ownCloud is a reasonable document management solution for SMB
December 18, 2017

ownCloud is a reasonable document management solution for SMB

Martin Malec | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with ownCloud

We use it in the whole organization as the main document server. All employees including the management have the ownCloud desktop sync apps installed. Virtual users own different main folders (e.g. SALES, FINANCE etc.) and these are shared to groups read-only, read-write. Each user gets, therefore, a different set of folders according to the needs of each employee etc. Some people use it on a mobile, too.

It solves the key problem the company had when I joined it and no document server/cloud storage was present: each of the at-the-time few employees had its own set of files and folders and data were exchanged only via emails. Another important aspect is auto-backup of all company data to remote server. Easier collaboration on documents is also important.
  • Runs fine on a inexpensive Linux VPS with a few CPU cores and little RAM and is able to serve well for dozens of users. The scalability at almost no extra cost is perfect.
  • Sync clients are available for all major platforms: MS Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and mobile apps on Android and iOS are available too and work very well. We use all these platforms and are able to exchange documents transparently.
  • Initial setting up the environment for users - such as creating a few user groups, virtual users owning particular folders and assigning users to these groups, is quite easy and quick. Auto-sync of data to local devices on all platforms is also perfect, users don't have to manually select anything, default is to sync (or admin can set on the desktop clients how big folders are auto-synced).
  • Inability to easily collaboratively edit the same document by several people. Some advances have been made with Collabora (LibreOffice online) but it is still very sub-par compared to Office365 and desktop/online Office editing Sharepoint or OneDrive documents.
  • Apps for Calendar and Contacts are not part of the basic core, and although now quite supported they cannot still be easily deployed in common email clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird, separate CalDAV and CardDAV plugins need to be installed. Embedding an email solution and plugins for major email clients so they can work just by entering username and password would be good.
  • Risk of moving important folders/files to another location just by random drag-and-drop on Windows. Sometimes this breaks public links that cannot be restored anymore. Reverting such mistake by any of the users is impossible automatically.
  • When some user deletes some data in a shared folder it is put into recycle bin of the owner of the folder. The user who deleted cannot himself/herself revert such action as he/she does not see the recycle bin (trash) of the owner. Also, there is no log in the recycle bin who deleted that file or folder.
  • The company grew from 4 employees in 2013 when ownCloud was initially deployed to about 40 in 2017 and still using it with a very similar setting without any major upgrade on the same Linux VPS. 95% of all company data are stored and shared via ownCloud successfully. No clear data about ROI but clearly the perfect adoption rate by all people and its ubiquitous use makes it an essential part of the company workflow.
Due to the need to support many external workers it was mainly cost effectivity of open source solution: ability to allow external workers to access company files without the need to pay a license for each of them every month. Unfortunately, ownCloud does not offer until now as good collaborative editing of typical office documents so now we are complementing ownCloud with Office365 but for several months very little has been migrated and the vast majority of documents and projects is still on ownCloud.
Perfect for a smaller company having no solid document server. Without any major costs you can go from 3 to 30 to 60 users with the same hardware or VPS and if self-managed, no payment per user per month. Less appropriate when users absolutely require collaborative editing of documents. Pick Office365 or G Suite (Google Documents for work) instead.

ownCloud Feature Ratings

Video files
Audio files
Document collaboration
Access control
File search
Device sync
User and role management
File organization
Device management
Storage Reports

ownCloud Support

Regarding the community edition, there is a reasonably good support on the IRC, forums and in the issue section on Github. Perhaps a much more individual approach would be available if the premium support was chosen and the instance of the server was provided by the Owncloud company that also offers some premium extensions, not available generally. However, we did not need this level of support yet.
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
No - We are managing our own VPS with the ownCloud and ask on the IRC/forums to the developers, or submit bug reports and contribute on gitHub project page.
Yes - Several very important bugs were resolved after submitting them to Github and this was crucial for our continued use of ownCloud. Compared to mainstream projects such as Office365 and its Onedrive sync client where it feels impossible to achieve recognition of some software bug by the developers, the open approach on the Github issue tracker is a more pleasant experience in general.
Especially important were some concrete and individual tips by the senior ownCloud developers how to do some very specific tasks directly on the SQL database layer to achieve things not possible via any regular GUI.
When a user unshares a shared folder shared not to him exclusively but to a whole group of users, there is no way how this user nor admin can restore this shared folder to this user. Only a direct database modification can restore such action. We would not be able to know which fields in which tables and which commands in the SQL could achieve that. Fortunately, we received a direct guide from the devs what queries to perform and what modifications to do in specific fields of the db to overcome this issue.