Public cloud services, like Google Drive, G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, Slack, etc., are really marvels of technology. They have a significant drawback though - you don't own your data. Your data is sent to servers around the world, and kept there to be processed or analyzed by algorithms looking to extract value based on the data you have chosen to share.
We like Slack, Google Drive, Hangouts, Google Docs, and Google Sheets, and personally, many of us use them and are OK with the data processing terms. Professionally though, things change. We are not OK with putting our data, nor our clients' data, in the cloud. We believe that our data should remain private, unless we explicitly want to share it.
That's why we use self-hosted alternatives that allow us to keep our data to ourselves.
Nextcloud is one of the software suites that replaces many of the public cloud services. Check their recent promotional video, it shows the best features of this great product:
- Google Drive alternative - Nextcloud Hub Files
- Google Meet / Hangouts / Slack alternative
- Gmail / Hotmail / Outlook.com alternative
- Google Calendar / Outlook / etc. alternative
- Google Forms / Surveys alternative
- Google Sites alternative
- Google Analytics
- Live Chat services
- Cloud service alternatives comparison table
- The cost of hosting
Google Drive alternative - Nextcloud Hub Files
Google Drive really is the most easily replaced tool from the G Suite tools. Nextcloud started as a file sharing platform and it excels at this task. The Nextcloud Files app has a multitude of useful features. You can find more information at https://nextcloud.com/files/.
And one of the best features Nextcloud Files offers is End-to-end encryption (E2EE). Check their website for the full details:
Google Meet / Hangouts / Slack alternative
Nextcloud Talk has received a major update in the latest Nextcloud Hub 18 release. Check the full announcement of Nextcloud Talk 8 at Nextcloud's own blog:
It is a useful tool, it has video conferencing built in, and is nicely integrated with the rest of the Nextcloud Hub suite. It isn't really a Slack replacement though. It still lacks many of the features seasoned slack users will expect. However, there is another free and private app that can be hosted as an on-premises solution - Mattermost.
If you are looking for a really powerful Slack/Microsoft Teams/Google Talk alternative, check Mattermost out.
If you have an ICDSoft VPS, you can easily install and run Mattermost on your server by downloading the binary file and running it via the WebApps section.
Gmail / Hotmail / Outlook.com alternative
There are many alternatives to free email services. Email is at the core of the internet, and all reputable hosting providers include email as part of their service, which is usually accompanied by some webmail client.
Nextcloud includes its own email client - Nextcloud Email, which is a little lacking in features, but the seamless integration with the rest of the suite makes it a good choice. Combining the Nextcloud Email web-based client with a powerful desktop email client like Mozilla Thunderbird is one of the most productive email setups out there.
Google Calendar / Outlook / etc. alternative
Team calendars have been a solved problem for many years. Nextcloud includes an integrated Calendar app which we can highly recommend. It is integrated with your users, you can separate teams, and quickly re-arrange tasks. There is not much more you can require from a calendar app.
Sync with Outlook. Outlook is the king of desktop time organization apps. It can be nicely integrated with Nextcloud by using the free and open-source Outlook CalDav Synchronizer - http://caldavsynchronizer.org/ .
Google Forms / Surveys alternative
Nextcloud Polls is a small app that allows you to create simple polls.
For more complex surveys though, we recommend LimeSurvey. It is a free, open-source tool that can be hosted on your own hosting account. It is a very powerful tool and requires reading of the docs, but the results are every bit as powerful.
Check it out at https://www.limesurvey.org/.
Google Sites alternative
Google Sites isn't a very good product on its own, and we don't know of anybody that uses it for a serious website. Use real website building software, like WordPress and Elementor, instead:
We recommend Matomo (formerly Piwik). Yes, it isn't as polished as Google Analytics, but it provides more than enough details to handle the analytics needs of any website. Its plugin ecosystem is also quite rich and provides some very nice extensions - like the Heatmaps plugin we use to improve the usability of our websites - https://plugins.matomo.org/HeatmapSessionRecording (it is paid though).
Live Chat services
There are hundreds of Live Chat providers, and some even offer a basic live chat functionality for free. Almost all of them are cloud-hosted though. Self-hosted and on-premises solution are rare. We use LiveZilla for our live chat.
Cloud service alternatives comparison table
In the table below we will compare the tools offered by Google with those provided by Nextcloud Hub. We will also include some comments and other alternative solutions we can recommend.
|Public Cloud Service||Hosted Alternative||Comments|
|Gmail||Email from an independent hosting provider.||Use the provided Webmail interface in combination with a powerful desktop email client like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook for maximum productivity.|
|Google Calendar||Nextcloud Calendar||We cannot find any feature we are missing from Google Calendar in the Nextcloud Calendar app. Integration with Mozilla Thunderbird Lightning and with Microsoft Outlook is very good.|
|Google Drive||Nextcloud Files||Files are one of the most sensitive parts of your data, and here Nextcloud wins by a huge margin. Storing confidential data unencrypted on a cloud service isn't for us.|
|Hangouts Chat||Nextcloud Talk||Nextcloud Talk isn't as powerful a chat system as its competitor. It is more of an add-on system on top of your main work chat system, for which we recommend Mattermost.|
|Hangouts Meet||Nextcloud Talk||Nextcloud Talk is perfect for small teams. For larger meetings, it may be a little resource-heavy.|
|Google Docs / Sheets||LibreOffice / Nextcloud Hub||Google Docs wins here. There is a built-in document editor in the latest version of Nextcloud Hub, but it still needs a lot of improvements, and it isn't entirely free for large deployments.|
|Google Slides||LibreOffice / Nextcloud Hub||While the Collabora document server provides a good solution, its setup is quite complicated at the moment.|
|Google Forms||LimeSurvey||You can use Nextcloud Polls for small polls, but here we can recommend LimeSurvey - it is free and open source survey software that we have used for our company surveys. It runs perfectly on all our hosting plans.|
|Google Sites||Website built on a free platform, like WordPress.||Use a powerful open-source system that can easily be moved between providers. Don't go with services that lock you in.|
|Google Keep / Evernote||Joplin||For note taking, use an open source app using text files. Text files can be easily synced and opened with any program. There is no need to complicate this further with formats that aren't easily portable.|
The cost of hosting
The price of hosting the software you need on your own account varies. However, if you have a website, you are likely already paying for a hosting account, and it probably can accommodate a few extra services.
At ICDSoft, this hosting account can be used to host a Nextcloud instance, LimeSurvey, WordPress, Matomo. Check with your provider if they allow this.
You can also check the following article from our blog for some additional advice on how to get more out of the hosting account you already have:
If you need a reliable hosting partner for your private cloud, you can always count on ICDSoft! You can check our hosting for Nextcloud Hub offers for more information and pricing.