Nextcloud Hub brings productivity to home office

Over the last months, tens of thousands of companies have introduced home office policies. Remote work has been facilitated by a patchwork of solutions, causing an explosion in complexity at IT departments. Our community has taken on the challenge and focused on delivering, in Nextcloud Hub, the best possible remote team collaboration technology on the market. Today’s release, code name “home office”, brings document collaboration to video chats, introduces password-less login and improves performance.

The 19th release of Nextcloud, coming out just 1 day after our 4 year anniversary, introduces:

      🔒 Password-less authentication and many other security measures
      📝 Talk 9 with built-in office document editing courtesy of Collabora, a grid view & more
      🚀 MUCH improved performance, 📆 Deck integration in Calendar, 🙇 guest account groups and more!

COVID has accelerated a trend already visible in many businesses, forcing them to provide a secure remote collaboration solution to their employees. We named our release “home office” as it provides a large productivity boost for organizations employing many home office workers, like we do ourselves.

— Frank Karlitschek, CEO of Nextcloud GmbH

How to get it

You can download the latest Nextcloud Hub from our website. If you are on an existing Nextcloud, the updater will notify you of the new version once we make it available. We usually roll out gradually and often, especially if issues are found, only make the first minor release available to all users. If you don’t want to wait and upgrade sooner, version 19 is in the beta channel. You can enable the beta channel, refresh the page, then upgrade. After the upgrade you can go back to the stable channel and you’ll be notified when 19.0.1 is out!

Password-less Authentication makes security easy

When logging in from home to access office documents and having video calls, the many different platforms and complicated passwords make life harder than needed for employees. Nextcloud introduces password-less, secure login, where users can simply plug in a hardware key and get to work. Together with many other new security measures, being productive at home becomes a standard solution in organizations that have deployed Nextcloud Hub.

Easy logging in with biometrics or a hardware key

Password-less authentication relies on WebAuthn, a new W3C global standard for secure authentication on the Web supported by all leading browsers and platforms including Windows Hello and many hardware keys. It offers a choice of authentication options and stronger account security than the usual username/password combination. Developed in collaboration with open source hardware security key manufacturer Nitrokey, the implementation in Nextcloud makes it the first on-premises collaboration platform to provide support for this new standard.

Users can configure WebAuthn options including hardware security keys in their user settings. Read the blog by Nitrokey to imagine what it is to live in a world without passwords!

screenshot of the WebAuthn settings
Enabling WebAuthn is very easy! click for a full screenshot

Having employees in home office means a strong security standard is required to protect data. As most attacks target users as weakest link, the combination of easy to use hardware keys with WebAuthn provides employers with a huge security advantage for remote workers. Nextcloud’s impressive latest release works perfect with Nitrokey hardware, giving administrators a fully open, verifiable security stack they can trust.

— Jan Suhr, Nitrokey

screenshot of the password policy configuration
The new password policy configuration

Protecting accounts anywhere

In addition to simplifying authentication, a series of new security measures makes it easier for administrators to secure the accounts of remote workers. This release of Nextcloud Hub introduces:

  • Optional automatic logout
  • Password reuse limitations
  • Automatic account locking in response to failed login attempts
  • Password expiration features

These features not only help keep data secure when working remote but are also are important in markets with heavy compliance requirements like health care. The development of these capabilities was accelerated to help hospitals using Nextcloud in the fight against COVID-19. Learn more about that in our press release about that with Harvard University here.

As a fully open source, European business, Nextcloud has always put the security and privacy of its customers first. Being first to market with support for WebAuthn and offering the most extensive compliance capabilities in the on-premises market enables businesses to introduce home office work using Nextcloud Hub with confidence.

— Roeland Douma, security lead at Nextcloud GmbH

Replacing coffee chat and focused work

Work in organizations alternates between intensive work in a focus group putting ideas in writing, and relaxed conversations during a coffee break. Nextcloud Hub facilitates both activities with a multitude of group and individual chat rooms and integrated collaborative document editing.

Have casual or business calls and chats

A virtual water cooler or coffee room, for teams or larger parts of the organization, provides a space for banter and off-topic conversations, sharing of ideas and simple “good morning” and “good evening”. The new grid view facilitates a casual-Friday hangout with the team or department, perhaps at beer-o-clock.

The introduction of automatic scaling of call quality will help participants on limited internet connections at home still be an integral part of the team! This and other performance and scalability improvements were developed while working on deployments in the German public sector and are complemented by the release of the high-performance back-end for Talk. The back-end, required for calls with 10-50 participants, has been developed by our technology partner, leading video conferencing solution provider Struktur AG.

Learn more about this and other improvements in Talk 9 in our earlier announcement.

Good news available also for the Nextcloud Talk apps for mobile fans: new major Nextcloud Talk releases for Android and iOS are here!

Nextcloud Hub plays a key role in the growing demand for scalable software for team collaboration and e-learning. Our decades of experience with open source and video conferencing software, combined with the audio/video technology behind the powerful back-end, meets the expectations for a reliable and scalable Nextcloud Hub team conference solution that organizations and businesses need to master the new challenges of the future.

— Niels Mache, CEO of Struktur AG

Work on documents together

Talk 9 introduces direct editing of office documents like presentations and spreadsheets during video calls or from within a chat room, making note taking during regular meetings or focused polishing of a slide deck a routine task. To facilitate seamless in-call and in-chat document editing, the enterprise-ready office document solution from our partner, Collabora Productivity, has been deeply integrated in Talk.

To share and edit a file with others, simply drag it in the chat or use the file upload dialog. This also works during a call! You can then click the image or video to view it. If the file is an office document, a simple click will open the editor and while your call continues, you can edit it together with everyone else in the call or chat, including guests. An account on Nextcloud is not needed for either the call, viewing or editing a file! Uploading files currently does require an account.

Collabora Online will be shipped out of the box with Nextcloud Hub in version 19. A special community server has been developed which dramatically eases the work required for installation, avoiding the need for web server configuration, docker containers and more. This version however sacrifices scalability for this ease of installation and is not suitable beyond private use. We recommend the existing Collabora Office solutions for that, with docker images for small offices and more scalable solutions available for enterprises through Nextcloud GmbH.

Most home office work centers around documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The integration of Collabora Online into Talk gives teams a breakthrough in collaboration and productivity.

— Michael Meeks, CEO at Collabora Productivity

Learn more about Collabora Online as document editor in Nextcloud in this press release from Collabora.

Quickly finding what you need

When working remotely, communication and organization both become harder than in an office. Nextcloud Hub features many little, helpful elements to keep data organized. Users can tag and comment on files and to let their colleagues know what they can find where, users can add context to folders, adding a description or even a todo list on top.

In the Nextcloud Hub user interface, users can expect quick ways to find their files, with recently used, modified and shared files on top, people you frequently share with in the file share dialog and favorites, recently used and shared files in the side bar.

At a technical level, devices and network connections at home are frequently at a disadvantage compared to the office infrastructure, making performance a critical factor for home office workers. Under the hood, this release introduces a number of significant improvements:

  • an up to 5x reading improvement for integrated external SFTP storage
  • An up to 2.5x faster file scanning
  • 25-50% faster generation of image thumbnails and use of embedded thumbnail images in OpenDocument files and Krita files
  • Ability to use ‘fseek’ in S3 storage. This allows to, for example, start playing a video file without first downloading the entire file.
  • Brought OpenStack Swift performance to the same level of S3 by enabling ‘streaming’ file. This means the Nextcloud server doesn’t first download the file from the Swift storage and then sends it to the user, but starts sending the data already while receiving. Swift was also updated to be able to deal with larger objects than 5Gb.
  • NFS file storage reads data in larger chunks, improving bandwidth and performance significantly.
  • SMB storage was enhanced with better ACL support, hiding folders that users have no access too, reducing both the browser load and the number of folders users might have to search through to find their files.

Deck in action

A virtual Kanban board

Kanban boards, where team members write their tasks on cards and put them on “TODO”, “IN PROGRESS” and “DONE” stacks during their collaboration, are often used in teams to coordinate work. To help team members in home office, Nextcloud includes a digital kanban app named Deck.

With this release Nextcloud makes it possible for apps to provide a calendar or address book. This allows Deck to provide calendars with todo’s and deadlines from its boards, making it easier for all team members to keep track of their progress.

Welcoming to guests

Collaboration happens not just across a distance within a team, but also across organizational boundaries. Guest accounts can easily be created and admins can delegate management of these guests to group admins. While creating the guests, in Nextcloud Hub 19 a group can be assigned to the guest account. When admins have restricted sharing to users within their own group, assigning a group to new guest accounts becomes mandatory. This way (group) admins can create multiple groups with guests who can share with each other but not other users, for example.

The enumeration of users and (guest) accounts and auto-completion of them has also been optimized to ensure user data does not leak beyond intended groups.

Stay safe and productive with Nextcloud

This release truly sets a new standard for on-premises collaboration technology, bringing more capabilities than ever before within a single platform. We invite all our users to install the latest of Nextcloud Hub and be productive, from home or in the office!

Thank you 🙇 to our amazing community!

As always, we want to thank our community for their invaluable contributions – Nextcloud would not exist without all the awesome members of our community that regularly help us make Nextcloud better, submitting patches, translating Nextcloud to other languages or testing and reporting issues!

Feedback 🔥🤩👍

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