Quite a while back I wrote a rant about how I don’t want to trust “cloud” services for my personal information, such as Google when it comes to the contacts info on my Android phone. I prefer to sync my contacts locally so as to keep them off Gmail Contacts. But that’s a whole other story.
Recently I came across an article on something called ownCloud, that was already on version 4.5, and was getting some notable tech press a week or 2 ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see an open source cloud product at such a high release number. I thought this might be what I’ve been waiting for! My main interest was contact management, but they bragged about calendar, files, and music syncing as well.
I’ve now spent a fair bit of time installing, testing, and trying to use ownCloud on a CentOS Linux server. Many hours in fact. And I’m quite disappointed. It does work reasonably well for doing basic file transfers back and forth from my Android phone while using their app connecting to my ownCloud server. And they have included some web based music and video players.
But when it comes to contact management, usability is terrible, and in my opinion is barely more than some random beta product. On the web side of contact management the data is displayed randomly on the screen, never in the same spot from one contact to the next, as it illogically places the fields based on the size of the data to display, large notes fields run off the screen with no way to scroll down to view them, if contact images are included you can’t delete them the contact, if note fields end in a line break you can’t delete them, no way to delete multiple contacts, and deleting all contacts means you delete the entire address book which is very time intensive. When I installed ownCloud there was supposed to be options to use a MySQL database, which I was never offered, and trying to do so manually didn’t work, so I had to settle for the default SQLite option.
I had to purchase an Android sync client called CardDAV-Sync, which works quite well. But to sync Outlook to OwnCloud was another story, I could only find one product that claims to do this, and it’s called WebDAV Collaborator, and it worked poorly for me. Luckily I didn’t buy it, and only used the evaluation version. But I found it buggy and not dependable. But at this point, and to be fair, it could be related to my many complaints about ownCloud contact management. For all I know WebDAV Collaborator could be a decent product and the sync problems mostly or all due to ownCloud.
My list of issues with the contact management in ownCloud can go on and on. For a version number of 4.5 I would expect a far better user experience. It appears to me that they have spent most of the code work on making the “Drop Box” like features and music and picture handling the priory. The glitzy trendy things that the average user will want to look at first.
If your cloud needs and interests revolve around replacing Drop Box or some product like that, this is something to possibly consider, though they haven’t worked out encryption if you want to share files with other users yet. But I will have to continue my search for a personal cloud based contact management system, cause this absolutely is not it!