Shared calendars and contacts
How many shops are paying through the nose for an Exchange server and locking themselves in to the Microsoft software stack when all they want is shared calendaring and contacts? Way too many. It's silly. ownCloud's shared calendaring supports all of the important tasks: scheduling single and repeating events; sharing with particular users, groups, or the public; and exporting to any applications or servers that support the CalDAV protocol, such as Apple's iCal, Zimbra, Google Calendar, Evolution, Thunderbird, CommuniGate Pro, and many more. You can also import data from other calendars. It's fast, it's easy, and you don't need to study a manual to figure out how to use it (Figure 6).
Creating and sharing contacts is just as easy. You can create multiple address books, control who has access to them, import and export contacts in the standard VCF format, and share with any client or server that supports the CardDAV protocol.
Your personal music and video cloud
You can stuff your music and videos into your personal ownCloud, and then access them from anywhere via a Web browser -- even a Web browser on a mobile device. But that's not all ownCloud can do; it also uses the excellent Ampache Web audio and video file manager. Ampache lets you manage your ownCloud multimedia files with any Ampache-aware media player, like the superior cross-platform VideoLan Client (VLC), WinAMP, Amarok, Amdroid, and many more.
ownCloud is extensible via plugins, which it calls apps. Look on the Apps tab to see a list of available apps that are installed on your server, both internal and third-party, and to see which ones are enabled. ownCloud is a big glob of PHP, so any PHP coder can write custom apps and add them with a button click. Visit ownCloud's Apps page to find and share them.
ownCloud supports SSL, and the Encryption App (new for ownCloud 4) adds encryption, so you can protect your files in transit and anywhere they are stored. The encryption app uses your ownCloud password.
Who says eye candy doesn't matter? You can dress up your ownCloud appearance any way you like, provided you know how to write CSS stylesheets. ownCloud's Theming page tells how to add new themes to your ownCloud server.
ownCloud license and versions
You can run the ownCloud server on Linux, Mac, or Windows, though of course I prefer Linux for its stability and efficiency. ownCloud is free software, licensed under the Affero General Public License (AGPL). It is already included in OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, and Debian Unstable, and will be in Fedora 18. There are four editions: community, business, enterprise, and service provider. The business and enterprise editions add paid support and some proprietary apps. The service provider program is for vendors who want to sell hosted ownCloud services. All are available for you to use and play with today -- so what are you waiting for?