ownCloud: Universal access to local data

Release 4.0 features new API

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Personal cloud storage may seem like the domain of big vendors, thanks to Google's Gdrive, Microsoft's SkyDrive, and perennial favorite Dropbox. But one open source project is looking to differentiate itself in personal cloud storage in a unique way--by letting users handle the storage.

ownCloud has been around for a while as an open source project, and more recently as a just-launched commercial vendor. Today version 4 of the file sync and sharing software was released, bringing some sharp new features to an increasingly interesting project.

It may seem odd to get excited about storage technology, but there's something appealing about the way ownCloud does it. Instead of the usual "we'll host everything for you" approach, ownCloud enables users to access their data pretty much from any web browser on any device, no matter where it sits locally.

Because the data is actually still stored on your own systems, within the firewall, suddenly you avoid problems like external storage security and the dark curse of cloud storage right now: upload latency.

ownCloud, invented by Frank Karlitschek and part of the KDE ecosystem, should be emphasized for what it is not: a hosted cloud service.

Subscribers to the ownCloud commercial service have the software tools and support to connect their data to whatever device a user wants to use. And that data can be anywhere: an internal file server, a Google Docs page, or sitting out on an Amazon Web Service instance somewhere. The subscription model ownCloud offers is per user, not per gigabyte or any other kind of throughput, which makes it easy to cost out.

Today's release of ownCloud 4 includes new features that can step up beyond plain old storage, such as file versioning and a new API for developers to start building apps on top of the ownCloud layer. It is that feature which most intriques me, because the capability to plug your own apps into a file syncing system like this could really help automate a company's data transactions and search strategies.

That fact that this is all still open source is icing on the cake, but given that ownCloud released version 3 not that long ago, the company and project are clearly stepping into high gear. That's a good thing, because personbal cloud storage is definitely the hot-ticket item now, especially in the mobile channel. 

By letting you keep your data where it belongs--with your own storage devices--ownCloud should have sharp appeal to anyone not sanguine about cloud storage.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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