Self-Hosted Private Document Cloud for Small Office

Self-Hosted Private Document Cloud for Small Office

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The Challenge

There are numerous reports of Privacy Violations by large tech companies. These violations make us wonder if our data is safe and secure in the cloud with these large Corporations. As a business owner, or a parent, it has become almost impossible to safeguard our private data from the prying eyes of the corporations, governments, hackers and competitors.

Who knows where our documents and spreadsheets land, and who would be able to lay their hands on them when they are posted on to the cloud.

Document Storage

Document storage is one such area where people have started to move towards the Cloud. There are various advantages of cloud storage, like ease of access, collaboration, safety of stored data. These very advantages become disadvantages if the security of the data is breached for any reason.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The Solution

The solution for these issues is on-premises or self-hosted document management systems. For many years, many companies and groups have been working on on-premises or self-hosted document storage solutions. The ever increasing digital data at all organizations has caused data and document management a big problem. There are various compliances and storage rules that are to be taken care of. Large corporations and those engaged in activities controlled by laws like HIPAA are much affected by document management concerns.

One solution to these problems is the self-hosted NextCloud EFSS – Enterprise File Sync and Sharing and Content Collaboration platform. Nextcloud makes a whole suite of products available on its platform. Most notable are:

The Solution
Source: https://nextcloud.com/hub/

Nextcloud Files: This is a complete file sync and sharing management system, with cross platform and cross device file sync capabilities, with applications for Desktop OS and Mobile phones. This offers file search, commenting and file access controls, just like Google Drive, albeit on your own servers.

Nextcloud Talk: This is the communications suite with private calls, chat and meetings through on-premises self-hosted platforms. The communication never leaves your network if you are on a corporate network or have joined through a corporate VPN. This is also available on Mobile phones. This is like Microsoft Lync or Google Meet on your own network.

Nextcloud Groupware: The Mail, Calendar and Contact features of Nextcloud help small offices to communicate better and get work done faster. This is again on your own network if you host Nextcloud on your own servers. This solves two concerns, space and privacy. Since the data is on your network, it is safe and private. Also, you can add virtually unlimited storage space to your server at a nominal cost and solve the “storage space full” challenge!

Take it for a spin

1. There are various ways to try Nextcloud, like the demo account, which is active for 60 minutes and is available here.

2. You can also get a free hosted account for you to use, with storage limitations, through tens of hosting providers. Once you are satisfied with the performance, you can upgrade your storage by signing up for a paid account. The price of a paid account varies depending on the provider that you choose.

The most popular option will still be to download and install the server package and install it on your own hardware. And you really have options to do that!

  1. Docker Image: https://hub.docker.com/_/nextcloud/
  2. Snap Package: https://snapcraft.io/nextcloud
  3. VM Image: https://download.nextcloud.com/vm/Nextcloud-VM.ova
  4. Download Archive to install on Ubuntu: https://download.nextcloud.com/server/releases/nextcloud-20.0.2.zip

Install

You can also use the web installer to install Nextcloud on your server. It will check for dependencies, download the right packages and will unpack with right permissions and the right user account. The only easier package installation that we have seen elsewhere is that of WordPress, the most popular CMS out there!

Don’t forget to check the Admin Manual for further instructions. It is available here.

https://docs.nextcloud.com/server/20/admin_manual/

You can access your installation via the web-interface or download the clients for Desktop and Mobile. The Nextcloud clients are available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android, basically everything out there!

We signed up with Tab.Digital as it was offering 8GB storage space, highest among all providers. There are other providers as well. Here is a small list.

Self-Hosted Private Document Cloud for Small Office
Source: www.nextcloud.com

You get the WebDAV address to access your files. This means that you can setup your computer to access this storage space through a local file explorer app that you use.

Self-Hosted Private Document Cloud for Small Office

Source: Nextcloud Account on Tab.Digital

Apps included in the Platform

You get all the features you need from a document management system.

storage space through a local file explorer
Source: Nextcloud Account on Tab.Digital

There are tabs for Files – the files archiver and explorer, Photos – photos explorer, Activity – log of the activity in your account, Talk – the chat client, Mail – where you can connect your existing email accounts (this is NOT an email server), Contact – where you can connect your AD etc, Circles – social media with some features from Sharepoint, Calendar, Notes, Tasks and Deck – a kanban style management system with cards.

For a document management system, these are considerable features that make Nextcloud a perfect option for managing your data in-house.

There is still more to Nextcloud, which guarantees that we will be using it in our small office setup! You can open common Office files within the system and edit these files. Not only edit, you can also do other things, which probably no other platform allows.

Office Integration

The system integrates with Onlyoffice, an open source Office Applications Package, which is available at https://www.onlyoffice.com/ with an AGPL license. This will allow you to create, edit and save files within the Nextcloud System, without the need for another application. While using the Tab.Digital installation, there was no lag or sluggish performance in the Office Suite applications.

Office Integration

Office Integration

There are multiple actions for interacting with the files. There are a plethora of things that can be done within the platform.

Activity – Track what is going on with a particular file.

Activity

Chat – Discuss about the file, well, from within the file!

Chat

Comments – Leave comments on the files for the non-real time conversations.

CommentsSharing – Share the file with other users within the system, outside the system, or align with a project so that all the data is saved at one place.

Sharing

Versions – Version control to revert if needed.

Settings

The administration settings are comprehensive. The Super Admin can make all relevant changes and customize the package for use.

Settings

Security

You can get 2-Factor-Authentication, Password less FIDO2 based authentication and backup codes for logging in. You can see the logged in apps and devices. The security is comprehensive and complete.

Wrapping it

Wrapping it up before getting into more details, we penned down what a small business would need for a File Sync and Sharing system that includes collaboration tools.

  1. On-premise File Storage System
  2. Internal File Sharing
  3. Secure Internal Chat Platform
  4. Version Control for Files
  5. Applications from Office Suite
  6. Contact/Calendar/Tasks/Notes
  7. General Social Media Features
  8. Security of Data
  9. Privacy of Communication
  10. Control over Data Retention

Experts would point out that most of these features are available in the Cloud based offerings from companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook (to some extent). What we are looking for is a system that is away from these large corporations. We are looking for a solution that gives us more control over the data storage, data retention policies, privacy features and low cost.

Nextcloud is a package that has all the above and more. In a small office setup, this is the go-to system. There are minimum customisations required. You can start to use Nextcloud right out of the box.

We hope we have given you enough information about this Document Management Platform. When you try Nextcloud in your organization, do tell us in comments about your experience!

What Do You Think?
Responses

One COMMENT

  • Lucy Taylor
    Nice, this will gives you the easiest way to secure data in corporate environment.

    2 months ago Reply

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