OwnCloud is releasing an updated version of its ownCloud Enterprise Edition file-sync and file-sharing software, which includes a host of new features such as improved Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) integration to enhance user authentication processes.
The updated version, which will be available in July, will extend the existing product with deeper capabilities for enterprises that want to provide critical file-sharing and -syncing capabilities to their employees.
The first ownCloud Enterprise Edition debuted in April 2012, a little more than two years after the first open-source version of the product was created. The company today claims about 950,000 users worldwide for its file-syncing and -sharing application.
The Enterprise Edition can be deployed as a fully on-premise application for companies that wish to keep their data on their own servers and off of clouds, or it can be hosted off-site on a cloud, said Matthew Richards, the company's vice president of products.
"It plugs right into your infrastructure and is on-site or wherever you choose, using the storage that you choose," said Richards. Customers can change those options in the future and move to a cloud if desired as they work with the application.
The Enterprise Edition of ownCloud allows businesses to permit their employees to use convenient file-sharing and -syncing services while allowing IT managers to ensure that all such transactions are done securely without putting any company data at risk, said Richards. Most competing consumer-level file-sharing and -syncing products don't offer enterprise security features, making their use by employees risky for their businesses, he said.
At the same time, these kinds of products are popular with users because they allow fast access to data and files while employees are on the road, he said. "Users want to be able to easily access their data. That's why they use it."
To address those needs, ownCloud ties together an easy-to-use interface with enterprise-level security that can be scaled up or down for as many users as necessary.
Often, large enterprises tell their employees not to use consumer-level file-sharing and -syncing services, but employees end up using them anyway because they serve their needs, said Richards. "Users will find a way to get this kind of service, so you want to create it in a secure version for your enterprise."
The application can be used via a Web browser or through a desktop client. Pricing starts at $15 per user per month for a minimum of 50 users.
Among the new improvements in the Enterprise Edition is support for existing multiple LDAP and Active Directory directories, native at-rest encryption provided by ownCloud on whatever backend storage system the enterprise chooses, and capabilities to integrate ownCloud with existing user home directories via Common Internet File System (CIFS) or Network File System (NFS), which makes syncing and sharing a seamless extension of existing user storage, according to the company.
Also new in the latest version is easier file collaboration with partners and contractors through a managed, fully logged and audited IT process, according to the company. The application interface has also been a simplified interface, with easier account identification and a simplified plug-in application settings panel.
Kristine Kao, an associate analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said that ownCloud is one of about 50 to 60 vendors competing in the file-sharing and -syncing marketplace, but they differentiate themselves in the crowded field due to their enterprise security features.
"Dropbox doesn't have some of the high-security needed by businesses, nor do they have different deployment models," said Kao. "Dropbox uses a cloud-only model," which isn't a workable option for all enterprises, she said. "OwnCloud Enterprise Edition allows IT guys to use the software on their existing infrastructure," which is a key feature. "That will probably appeal more to regulated industries, such as health care, financial services and others. They have more liability concerns and needs for compliance."
In addition, she said, organizations that have already invested a lot of money into building out their own data centers will more likely want an application that they can run in their own data centers, said Kao. "For them to move to a cloud model now is expensive and time-consuming."
The added new features in the upcoming Enterprise Edition will be pleasing to many enterprises, she said. "They're moving in the right direction with LDAP and Advanced Directory. They're definitely listening to what the end users want."
OwnCloud's Enterprise Edition is based on the open-source community version of the software.