Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE improve user storage mobility and document collaboration in North-West University

The North-West University (NWU) in South Africa has implemented Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE as a combined solution to ensure secure data exchange and safe collaboration on research documents.

Hans Erasmus, a junior infrastructure architect at the NWU, shares the university experience with us! Keep reading for a summary of this use case or check the case study for the full story!


The North-West University is a South African higher education and research institution with three campuses at Potchefstroom, Mahikeng and Vanderbijlpark. The NWU officially came into being on 1 January 2004 as a part of the South African government’s plan to transform higher education. With its merged status and 8 faculties, the NWU became one of the largest universities in the region counting over 70,000 students.

The university has 3 physically distributed locations but maintains the main infrastructure from Potchefstroom, its head office.

NWU picture

Replacing ‘outdated’ with innovative

Who better than a research institution appreciates innovation? Schools and universities are the places where, perhaps, we first learn about why innovation is important, and at NWU they know that not only theory matters, but the example should be given as well! What is considered innovation in the nineties has a good chance of not being called innovation after some decades and users tend to use modern tools for they needs, which makes sense, but not always works:

Hans Erasmus says: “If an organization does not cater for the needs of their employees, those employees will just go and find these solutions on their own. It can easily be a cause of chaos as you will end up with 100’s or even 1000’s of different individual solutions to try and supply end-user support for. So the only logical, rational path to follow is to try and keep up with the technology without losing your sanity.”

“There were widespread rumours about universities dropping ownCloud and moving to Nextcloud.”

In 2017, NWU choose Nextcloud as a modern solution to replace “outdated” technology and later combined it with ONLYOFFICE to suit all their organizational needs regarding research document collaboration. For now, about 6500 users have access to Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE and they are very happy about it!

Key requirements: security comes first!

Above everything else, it seems that end users want their data with them at all times, and obviously safe as well.

“After some deep research, it became clear to the team that Nextcloud was the future and the team moved over.”

Key requirements of the new solution:

  • A secure replacement for the Network Drive
  • Be able to sync data for remote, offline work
  • Feature good mobile clients
  • Allow storage on SWIFT / OpenStack / Object storage
  • Offer online, real-time document editing
  • Be an easy fit in the existing infrastructure at the university

The university deals in various research fields, some of which contain ethical data, which in turn have very strict rules to abide by. Some of the NWU’s collaborative data is not meant to appear on ‘leaky’ platforms due to legislation as one of the various reasons , making control over data a primary concern and a deciding factor in choosing Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE.

Hans comments: “As is apparent throughout the times we live in, self-hosting is still the best solution to keeping your data safe. The biggest drive behind the Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE integration was to supply a platform on which researchers could safely store, collaboratively work on and distribute data, all within their own control.

Conclusions and more

North-West University moved to a Nextcloud solution backed by a Nextcloud Enterprise Subscription after starting off with a self installed implementation. The system is now running well and is providing the university with a future-ready, always adapting and market leading technology to improve productivity for employees.

Read the full case study to learn more about the initial reasons that made NWU choose Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE solutions, infrastructure decisions and mostly used features. Check here to find more whitepapers and case studies for a deep insight in what Nextcloud has to offer in your industry.

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