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Nextcloud 21: Improvements in speed and added features make its cloud offering more business-friendly


Nextcloud 21 brings about a number of improvements. Find out which of these might lead you to migrate to the latest iteration of the best on-premise cloud solution available.

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Image: Jack Wallen

Leave it to the developers of Nextcloud to make serious improvements over their already world-class, open source, on-premise cloud solution. The latest iteration (v21) is all about collaboration, which is exactly what businesses of all sizes could use at the moment. With more people working from home, and more companies trying to save money, Nextcloud could be the ideal tool.

Let’s take a look at what version 21 has to offer.

Before you continue on, you can get a basic installation of Nextcloud 21 up and running by following my guide: How to install Nextcloud 20 on Ubuntu Server 20.04.

SEE: Top IT certifications to increase your salary (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Performance increase

With the latest release, the developers saw a need for at-scale deployments. With smaller use-cases, Nextcloud performs quite well. When deployment sizes start to venture into the enterprise level, performance starts to very quickly degrade. 

To that end, Roeland Douma, server engineering and support lead for Nexcloud said this:

At a scale of millions of users, milliseconds start to add up. After analyzing application and caching server, storage and database behavior, our team was able to significantly reduce the impact of common operations. The High Performance Back-end, on the other hand, provides a completely new way of reducing server load while bringing a new level of responsiveness to users.

To solve this issue, the developers went back to the drawing board and totally rewrote the Files component back-end in Rust. The result is a 10x performance increase with the Files tool. 

Here’s the catch: This newly rewritten backend is an optional installation. When you install the Nextcloud 21, you’re not getting the enterprise-capable performance increase. I’m waiting on my Nextcloud contact to send me instructions on how this back-end is installed (so I can hopefully distill that down into an easy-to-follow tutorial). In the meantime, know that is it now possible to deploy an instance of Nextcloud that is up to your enterprise performance needs.

Push notifications

This is another issue centered around large-scale deployments, where many users are working and collaborating together within Nextcloud. With previous iterations of the Nextcloud cloud solution, users would have to periodically check the server to see if any files had been changed. With Nextcloud 21, it is now possible to enable push notifications to clients, in order to mitigate the need for the clients to manually check for changes.

Like the Rust back-end, this must be installed manually and, currently, I’m having trouble getting it to work. The process of enabling push notifications requires:

  • The installation of the Client Push app from the Nextcloud app store

  • Installation and configuration of Redis

  • Running the command (from within the Nextcloud document root): 

sudo -u www-data php occ notify_push:setup

There is a manual installation that I will attempt, so hopefully I can get the push notification feature up and running.

New Whiteboard app

Along with Nextcloud 21 comes a Whiteboard app to help improve the collaboration experience within the cloud platform. This Whiteboard app does exactly what you expect–it serves as your cloud-based whiteboard. You can draw on it, add shapes and text to it. 

This new app works really well. Once you create a new Whiteboard (which is done in Files) you can then share it out to other users on your Nextcloud instance. Once everyone has the file open, as anyone makes any changes to the whiteboard, they’ll appear on everyone’s instance of the file.

The one caveat is the Whiteboard app isn’t installed by default. This app is also considered in the testing phase, but as I said, it does work quite well.

To install the Whiteboard app, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Nextcloud as an admin user.
  2. Click your profile icon and click the Apps entry.
  3. Search for Whiteboard.
  4. Click Enable Untested App (Figure A).
  5. When prompted, click Download And Enable.

Figure A

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Enabling the Whiteboard untested app.

Once you’ve installed the app, go to Files and click the New button, where you’ll now see a Whiteboard entry (Figure B).

Figure B

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Creating a new Whiteboard in Nextcloud 21.

This new app is great for quick collaborations and brainstorming within the Nextcloud platform.

Miscellaneous additions

There are a few other additions worth noting, including:

  • User colors in text messages

  • Status indicators, a raise hand feature, collapsable video bar, full-screen screen sharing, and group conversation description in Nextcloud Talk

  • Drag-and-drop support, configurable special folders, revamped threaded view, configurable attachment limits, and improved attachment handling in Nextcloud Mail

And that’s pretty much what you’re getting with Nextcloud 21. If you’re already using Nextcloud 20, you might want to seriously consider the upgrade–even if only to get the Whiteboard and the miscellaneous improvements. Finally, if you are an enterprise user, the new back-end for Files should be a must-have.

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This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic



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