With more and more people working and studying remotely, it is no surprise that file sharing services and collaboration tools are being used more than ever. The main reason for this is the convenience of such cloud-based services. You can access your data from anywhere in the world on any device and you can work on projects together with people who may be thousands of miles away. Google Drive has been at the forefront of such services for a number of years, but that does not mean that there are no good alternatives for anyone who does not like the idea of entrusting their data to the tech giant. If you’re looking for a great alternative to Google Drive, which is privacy-oriented and open-source, look no further than Nextcloud!


The problem with Google Drive

Each file you upload is scanned and analyzed in order for Google to achieve better personalization, or so they say. While it is true that Google Drive encrypts your files during transfer and storage, making it pretty secure, unfortunately, this does not mean that no one can view them. Google keeps the encryption keys of your files, which poses two potential problems. The first vulnerability is that Google may decrypt and access your files at will or provide the private keys to a third party - for example, a government agency or law enforcement. The other issue is that you rely on Google to have procedures in place to keep your private keys safe from hackers.


The file access control options in Google Drive are not all that great either, which means that it is possible to inadvertently share a file with someone who does not really need to have access to it. It is also possible for someone with rights to edit the file to share it with anyone and what’s worse - you will not be notified if the file has been re-shared. All this means that your data is secure (thanks to the robust encryption), but its privacy can be easily compromised. The only way to be certain that you have full custody of your data is to use a self-hosted solution. 


What is Nextcloud?

Nextcloud is a great alternative to Google Drive, which offers the same core features and more. With Nextcloud you can share and access files, collaborate with others, manage your calendar, send and receive emails, chat and even host video meetings and conferences. But what sets Nextcloud apart is that it can be hosted on-premises and you can be sure that no one can get a hold of your data without your permission. It is great for individuals as well as organisations and it can be scaled up or down depending on your needs. Furthermore, Nextcloud is open-source, which means that anyone can view and review the code. The company even offers substantial bug bounties to anyone who finds a vulnerability in the software. 


The features that make Nextcloud private and secure

Nextcloud provides enterprise class security with server-side, client-side and in-transit encryption. Additionally, it offers impressive user management tools and fine-grain user permissions controls. You can have the convenience of a single sign-on, while having the option to enable two-factor authentication, password policies, brute-force attack protection and even machine learning based suspicious login detection for added security. Nextcloud also has built-in monitoring tools with a graphical UI, which can display information about the server’s state and performance. You also have the option to import the data to another tool using an API endpoint. The users, on the other hand, can easily check all activities related to their files, including the addition and deletion of files, file modification, downloads and sharing. This activity feed is customizable so each user can enable or disable any event type.


The file management system - the backbone of Nextcloud

When it comes to file management, Nextcloud offers not only great security, but also convenient tools for organising and searching files and sharing files with people on the server and outside the server. Publicly shared links can be password-protected for better security. Furthermore, links to secure upload points can be sent to third parties. If you need to, you can lock files as well. The interface is very intuitive and easy to use and Nextcloud has developed desktop and mobile apps for extra convenience. 


Collaborating using Nextcloud

One of the great strengths of Nextcloud are its collaboration tools and features. They include a collaborative note-taking application, which supports rich text formats, and Collabora Online tools for editing text documents, spreadsheets and presentations of all major formats (including Microsoft Office compatible files). You can work on a document together with other users, write and reply to comments and even have a quick video chat to discuss changes. What’s great about Collabora Online is that, like Nextcloud, it is open-source and secure.


Privacy-protected communication tools included

Another great thing about Nextcloud is that it can substitute applications such as Microsoft Teams or Slack for video calls and messaging. Nextcloud Talk supports chat rooms, as well as direct messaging, scheduling and making audio and video calls, it has screen sharing capabilities, web conferencing tools and even collaborative virtual whiteboards. All that with your data stored on your own servers! And that even includes the metadata, so you have full control over your communications. Additionally, Nextcloud has GDPR compliance capabilities, with a compliance checklist, extensive administrator manual and compliance apps for data requests, terms of service and account deletion. 


To wrap it up

Nextcloud can do everything Google Drive does, but better! In addition to its ease of use and the impressive number of handy tools, it is one of the best alternatives to Google Drive for people and companies which value privacy above all else. Almost everything about it can be customized and configured to fit your needs, from security policies and file access control to themes and branding. It’s the ideal solution for anyone looking to self-host their own private cloud and collaborate online with no data leaks.

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