7 Jan 2016

Say Goodbye to Google Contact Sync & Google Drive, Welcome OwnCloud

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] am paranoid. I don’t really like companies knowing much about me and Google is one such company that knows where I go, which device I use, who are my contacts, whom I contact via email and probably much more that my better half (note yet) would possibly know about me. Why? Because I am an Android user and I use Google’s applications that are tied deep into the Android system in a way that it makes extremely difficult for me to remove them and perhaps live without them. The same applies to you and if your thoughts coincide with mine, we really need to get rid of Google’s closed system.

Please note that we are not against Google storing its users’ data because we know they do so to enhance our user experience and also to make more money! But to be completely anonymous, you might want to know how to use Google’s OS without Google’s apps. This may be something similar to installing a CyanogenMod ROM without flashing the Google Apps package. Though the ROM is open source, Google apps aren't and it is managed by a closed backend system about which we have no idea. If you are one among those who are connected to people working at Google, you need to take control of the data you share with the company.

What Is ownCloud?

ownCloud is an open source system that helps you store your files online and also sync your contacts, bookmarks, Music, videos, calendar and much more that you can see in the screenshot below. A major advantage of using ownCloud is that you have complete control over your data because the data is stored on your own server – not on Google’s servers. No one else except you has the access to your data. ownCloud is open source – you may even clone it and run it on your own server. With this post, we’ll tell you how you can set it up on your own server. Since this guide is mainly for Android, we will make it short and let you know how to do it using a Web installer contrary to running the installation on a Linux server.

Setup your own Sync Server using ownCloud

To begin with installing ownCloud on your own server, you need to know what you need. For installation, you need your own server. We recommend HostGator (referral link) since we use the same or you can refer some free providers that support ownCloud installation. It is recommended that you use SSL to prevent from getting hacked. You can download setup-owncloud.php to your PC and upload it to your server where you can access it via a Web browser. Once you access the PHP file from your web browser, you will be shown some instructions on your screen that guide you on how to setup ownCloud. Make sure your server is running PHP 5.3+ (HostGator does). You also need to configure the Database to be used for your ownCloud installation which can be done easily from your server’s Control Panel. For more instructions on this, you can refer ownCloud Admin Manual.

Setting up the Sync Client

To get contact Sync working, you need CardDav. CardDAV is an address book client/server protocol designed to allow users to access and share contact data on a server. This protocol is not natively supported by Android but you can, of course, use a third party app to get it working on your device. One such app is available on the Play Store (unfortunately) which is free but in beta state. You can download it here. Once the app is in its final stage, it will be open sourced.
After you have CardDav on your Android device and also after you have set up the sync server, it is time for you to configure CardDav to sync contacts with your server. To do this, open up CardDav and enter your sync server details. The server address would be the URL you use to access your ownCloud followed by /remote.php/CardDav The username and password would be the same you use while logging into your ownCloud installation.

You can enable One-Way Sync so that no data is lost from your server even if you delete it on your client. If you wish changes on the client to reflect on the server, you may leave it unchecked. Read the developer’s wiki for more on client configuration.
Unfortunately, if you are using HTC One, contact sync will not work for you. Read why.
Finally, you should see contact sync working on your Android device when you go to Settings>Accounts & Sync.

If you have been using Google contact sync (which is more likely), you can log into Gmail, go to contacts and download all of them as a VCF file. After this, you can go ahead and log into the web interface of your ownCloud and upload the VCF file that will upload all contacts to your server, much better than syncing, eh?

File Sync

File sync is rather simpler than contact sync. You can install ownCloud’s Android app which isn’t free but costs you only $1. After you download the app, you will be asked to enter the URL to your ownCloud server installation and the login credentials after which you will be able to browse all directories on your ownCloud server and also create/delete them.

The Downsides

Google contact sync is free, but ownCloud’s Android app isn’t. If you don’t wish to depend on a close system like Google’s and have full control of your data, you need to spend something though it is not a huge amount considering the advantages you get out of such open-system synchronization and storage. Since ownCloud is open source, it is being continuously developed. You may face some bugs but that should get resolved as and when ownCloud is updated with the help of some active developers. One more downside – you need to be a GEEK (is it a downside? duh!).
Let I know how ownCloud work for you or if you face any issues, I might help you with it. Alternatively, be a part of our Facebook page.


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