders, contacts, photo galleries, calendars and more on your own servers. You can then access that storage from your mobile device, your desktop, or a Web browser. You can also sync your data with local devices and share your data either with the world at large or specific, approved users.

That should sound quite familiar. It's what most public IaaS services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive promise and deliver. It's also what you build for yourself with such IaaS software stacks as Azure, Eucalyptus, and OpenStack.

What ownCloud brings to the table is that it makes it easy for you to set-up a private IaaS cloud. As Holger Dyroff, a long-time Linux executive and ownCloud co-founder, recently said, "We enable IT to provide a secure and controlled way to enable personal cloud services for their employees," which can deliver such cloud-based services as file sync and sharing, video streaming across your employees' full family of devices.

The enterprise version of ownCloud and its open-source foundation program, ownCloud 5, runs best with MySQL or MariaDB for its database management system. For a server operating system, it requires CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), or Ubuntu Server. It also comes in a ready-to-run combo package of operating system and ownCloud software stack from Univention.

OwnCloud 5.0 comes with the following new features:

Improved authentication directory support: Administrators can now integrate ownCloud users with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Active Directory (AD) directories.

AES encryption: As soon as files are transferred to the server, the files are encrypted and stored, making it unreadable to any but the owner of the file using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Sync and share from home directories: Enterprise administrators can now integrate ownCloud with existing user home directories, making sync and share a seamless extension of existing user storage.

Provision ownCloud with existing automation tools: User provisioning can now be integrated into existing data center automation tools through the provisioning application programming interface (API), allowing external systems to trigger authenticated user provisioning and reporting activities. This allows ownCloud to fold into existing management processes, and allows IT to better leverage past investments with their file sync and share.

Store files in external storage repositories: Enterprises can now integrate ownCloud with existing file stores, providing a single interface for user access to all of their documents. This includes integration with on-site storage in SWIFT (the OpenStack Object Store), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) repositories, and other on-site servers, as well as optional integration with public cloud-based SWIFT and S3 storage in a hybrid cloud scenario.

Last, but not least, it comes with new and easier to use front-ends and clients for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, Android and iOS.

OwnCloud seems to be doing something right. The company claims that it has more than 950,000 users worldwide. It also announced that the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF), an organization that develops and maintains database and computational infrastructure for neuroscientists, has chosen ownCloud Enterprise Edition for its critical research data and documents. This isn't an organization that would trust its data to just any cloud service.

“An important part of INCF’s core mission is to foster scientific data sharing worldwide,” said Sean Hill, the INCF's Executive Director in a statement. "Keeping all this critical information on our own distributed storage, integrating it with our security, tracking and governance tools, and providing end users with a very easy-to-use access tool was key to the decision to work with ownCloud."

So why would you want to do this? Easy.

OwnCloud contends that your employees always have a "Dropbox problem." By this, they mean that your staffers are probably storing sensitive company data "on servers outside of your control, outside of your policy and regulatory guidelines – maybe even outside your of country – and not managed by you."

They're not wrong. The public cloud services makes it trivial for users to put corporate data outside your company's control on their tablets and smartphones. Having your own ownCloud makes a lot of corporate sense.

Want to try it for yourself? You can play with a live ownCloud demo or download either the open-source or commercial version. If you elect to use ownCloud Enterprise Edition, pricing begins at a yearly subscription of $15 per month with a minimum of 50 users.

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