Sometimes I can be very disorganized. When I started forgetting appointments and missing deadlines, I realized I desperately needed a change. I should be using technology to keep my datebook. This led to my discovery of Nextcloud. I was looking for a way to sync a digital calendar across devices, regardless of which device I was currently using. To my surprise, Nextcloud offered much more than just calendar syncronization.

Nextcloud provides users with a complete file backup and cloud solution. It serves as a free and open source alternative to similar services, such as Google Drive or Dropbox. A Nextcloud web GUI is accessible via the internet. There are also downloadable clients for all major devices. It allows users to easily backup and sync files, calendars, and contacts. Nextcloud boasts enterprise-level networking between connected users. As such it is equally benefitial to individual users, as well as businesses. Through the same Nextcloud web interface, administrative tools are available, in order to manage your multiple users.

FOSS

Nextcloud is a server-based service. Server is a fancy word for a computer that serves files to other computers. These can be images, folders, or even entire websites. There is special hardware designed for server use, but in truth, any computer can become a server. For those who have never set up a server, or lack the hardare, third party companies offer subscription based Nextcloud installs. Because Nextcloud is FOSS, however, it can be downloaded and installed free of charge to a user’s own server. The Nextcloud used in paid services is exactly the same code that the Nextcloud team makes available for free download. My Nextcloud instance is running on a Raspberry Pi.

Cross Platform

Once the Nextcloud server is set up, it is reachable through the internet at a URL similar to www.example.com/nextcloud. From there, we have access to the powerful Nextcloud web GUI. Nextcloud also offers desktop clients for Linux, Windows, and Mac. Users can access their Nextcloud on mobile, through the Android and iOS mobile apps. Users also have access through mounting Nextcloud as a network location, and on Windows can even assign it a drive letter. Unfortunately, Nextcloud doesn’t feature an FTP server. However, if a user has FTP access to the server that hosts Nextcloud, they may still be able to use it to manipulate Nextcloud files.

A Note On Using Mobile

Apple

According to the Nextcloud documentation, iOS requires the Nextcloud server to use SSL. As I don’t own an iPhone, I can’t confirm how much of an issue this plays. However, it should only be a thought to consider, if setting up your own server.

Android

Despite CalDAV and CardDav being open, industry accepted standards, Google refuses to add native support of these protocols to Android. Because of this, in order to sync contacts/calendars with Nextcloud, a third party DAV app is required. These apps just work in the background, and act as a bridge so that you can use the normal Android contacts and calendar apps. The nextcloud developers recommend using DAVx5. The weird thing about DAVx5 is that although it’s FOSS, if you try to download it from the Google Play Store or Samsung store, it will cost you. If you want it for free, you could download the source code from the DAVx5 website and build it yourself, or download it using the F-Droid store instead. If you don’t want to bother with any of that, other free DAV apps such as Open Sync are available for free on the Google Play store. Although currently I’m using the F-Droid DAVx5, I’ve used Open Sync in the past, and had no issues with it.

Saving contact to nextcloud via DAVx5 As can be seen from this screenshot, I’m offered two locations on where to save a new contact. I have it set so that by default, DAVx5 is chosen, which is connected to my Nextcloud account.

File Browser

Nextcloud File Browsser Once connected to Nextcloud, we first see a file manager. If you’ve ever used Google Drive, or Dropbox, the Nextcloud file manager functions similiarly. From here, we’re able to create or upload new files and folders. Of course standard file operations are here as well. Moving, renaming, and deleting files work exactly as would be expected.

Thumbnails are shown for images, mp3 album covers, and text content. Clicking a file opens it for larger preview. Opening a video file allows streaming directly from the Nextcloud interface. From Nextcloud, user’s can change files as needed with the built in editor. If a user opens a file unsupported by Nextcloud, the file will be downloaded for use on the user’s computer.

Files can be tagged with keywords so that they can be grouped together. Often used or important files can be favorited so that they’re more easily found later.

In addition to files within a user’s Nextcloud account, files can be added from external sources. Nextcloud is able to connect to Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, SMB/CIFS share, FTP, or another Nextcloud server. We can even add a “local” external storage location. This means files that are located outside of Nextcloud, but on the same server as your Nextcloud instance.

Calendar

Nextcloud Calendar The real reason I began using Nextcloud. Multiple calendards can be created to help organize different aspects of your life. Calendards can be imported using the .ics file format. Of course also available is the ability to manually create new events within NextCloud. We can also use Nextcloud to subscribe to our existing calendars. Nextcloud connects to any iCal calendar service, such as the calendars offered by Google, Apple, and others.

Contacts

Nextcloud Contacts Since I was already going to use Nextcloud for calendar sync, I thought it would be a good idea to back up my contacts too. That will make it easier when I get a new phone, or reformat the one I have. In addition to being able to sync the devices from your device, you can also manually enter them on Nextcloud. Nextcloud also offers the ability to import .vcf/.vcard files.

Business Tools

I’m the only one using my Nextcloud instance. However, Nextcloud does offer multi-user support. This can be extended to a family, group of freinds, or even a business. Once additional users are added, files can be shared with other users within the Nextcloud network. Shared files and chats between users can be grouped into a project. This is helpful if multiple people are working on the same report, presentation, or idea.

Users can be designated as Nextcloud administrators. These administrators control the multi-user functions of Nextcloud. These accounts can create or delete other users. They can add new features, or block unwanted features. Administrators also have the ability to set disk storage quotas. This is one way to unsure the Nextcloud server isn’t completely filled up.

Security

Nextcloud offers the ability to encrypt some or all files. A password is used to lock the file. Without the same password the file cannot be opened. Nextcloud offers the ability to quickly lock or unlock all files.

Nextcloud also offers two factor authentication (2FA). For those unaware, 2FA requires two things to access. Usually, one is something you know (a password), and the other is something you have (cellphone, physical key, 2FA token). Many 2FA methods are available as Nextcloud addon apps.

Summary

Nextcloud is more than just a central cloud server. It offers a large range of functionality. Users should feel free to pick and chose which features they wish to use. Personally, I only use Nextcloud as a central location for my calendars and contacts. However, as I use Nextcloud more,