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ONLYOFFICE is the Google Workspace for your home office

Jack Wallen explains why ONLYOFFICE might be a great Google Workspaces alternative and how to deploy it to a local server with Docker.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on

For many people who work from home, Google Workspace is the go-to platform for every office suite need. However, some look at Google as a questionable option, especially for sensitive documents. For such documents, those users might opt to go with a client-based solution, such as MS Office or LibreOffice. 

The caveat to using client-based solutions is that they are only available to those users with access to the machines the software is installed upon. If you have a home office or a small business, where you need to give multiple users access to those client-based tools, you must either go with the open-source option (LibreOffice) or pay for enough licenses for a proprietary solution. That can get costly and timely to install on every computer.

What if, however, you could deploy a solution that everyone could access, is free, and includes features, such as a full office suite (with documents, spreadsheets, projects, and templates), project management, Customer Relationship Management, email, contacts, chat, user management, and community? 

All of this can be had, by way of a platform called ONLYOFFICE. There's even the ONLYOFFICE Document Editors app, which can be installed on most operating systems and makes it incredibly simple for users to create and work with their documents. 

If you'd prefer to avoid using tools hosted on third-party services, you can go the ONLYOFFICE route by purchasing a cloud-hosted instance of ONLYOFFICE (they offer free plans as well as paid plans). I'm going to show you how you can deploy ONLYOFFICE as a Docker container. The only downfall of the free account is that it only gets you access to the office suite features (documents, spreadsheets, and presentations). To get the full range of features, you have to sign up for ONLYOFFICE Business (which is $5/user/month). 

If you're good with spending the cash for an ONLYOFFICE business license, you'll find having access to your account from anywhere is a nice benefit. However, you're still saving documents to a third-party host, which could be a deal-breaker for anyone trying to avoid exposing sensitive information.

There's another way to get the full-blown feature set, without having to pony up for the prices of a license. That method is to deploy ONLYOFFICE to an in-house machine. I'm going to walk you through the process of doing that. Although it might be a bit challenging for the average user, anyone with the ability to copy and paste some commands should be able to handle this process.

Because I'm going to demonstrate deploying ONLYOFFICE as a container with Docker, you'll need a machine capable of running the Docker runtime engine. My go-to server is Ubuntu Server and that's the operating system I'll demonstrate on (you can also do this on Ubuntu Desktop as well). To follow along with this, you'll need to have a running instance of Ubuntu Server and a user with sudo access.

Installing Docker on Ubuntu

1. Install the dependencies

The first thing to be done is the installation of Docker. Log into your Ubuntu machine and install  the necessary dependencies with:

sudo apt-get install ca-certificates curl gnupg lsb-release -y

2. Add the GPG key and repository

When the installation complex, add the required Docker GPG key with the command:

curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg

Add the official Docker repository with the command:

echo "deb [arch=$(dpkg --print-architecture) signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu $(lsb_release -cs) stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null

3. Install Docker

Update apt and install Docker-CE with the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install docker-ce docker-ce-cli containerd.io -y

4. Start and enable the service

You now need to make sure the Docker service is running and is enabled to start upon a machine reboot. For that, issue the following command:

sudo systemctl enable --now docker

5. Add your user to the docker group

Next, add your user to the Docker group with the command:

sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

Make the system aware of the changes with:

newgrp docker

Deploying ONLYOFFICE with Docker

1. Download the installation script

There's a handy installation script that simplifies the deployment process. Download that script with:

wget https://download.onlyoffice.com/install/workspace-install.sh

2. Run the script

Run the installation script with the command:

sudo bash workspace-install.sh

The script will take considerable time to complete (it must download over 1GB of files).


After the installation completes, you need to give the services time to start (a minute or so). After that time passes, open a web browser and point it to http://SERVER (Where SERVER is the IP address of the machine hosting ONLYOFFICE). You'll be greeted by a process indicator that tracks the remaining installation. This process will take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, so sit back and wait it out or go do something else to pass the time. 

When the installation completes, you'll be presented with a setup page (Figure 1), where you must set a password, register an email address, and configure your language and time zone.

The ONLYOFFICE initial set up page.

The ONLYOFFICE setup page is simple to complete.

Image: Jack Wallen

Make sure to check the box to agree to the license and then click Continue. Once that is taken care of, you'll find yourself on the ONLYOFFICE main window (Figure 2), where you can start working with your new in-house office suite/project management/CRM tool.

The ONLYOFFICE main page includes all the links users need to work.

ONLYOFFICE is installed and ready to go.

Image: Jack Wallen

Congratulations, you now have your own in-house tool that can take the place of Google Workspaces and more. 

Although it might not be a perfect 1:1 replacement (for that you'll need to configure the email portion of ONLYOFFICE -- we'll do that in a later article), ONLYOFFICE is an outstanding option for anyone looking to migrate away from third-party hosted tools.

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