ONLYOFFICEEarlier in 2019 ONLYOFFICE announced the release of the end-to-end document encryption reinforced by blockchain. The new technology is available as a developer preview in the new version of ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors.

ONLYOFFICE is a project developed by Ascensio System SIA, with its in Riga (Latvia). Ascensio Systems designed ONLY OFFICE for internal team collaboration. However, an attempt to introduce it to a wider audience proved successful. In consequence, it revised and expanded functionality which has  attracted use by more than 5M people (according to Ascensio Systems).

Ascensio System built its online document editors using the HTML5 Canvas element. This is what provides customers with an online office suite compatible with Microsoft Office and OpenDocument file formats (among others).

What is ONLYOFFICE?

ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors is a free open-source office suite which comprises editors for documents, spreadsheets and presentations working offline. The suite also provides users with quick access to collaborative features. For example it is possible to connect the editors, in order to collaborate on documents in real time, to:

  • ONLYOFFICE cloud
  • Nextcloud
  • ownCloud.

Starting with version 5.2.4, users can test end-to-end encryption by activating the corresponding mode. This creates an account in the ONLYOFFICE private network based on Parity, an Ethereum client with support for the Proof-of-Authority consensus engine.

This new feature enables the protection of documents (DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, ODT, ODS), including temporary files, using the AES-256 encryption algorithm to store these securely – both locally, or on any cloud platform. Blockchain technology with asymmetric encryption ensures reliable password storing and transferring.

A variation is to share encrypted documents for secure real-time co-editing. All documents and user inputs are encrypted on the client side. This means that when data transfers to a server it is in encrypted form, with decryption in real time on the receiving end (assuming the receiving user has appropriate access rights to the document).

How does it work?

When someone creates a blockchain account, this generates one private and public key pair for that user. When he or she connects to the cloud with end-to-end encryption enabled for the first time, the public key saves to the ONLYOFFICE database.

Saving a document, with end-to-end encryption enabled, means a 256-bit password automatically generates to protect that document. This password, in turn, is encrypted using the public key together with a UUID as a file name. The author blockchain account address stores in the blockchain network.

When another person shares a document, the public key (of the sharer) encrypts the password which transfers via the blockchain network. Decryption happens using the receiver’s private key. When co-editing a document, all inputs encrypt, so that no one can see the changes if a third party does not have appropriate access rights (or does not enable the end-to-end encryption).

One last point. Users don’t need to enter passwords once they have enabled end-to-end encryption.

Versions

ONLYOFFICE comes in four version: Cloud Service, Enterprise Edition, Integration Edition and Developer Edition. These have the following facets:

Cloud service offers:

  • online documents editors and productivity business tools provided via SaaS
  • no installation required
  • a complete set of business tools
  • secure and reliable hosting
  • a sub-version cloud for non-profit organisations
  • a cloud for personal use.

The Enterprise Edition has:

  • online document editors and productivity business tools for a private network
  • self-hosting
  • enhanced security measures
  • a variety of installation options
  • professional support
  • a choice between a Community Edition (up to 20 users) or the full Enterprise Edition.

The integration Edition offers:

  • online document editors and connectors for popular web services
  • self-hosting
  • Nextcloud, ownCloud, Alfresco, Confluence, SharePoint and third-party connectors
  • professional support
  • a choice between Community Edition or Integration Edition.

The Developer Edition has:

  • online document editors to integrate with a service you are building
  • self-hosting
  • dual licensing (as long as users respect the GNU AGPL v.3 license, users can use the ONLYOFFICE open source solution available on GitHub)
  • API (access to Document Server, Plugins and Macros, Document Builder, Community Server, Hosted Solution)
  • the Document Builder
  • SaaS and on-premise (integrate ONLYOFFICE Document Editors with web solutions, whether cloud or on-premise).

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

The ONLYOFFICE use of blockchain for productivity does differentiate it from Office365 and/or OpenOffice. So does the flexibility when it comes to the cloud dimension, though it is noticeable that commercial clouds (AWS, Azure, Oracle and others) do not warrant mention.

Enterprise Times (ET) finds itself intrigued. On one level is not quite sure of the blockchain value proposition. On another, we must ask if another office suite is desirable or necessary. This is a suite to dig deeper into, which ONLYOFFICE makes simple to start (even though its web site is horrible to navigate or obtain information from).

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Charles Brett
Charles Brett is a business/technology analyst consultant. His specialist areas include enterprise software, blockchain and enterprise mobility tech (including metering). Specific industry sectors of interest and experience include finance (especially systems supporting wholesale finance), telecommunications and energy. Charles has spoken at multiple industry conferences, has written for numerous publications (including the London Times and the Financial Times). He was the General Chair of the bi-annual High Performance Systems Workshop, 2005. In addition he is an author and novelist. His Technology books include: Making the Most of Mobility Vol I (eBook, 2012); Explaining iTunes, iPhones and iPads for Windows Users (eBook, 2011); 5 Axes of Business Application Integration (2004). His published novels, in the Corruption Series, include: The HolyPhone Confessional Crisis, Corruption’s Price: A Spanish Deceit and Virginity Despoiled. The fourth in The Corruption Series - Resurrection - has is now available. Charles has a B.A. and M.A in Modern History from the University of Oxford. He has lived or worked in Italy, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, California and New York, Spain, Israel, Estonia and Cyprus.

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