There are several options for self-hosting cloud storage on a VPS server, but the two main competitors are clearly Nextcloud and ownCloud. Though they are often mentioned as equivalents, there are several differences between the solutions that may help you decide which is the right fit for you.

What is ownCloud?

ownCloud is a free and open-source (FOSS) software project launched in 2010 by Frank Karlitschek and later Markus Rex and Holger Dyroff. Though it was originally built on PHP, nowadays, ownCloud also offers a version of its service called "Infinite Scale", which was rewritten entirely in Go in collaboration with CERN . This is intended to offer a high-speed retrieval process without the need for PHP or a database.

Currently, ownCloud offers everything you would expect from a modern cloud service, with the advantage of additional flexibility. Users can upload, share, and sync files, calendars, and contracts across PCs, servers, and mobile devices. They can also collaborate on documents via extensions from Microsoft 365, OnlyOffice, and Collabora.  ownCloud additionally offers users who just enjoy the platform regular, hosted cloud storage.

In late 2023, ownCloud Inc. merged with Kiteworks, a US cloud company focused on data privacy and compliance for sensitive enterprise content. This enhanced ownCloud's compliance and security capabilities without affecting its open-source status.

What is Nextcloud?

In 2016, ownCloud's original founder, Frank Karlitschek, left the company along with many of the core contributors and some staff. They founded Nextcloud GmbH, a direct competitor that looks to address some of the grievances Karlitschek developed with ownCloud's direction.

The basic feature set of Nextcloud is the same as Owncloud  and other cloud storage providers:

  • Cloud syncing and storage
  • Document collaboration via Collabora and OnlyOffice
  • Text and video communication
  • Calendar and contacts
  • File versioning and backups
  • Compliance features
  • Self-hosted or managed options

However, there are some key differences in philosophy, technology, and feature specifics that differentiate the two solutions.

ownCloud: Enterprise-first?

ownCloud may have started out as a scrappy open-source start-up, but it is now utilized by big players such as CERN, the European Commission, Phillips, Daimler, Pagani, and more. These partnerships have naturally shaped the way the software has evolved, with ownCloud able to work with organizations like CERN to tailor ownCloud to the needs of bigger organizations. You'll see a larger emphasis in its marketing material on compliance and scalability, as well as steady development. ownCloud is more cautious in implementing changes suggested by the community in order to maintain security and stability. It also claims fast responses from its support team, format certifications for its partners, a dedicated QA team, and a suite of professional services.

However, this does not mean that OwnCloud is out of reach for the average home user. OwnCloud has a standard edition that contains most of its features and a Dockerized version for easy setup. It also has excellent, detailed, and well-structured documentation.

Nextcloud: Community-driven?

Nextcloud was founded with a more community-driven approach in mind. The idea was to actively encourage community development to allow the software to progress faster and integrate a wider range of apps and features. Years later, Nextcloud has a vibrant community. frequent updates, and a strong app ecosystem.

Nextcloud's customers, which include Siemens, Deutsche Telecom, the Republic of Serbia, and Swedish government organizations, show that it is still suitable for large organizations. Indeed, it has a paid enterprise offering that is designed to be more stable, secure, compliant, and supported than its home edition.

Ultimately, separating the two solutions into the "home" and "enterprise" cloud is a bit reductive. While Nextcloud's focus is clearly more dual-purpose and ownCloud's more enterprise-focused, both are suitable for either use case.

ownCloud vs Nextcloud comparison

As you may have gathered by now, these solutions are quite similar. They were founded by the same person and are even based on the same foundation of code. The devil is in the details:

  • Pricing: Both have free, community versions for personal use. ownCloud has standard and enterprise plans for self-hosted servers that offer customer support, additional security features, custom branding, and the pro version of its apps. Its standard plan costs €5 per user/month and €0.79 for the Android app, while its Enterprise plan is €12 per user/month and includes the apps. Nextcloud appears to only lock its support behind paid plans—its mobile apps are free.
  • Third-party integration: Nextcloud's community-driven development has generally resulted in a slightly higher volume of third-party apps and integrations. On the other hand, you could argue that ownCloud's integrations are more likely to be thoughtful and high-quality.
  • Setup experience: Both solutions offer an easy Docker installation, but Nextcloud's all-in-one experience makes things a bit easier, especially if you are new to server administration. At the time of writing, Nextcloud's setup documentation also seemed a bit clearer and more detailed to us.
  • Support: ownCloud claims that their support reaction time is two hours, whereas we could not find such assurances on Nextcloud's website. However, it is worth noting that Nextcloud claims enterprise customers can get direct access to engineering expertise with no call center in-between.
  • Stability: Initially, ownCloud and Nextcloud stability was very similar. However, after years of fast-paced development, some users report that Nextcloud is more prone to crashes and instability.
  • Speed: Some users report that Nextcloud is slower, particularly when syncing and when compared to ownCloud's Infinite Scale. However, it is unclear how much of this is down to server configuration and other factor.

As you can see, there's not a whole lot separating them. You can make an argument for either based on your intended use case and what you value.  Our recommendation: try both. They're free, after all. Nothing beats hands-on experience with a product and the ability to freely assess it for your needs.