For years, Dropbox has been the mostly undisputed king of cloud storage. Unless you’re heavily invested in another ecosystem, Dropbox’s free storage offers more than enough for most people. Slowly but surely, however, the company’s free offering is becoming less attractive.
In March of 2019, Dropbox quietly introduced a limit on how many devices you can use with a free account. Whereas before there was no limit, now you only use three devices on a free account. For many people, this may not matter, but for others, it’s a sign that it’s time to look at other services.
What Does Self-Hosted Mean?
To put it simply, you can download and install any of the services on this list on your own server. If you’re concerned with privacy, hosting your own Dropbox alternative is a major bonus. It’s also important if you want to be certain that your data won’t disappear without warning someday. Your own experience might tell you that self-hosting apps can save you money in the long run too.
Of course, there are downsides to this. If you install one of these on your own server, you’re responsible for all the maintenance. You’ve also only got yourself to blame if your data does missing.
ownCloud launched in 2010 and was one of the first self-hosted Dropbox alternatives to really take off. While the service initially focused solely on cloud storage, it has scaled up its offerings dramatically in recent years.
From cloud storage to synchronization, ownCloud can do pretty much anything Dropbox can. It supports large files, automatic folder synchronization, and file access control. If you’re concerned about privacy, ownCloud also features support for end-to-end encryption.
It doesn’t matter whether you use Windows, macOS, or Linux, as ownCloud is fully cross-platform. This means it has a client available for Android and iOS devices as well. Unlike desktop clients, this isn’t free. No matter whether you use Android or iOS, you’ll pay $0.99 for the ownCloud app.
What Else Does ownCloud Offer?
Cloud storage and sync is just the beginning. With ownCloud you also get the Collabora online office suite. If you’re looking for an alternative to Google Docs, this isn’t as full-featured, but it might be all you need.
There’s also a marketplace with a variety of add-ons for ownCloud. These include a basic text file viewer, blood pressure tracker, an ebook reader, and more.
Will ownCloud Stick Around?
In addition to the free, open source version that ownCloud offers to individuals, it also features a version for enterprise users. This gives ownCloud an income stream to keep work going.
Does this guarantee that ownCloud will be around forever? No, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to use it right now.
Nextcloud is a fork of ownCloud with many of the same features, plus plenty of its own. One key difference is that while ownCloud has a commercial offering, Nextcloud is an open source project. If you want to ensure that your free cloud storage stays free, that’s an important distinction.
While Nextcloud is fully open source, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an enterprise option. The service offers a subscription-based enterprise product that makes migration easier and grants priority access to security updates. It also includes support and assistance to make using the service easier.
Like ownCloud, Nextcloud offers clients for any platform you may use. This includes Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Unlike Nextcloud, the mobile versions are available free of charge.
Since Nextcloud is based on ownCloud, many of the third-party apps for ownCloud also work with Nextcloud. This includes software like CloudNotes, a notetaking app for iOS. You can’t count on this working in all cases, but it can be useful.
What Else Does Nextcloud Offer?
Like ownCloud, Nextcloud features an office suite. By default, this is Collabora, but you can use other options as well. If, for example, you want to use OnlyOffice instead, that’s entirely possible. NextCloud also offers its own App Store that lets you add all sorts of different functionality.
If you don’t want to run your own server, Nextcloud makes finding a free Nextcloud host easy. The amount of free storage space varies from provider to provider, but many of them offer more than the 2 GB of free space Dropbox offers.
Will Nextcloud Stick Around?
Nextcloud has an enterprise option, just as ownCloud does. It also has a very active community. This alone has kept plenty of projects going in the past, so it’s likely that Nextcloud will be around a while.
Seafile is actually older than ownCloud and by extension Nextcloud, but it never seemed to gain the same level of popularity. As it focuses mainly on storage, it’s the least full-featured option on this list, but it makes up for that in speed.
Over the years, Seafile has actually gained a reputation for being faster than ownCloud or Nextcloud. This is going to vary wildly based on your server and other factors, but if you frequently sync large files, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Like ownCloud, Seafile offers a free option and a paid option. With the paid option of Seafile, you’re mainly getting support. Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Android, and iOS. All of them are free.
What Else Does Seafile Offer?
As mentioned above, Seafile focuses on storage alone, so you won’t find an office suite. What you do get is advanced file versioning and snapshots. You also get client-side end-to-end encryption if you want it, which is nice if you value privacy.
Will Seafile Stick Around?
Seafile is already a long-running project, and it doesn’t seem that the developers intend to change this any time soon. As it is fully open source, the project should remain viable as long as there are developers to maintain it.
Which Is the Best Self-Hosted Dropbox Alternative?
All of these services offer compelling reasons to use them. Even so, Nextcloud should be the first option you consider. Not only does it offer the most features, but with free hosts available, you can easily try it out before you commit.
It can be difficult choosing the cloud storage company responsible for your data. While you can set up your own server to host one of the above services, it’s not for everyone.
That said, it’s nice to know that if something goes wrong, you can fix it if you have the knowledge. If you are interested, take a look at our list of the best web hosting companies.
If you’d rather stick with a big name but want to look at options other than Dropbox, that works too. Curious about your options? We’ve got a comparison that shows how Dropbox stacks up against Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive.