Nine home clouds compared

Cloud It Yourself

AjaXplorer – The Thunderbird Plugin

In the Mozilla add-ons, Thunderbird users will find a provider for file links, dubbed AjaXplorer, that helps them upload files directly from the mail client and generate sharing links. Although the file management capabilities in the Pydio workspaces are very extensive in the web interface, you will look in vain for functions that go beyond this. However, Pydio provides core functionality with virtually no weak spots, aside from the lack of a stable desktop client.

The developers offer both commercial case support for the community version, which is licensed under the AGPL, and a subscription model for a manufacturer-certified edition.

Conclusions: Pydio is a good alternative to ownCloud and surprises with its Thunderbird plugin.

Seafile

Seafile [11] is backed by a small team from China, Vietnam, Canada, and Germany. The installation of the server component is described for Linux (Red Hat-based, Debian, and Raspberry Pi), as well as Windows. Setup, as well as upgrading the server (which is provided as a tar.gz file), does involve some manual work at the command line. However, given the good documentation, this seems manageable (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Navigating Seafile is not always completely logical for beginners; this is a concession to the server architecture.

In the Seafile web interface, you will find a few basic components for collaborative work on projects, a discussion forum, and a wiki, in addition to the file management features. Viewers are available in the Community Edition for documents in Open Document Format (ODF). The Business Edition is required to preview Microsoft Office files. The latter also contains a full-text search, support for object storage, and clustering, as well as features for tracking activities in the team's data.

In addition to desktop clients for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, you can synchronize the data from your own Seafile cloud via a command-line-based client on Linux. The Filelink add-on for Thunderbird users is available via a GitHub project linked from the Seafile website.

Mobile users of Android and iOS devices will find synchronization software in the respective app stores. The synchronization mechanisms and stability of Seafile are generally praised. According to the roadmap, a new major version is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2014.

Conclusions: If you are primarily looking for a client-server solution for robust file synchronization and sharing and are not afraid of the command line, you will want to put Seafile on your shortlist.

SparkleShare

The makers of SparkleShare [12] are open and honest enough to reveal on their homepage what SparkleShare is good at doing, and what it isn't. The main application for the tool is synchronizing small to medium-sized, files under continuous version control.

If you work with Git in some form, you will find it easy to get started; otherwise, the setup might already be too technically demanding. It is difficult to imagine typical users working with this service, even given good administrative preparation. ViewGit or other Git front ends will tend to be overly complex.

The restricted group of users could be the reason why – for two years – nobody has updated the Android and iOS clients for SparkleShare. However, based on the GitHub pulse, the project still seems to be alive, although with very little community involvement. The last major update is from the April 2014.

Conclusions: Although SparkleShare's range of application is limited, it is quite suitable for simple synchronization tasks.

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