Things Nextcloud needs to improve, from a Google Partner

Hello all,

I’ve been a Google Workspace specialist for 10 years. I also did some MS365. Professionally, I’m a Google Partner.

However I’ve long since been hoping for a credible European alternative. I’m convinced that sovereign data is increasingly important, not to mention choice and fair competition. Unfortunately, after testing a few services (Proton, K suite from Infomaniak…), none come close to what Microsoft and Google have to offer, in my opinion. Synology seems to have a nice suite but it’s proprietary and limited to specific hardware.

NextCloud is arguably the suite that comes closest, given its large offering of apps. However it seems to me there are still some major caveats on basic things that need to be addresses before it can be offered to businesses at a large scale.

We was hoping we could discuss those here, in the hope of gaining visibility on when those developments will come, and maybe prioritise development in the community. I’m sure those feature ideas have been discussed individually, but I was hoping on a broader / strategy discussion.

Here are a few thoughts of what needs to be improved, in my opinion.

  • Built-in mail server

An admin looks to something that is easy to implement, maintain, and manage on a daily basis.

The fact that creating a user does not create an account on a mail server at the same time makes things a lot more complicated to implement and maintain on a daily basis. I believe a mail server should be built in out of the box, with some support to configure MX, DKIM, SPF, DMARC policies, etc.

  • A groupware mobile app

The same goes with mobile apps. A business cannot possibly spend time downloading independant apps and configuring access to an IMAP server, Caldav server, etc for each user’s mobile phone. Nextcloud should have dedicated apps for mail, calendar, contacts… not just for document items. It should be a one download, one login thing.

  • Transparent maintenance

I used to try and install Nextcloud on a Linux machine but that was far from easy for a novice.
Recently, I subscribed to Ionos’s service and it was much easier to implement. From my understanding, Ionos will transparently update the apps and maintain the system.
However, some additional features seem very cumbersome. For instance, how to make backups of both mails, documents, and the whole system ? Apparently one needs to run command lines, even log out users ? This should be included out of the box in the admin console for the admins to use.
It should also be clear that any provider of Nextcloud such as Ionos has backup and recovery systems in place in case the server fails.

  • Better quality apps

Some apps with apparently simple UIs do not seem to work well. I have yet to manage importing a single picture in the Photos app… (the loading bar simply does not budge).

In the longer run…

In the longer run, I see tons of features that would help Nextcloud compete. Obviously this would be a lot a work to implement.

  • an MDM to manage devices (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux). At least for authentication, basic security features, and app deployment in Android and the “Nextcloud” browser.
  • a home baked version of Chromium that would sync features, data, etc with user accounts on Nextcloud,
  • a home baked version of Android, with an open source app store, better integration of Nextcloud and third party services… Maybe a partnership with CyanogenMod and some manufacturing brands ?
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this “outside” perspective.

Yes, this was already requested. Personally, I think they should avoid building a new environment with potential vendor lock-in, so I prefer to keep an open environment, so you can keep your own mail server and just plugin Nextcloud for the file sharing features.
This does not have to mean, that there is a possibility to allow an easy setup mail server configuration with a management app in Nextcloud that can be easily used in combination with it. Nextcloud already offers to have external authentication, so you could easily have a shared authentication backend.

There are already apps for the file sharing and they are dealing with large number of feature requests and problems, I’d like to address before doing something like that. On top of that, calendar, contacts use open protocols, so you can use more general purpose apps that specialize in this functionality. It would be nice however for companies to have a way to setup everything easily (and for private users as well), but perhaps without the need to develop everything yourself again.

With AIO and NextcloudPi, there are two projects that try to implement a more general approach to set up a whole system. There was a partnership with TrueNAS systems, where Nextcloud is supposed to be easily used. Sometimes user end up here, but I don’t know how well it works and how good the support from TrueNAS side is.

Many apps start in the community and are written just from developers for themselves. Some end up as “officially” supported apps that are supported for enterprise customers. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of open feature requests which sound really nice, bugs that need repair, …

You have floccus to sync bookmarks on Firefox.

But it’s clear, many things are possible but if they are difficult and cumbersome to set up, that makes it hard for not very passionate users to go all way.

For enterprise users, they have a few additonal services, I think they had some sort of MDM for android devices, for the desktop client, a plugin to use everything directly with Outlook, but that’s only for business subscription and you have to contact the company for that.

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Thanks for your reply.
Some fairly small companies managed to build decent email / calendar client apps for smartphone (proton, infomaniak)… I’m hoping this will be possible with Nextcloud.
That and built-in mail server would go a long way to make Nextcloud a viable solution for businesses.
Have a nice week !

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That’s a bit the point of open standards that this is not required. E.g. for the iphone, you can connect the calendar and carddav for contacts, use the standard mail client, and then it just can add stuff in the calendar, update contacts etc. without Nextcloud needing to develop an app for that.

The integrated mail app in the NC web-interface, I don’t know the current status, but it lacked quite a few features. Such things are not always that easy, and if you can rely on stuff that already works and is reliable, this is much better (and if you have resources left, you can help to improve these).

Well, in the end these are details, you got your points through, that for companies it would be great to have a solution easy to deploy (including a mail server), and that you can easily configure all the services on end user devices.

To be fair, self-hosting in general is just inherently more complex than using a SasS service like Google Workspace, simply because you have to take care of the whole server part yourself. For example, MS on-premises solutions like Sharepoint, Exchange, etc. are not one-click setups either, and require a lot of planning up-front, and subsequent configuration and fine tuning to work well. And especially a self-hosted mail server, even if it does have a one-click installer, is still relatively complex to configure and operate.

As for client apps, yes, large SaaS providers usually offer dedicated client apps for all their services (although Google’s desktop app for everything is just Chrome :wink: ). But when it comes to mobile, at least with Google, you also have to use several separate apps for mail, calendar, files, etc. Sure, their apps are usually pre-installed on Android devices, but if you want to use them on iOS, you have to install and configure them manually as well, or in larger companies you would probably use some kind of MDM for that.

Have you ever installed a collaboration software yourself e.g. Google Workspace or Microsoft 365? I don’t think so. As a beginner, you’re better off contacting Nextcloud experts who have created Nextcloud instances with millions of users. You also ask Google and Microsoft to install the software for you. Please compare Google and Microsoft only with Managed Nextcloud and not with your installation on test linux server. You can test e.g. Wolkesicher demo. Nothing to install, all works a little bit like Google and Microsoft.

I think the best option is to use backup and restore in a script. Nextcloud hosters are probably just as uninterested in this as Google or Microsoft because of customer loyalty. If you don’t have a vendor lock, you don’t want to make it too easy for customers to change the provider. But there are Nextcloud providers who deal with the issue transparently. Unlike Google and Microsoft, you are not tied to one provider.

@Michael_Ravier
I agree with you on many points. But I think companies, organizations and governments need to understand the benefits of free software so they can better deal with some of the limitations of Nextcloud.

Hello, thank you for your reply.

If you mean setting up a customer environment, yes, I’ve done it countless times : it’s my job.
And unfortunately it is much simpler than setting up a NextCloud solution, for now. Ionos’ offering comes closer but does not include the mail server.

Unfortunately I think most businesses will not care for free or paid software until it’s as flowless as possible.

@bb77
I agree that self hosting is necessarily more complex.
My point is that I believe Nextcloud could be a good basis for a full fledge, ready to use SaaS service, that could still be offered by many providers. But some basics are missing to be able to compete.

Some partners can make it more transparent for customers but I’ve yet to find a Nextcloud partner that offers a full offer with email and backup included, that lets the user create its accounts independently with email included, and that automatically plugs a mail server to the mail client.

If there are reliable offers meeting those criterias I’d be very happy to test it out :slight_smile:

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kSuite - the ethical collaborative solution comes to mind, which I believe uses Nextcloud (or a fork of it) under the hood. They also offer email accounts and dedicated mobile apps. However, I’ve never used them, so I don’t know if they offer all the features you’re looking for, or how well all the services integrate with each other.

Edit:
If your goal is to become a SaaS provider yourself, there will probably never be a OneClick solution for that. Besides, it would involve much more than just adding a mail server to Nextcloud. But Nextcloud GmbH can of course help you with your project: https://nextcloud.com/service-providers/

…people here in the forums, rather not. :wink:

I’m not familiar with Google and Microsoft. But of course you can only compare Google and Microsoft with Managed Nextcloud from IONOS, for example, and not with your Linux installation, which also requires operating system experience and more IT know-how.

It is comparable to cars. There is a difference between building a car, maintaining it and just driving it.

Thanks @bb77

Yes I’m certainly keeping a close eye on the KSuite, that seems very promising.
It’s not yet possible to plug a domain name outsite Infomaniak into the suite, but I’ll give it a go for testing.

Plus they have an incentivising Partner program.

Check out Murena:
https://murena.com/cloud/
https://murena.io/

They’re the folks behind the /e/OS project.

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