Data privacy: how safe is your data in the cloud?

If you have multiple users and you don't want them sharing files they shouldn't, you can add users to groups and select the option in the admin page to only allow them to share with users in the same group. This allows them to collaborate without giving away trade secrets.

Users are created from the Users option on the main drop-down menu. As well as assigning them to groups, you can also limit the amount of storage space they may use.

There is another way of accessing your files, using the WebDAV protocol, which is supported by file managers and other programs. This enables you to access files in your cloud as if they were local. The exact syntax used varies; in Nautilus you would use dav://your.server/owncloud/files/webdav.php while KDE prefers webdav:// to dav:// and LibreOffice likes plain old http://. That's right, LibreOffice will load files direct from your cloud.

Because WebDAV is a two-way protocol, it also allows saving of files, which neatly removes many of the reasons for a separate web-based office client - you can use standard tools with files in your cloud. Some of the ownCloud modules, such as the Calendar, Contacts and Bookmarks apps, start off empty even though you probably have all this information stored elsewhere.

Fortunately, it is easy to import from standard formats like ICS, VCF and HTML respectively. It is also possible to set your Calender to sync with other devices, press the settings button to see the URL for syncing with other calendar clients. The music and Photos apps will find suitable files in any folder of your cloud. You don't need to have them neatly organised, although that's no reason not to.

In the Music app you need to press the Rescan button after uploading new file to have them added to the list.

Modules and plugins

When you get tired of exploring the available features of ownCloud, you can add some more. There are a number of plugins or apps in ownCloud terminology, that you can enable to add features.

Some of these are installed by default while others can be downloaded from Select Apps from the drop-down menu to see the installed plugins. The ones in bold at the top of the list are enabled. To use one of the others, select it and click the Enable button.

The More apps button takes you to apps page where you can browse or search the apps. Downloading one gives you a ZIP file that you unzip into the apps directory of your installation.

There are some extra features in ownCloud that make it even more appealing. For example, file versioning. If you overwrite a file with a newer version, the older file is kept and is still accessible, providing you have enough space available. There's also a Trash bin for deletion, so any files deleted using the web interface can be retrieved if you change your mind. This is a relatively new program, so releases are coming thick and fast.

There's also more chance of a security vulnerability being discovered in less mature code, so it is safest to always keep it up to date. The Admin page warns you if there's a newer release than you have installed.

After upgrading, you may find that ownCloud gets stuck in maintenance mode. This is to prevent anyone accessing it until you, as administrator, have performed any upgrade steps. Edit config/config.php and change the maintenance setting from true to false. Reload the main page, answer any questions it may ask and your cloud will be running again.