Remote working culture has been booming for past few years in coding, graphics and other IT related fields. But the recent Coronavirus pandemic has made it mandatory for the companies to work from home if it’s possible for them.
While there are tons of tools to help you and your organization in working from home, let me share one open source software that has the features of several such tools combined into one.
Nextcloud Hub: A Suite of Essential Tools for Remote Collaboration
Nextcloud is an open source software that can be used to store files, photos and videos for personal usage like Dropbox. But it’s more than just a private cloud service.
You can add more than one users in Nextcloud and turn it into a collaboration platform for editing files in real time, chat with users, manage calendars, assign and manage tasks and more.
This video gives a good overview of its main features:
You can create workspaces based on user groups and share files in those folders. Users can create private files and folders and share them with selected users internally or externally (if they are allowed to). You can lock files in read only mode as well.
It also has a very powerful search feature that lets you search files from their name or tags. You can comment on files to provide feedback.
Text files can be edited in real time thanks to its builtin markdown editor. You can use OnlyOffice or Collabora to allow editing of docs, spreadsheet and presentations in real time.
It also has version control for the files so that you can revert changes easily.
Text Chat, Audio Chat, Video Chat and Web Meetings
With NextCloud Talk, you can interact with other users by text messaging, audio calls, video calls and group calls for web meetings. You can also take meeting minutes during the video calls and share your screen for presentations. There is also a mobile app to stay connected all the time.
You can also create Slack like channels (known as circles) to communicate between members concerned with a specific topic.
Calendar, Contacts & Mail
You can manage all of your organization’s contact, divide them into groups based on departments.
With the calendar, you can see when someone is free or what meetings are taking place, like you do on Outlook.
You can also use the Mail feature and import the emails from other providers to use them inside Nextcloud interface.
Kanban project management with Deck
Like Trello and Jira, you can create boards for various projects. You can create cards for each tasks, assign them to users and they can move it between the list based on the status of the task. It’s really up to you how you create boards to manage your projects in Kanban style.
Plenty of add-ons to get more out of Nextcloud
Nextcloud also has several add-ons (called apps). Some are developed by Nextcloud teams while some are from third-party developers. You may use them to extend the capability of Nextcloud.
For example, you can add a Feedly style feed reader and read news from various sources. Similarly, the Paswords addon lets you use Netxcloud as a password manager. You can even share common passwords with other Nextcloud users.
You can explore all the apps on its website. You’ll also notice the ratings of apps that will help you decide if you should use an app or not.
Many more features
Let me summarize all the features here:
Open source software that lets you own your data on your own servers
Seamlessly edit office documents together with others
Communicate with other members of your organization and do audio and video calls and held web meetings
Calendar lets you book meetings, brings busy view for meetings and resource booking and more
Manage users locally or authenticate through LDAP / Active Directory, Kerberos and Shibboleth / SAML 2.0 and more
Secure data with powerful file access control, multi-layer encryption, machine-learning based authentication protection and advanced ransomware recovery capabilities
Access existing storage silos like FTP, Windows Network Drives, SharePoint, Object Storage and Samba shares seamlessly through Nextcloud.
Automation: Automatically turn documents in PDFs, send messages to chat rooms and more!
Built in ONLYOFFICE makes collaborative editing of Microsoft Office documents accessible to everyone
Users can install desktop and mobile apps or simply use it in web browser
How to get Nextcloud
NextCloud is free and open source software. You can download it and install it on your own server.
You can use cloud server providers like Linode or DigitalOcean that allow you to deploy a brand new Linux server within minutes. And then you can use Docker to install NextCloud. At It’s FOSS, we use Linode for our NextCloud instance.
Nextcloud also has an enterprise plan where Nextcloud team itself handles everything for the users and provide premium support. You can check their pricing here.
If you decide to use Nextcloud, you should refer to its documentation or community forum to explore all its features.
At It’s FOSS, our entire team works remote. We have no centralized office anywhere and all of us work from our home. Initially we relied on non-open source tools like Slack, Google Drive etc but lately we are migrating to their open source alternatives.
Nextcloud is one of the first software we tried internally. It has features of Dropbox, Google Docs, Slack, Trello, Google Hangout all combined in one software.
NextCloud works for most part but we found it struggling with the video calls. I think that has to do with the fact that we have it installed on a server with 1 GB of RAM that also runs some other web services like Ghost CMS. We plan to move it to a server with better specs. We’ll see if that should address these issues.
Since the entire world is struggling with the Coronavirus pandemic, using a solution like Nextcloud could be helpful for you and your organization in working from home.
How are you coping during the Coronavirus lockdown? Like Linus Torvalds’ advice on remote working, do you also have some suggestion to share with the rest of us? Please feel free to use the comment section.
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Artist Andrew Wyeth, above, created most of his work within walking distance of his home in Pennsylvania or in his tiny realm in Maine. He said, “Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.”
While many of us are self-isolating indoors amidst the coronavirus outbreak. ZDNet had a special feature discussion with Linus Torvalds on his opinions or thoughts on working from home during the Coronavirus lockdown.
If you didn’t know already (how could you not?), Linus Torvalds is the creator of Linux and Git as well. And, he did all that while working from home. Here’s a video from 2016 where Torvalds shows his home office:
So, in this article, I’m going to share some of my key takeaways along with his responses from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols‘ interaction with Linus Torvalds for ZDNet.
Discard the fear of missing human interaction
Torvalds mentioned that when he first started working from home years ago, he was worried about missing human interaction that included going to the office, interacting with people, or simply going out for lunch.
Interestingly, he did not seem to miss any of that anymore- he preferred his time at home without human interaction.
Of course, isolating yourself from human interacting isn’t the best thing – but it looks like that is a good thing for now.
Take advantage of working from home
Just like we at It’s FOSS operate completely remote, you can do a lot of stuff without actually being at an office.
Not to forget – you can pet your cat as much as you want and I have 6 of them, I know it’s difficult (*giggles*).
And, as Linus Torvalds mentioned, the real advantage of remote work is “flexibility”. You do not necessarily need to sit in front of your desk working from 9-5 or more. Technically, you are free to take breaks in between and do whatever you wish at home.
In other words, Linus suggests avoiding re-creating an office at your home – which is worse than going to an office.
Efficient communication is the key
You can choose to have several meetings (video conferences or audio calls) in a day – but is it really necessary?
For some, it might be a big deal – but you should try to minimize the time spent on a meeting by clearing things up in brief.
Or, as Linus recommends, it’s best to have email lists to keep things on point and that’s how Linux kernel runs.
James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research, and a senior Linux kernel developer, also adds a suggestion that you should re-read your text to make sure that you’re sending precise information that no one will potentially skim through.
Personally, I prefer texts over voice for the very same reason. It saves you time, fact.
But, keep in mind, that you need to convey only the necessary information in a proper manner without overloading the information that you send via texts/email.
Track your time
Flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean that you can work less and lurk on social media platforms, unless that’s your job.
So, you need to make sure that you are making the most out of your time. To do that, you can use several tools to track your time on what you use and the duration of it on your computer.
You can even write it down on a sticky note to make sure you reach your goal of spending the allocated time for work efficiently. You can opt to utilize RescueTime or ActivityWatch to track the time you spend on your computer or smartphone.
Play with your cat (pets)
Not to discriminate against other pets, but that’s what Linus Torvalds mentioned.
Just because you are at your home – you have a lot to do while you schedule your work or try to efficiently utilize the time.
Linus insists that whenever you’re bored, you can head out to get essentials if necessary or simply play with the cat (or your pet).
While Linus Torvalds also mentioned that no one will be judging you when you’re at home, his suggestions seem to be on point and could be very useful for people who struggle with working from home.
Not just for the coronavirus outbreak – but if you are planning to work from home permanently, you should keep these things in mind.
What do you think about Linus Torvalds thoughts here? Do you agree with him?