Nextcloud 12 expands data storage to support large organizations

Thanks to Global Scale, Nextcloud 12 supports tens of thousands of users per server, as well as multiple servers across the world

Nextcloud 12 expands data storage to support large organizations
Credit: Nextcloud

Online ("cloud") file storage services are undeniably handy—for individuals and large organizations alike.

Being able to toss files (spreadsheets, images, backups, etc.) somewhere, especially if that somewhere is easy to share with those you interact and work with, is crazy convenient. It certainly beats the pants off tediously sending files to your co-workers via email (or, worse, sneakernet).

Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox are easy to setup and use. And as a result, just about everybody (and their dog) have an account on one or the other. Many companies even utilize one of these for storing files across their organization.

But relying on these big "cloud" storage services has inherent problems and risks.

First and foremost: You have almost zero control over your own data. Your files are stored on someone else's hard drive (that you don't have physical access to), in someone else's server (which you also don't have access to), in someone else's data center (see previous statements on availability of access). 

This is profoundly problematic. Not only because you are choosing to rely on the backup and disaster recovery plans and capabilities of the company storing your data (based on nothing more than faith and wishy-thinking in that company's abilities), but for numerous other reasons. Chief among them:

  1. Having your data (including your corporate data) stored on a shared server with dozens (or perhaps even thousands) of other companies presents additional, unnecessary security risks. Not to mention potential conflicts of interest.
  2. Who has access to your data? More than likely a lot of people—people other than you and people you didn't, likely, have access to that data.
  3. Besides those points, you truly have zero (or nearly zero) control over the security infrastructure that controls access to your data.
  4. Where is your data being stored? Is it in the same city/state/country that you live in? What sort of legal issues might this raise for you or your organization? The truth is—possibly quite a lot.

Just the same, many people (and companies) choose to store a large amount of their sensitive data (which is almost all data) in these big name, "cloud" storage services. It's easy. And being easy is a big selling point for just about anything.

Run your own data storage server with ownCloud and Nextcloud

Luckily, there are a few solutions out there for running your own data storage server—most notably ownCloud and Nextcloud (which is a fork of ownCloud). Both are open source (though ownCloud does have some closed-source optional components), making security audits far more doable. And both allow a single SysAdmin to setup a storage service for their organization relatively easily.

While these solutions have been proven to be reliable and excellent for individuals (and smaller organizations), they have had some issues scaling to the big user counts that large organizations often need.

The recent release of Nextcloud version 12 improves this situations quite a bit with what they call Global Scale.

In a nutshell, the new benefits for large organizations are:

  1. Support for tens of thousands of users per server
  2. Support for federation of multiple servers (thus being able to have servers across the world, in different data centers, all with access to each other).

Nextcloud is also working on a "Balancer" server. They describe it as thus:

"The Balancer runs on a dedicated machine, monitoring the various nodes and their storage, CPU, RAM and network utilization. It can mark nodes as online or offline and initiate the migration of user accounts to different nodes based on data in the Lookup Server like business or legal requirements, QoS settings or user location. If, for example, a user would move from the U.S. to Europe, the Balancer would initiate a migration from their data to an EU data center to improve the quality of service."

Since this has yet to be released, it's hard to say how well it will perform. But the idea seems solid to me—and it solves a real issue. According to Nextcloud, "We look to federate comments and release the Balancer over the coming months."

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