It's now been a full year since ownCloud, the open source data syncing platform, launched as a commercial entity. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical back then that the company would be able to succeed in a market already inundated with competing products. But ownCloud managed to hold its own and more in 2012, and has its sights set on continued expansion in 2013, according to recent statements from the company.

It's hard to think of a more saturated market than the one for file-syncing platforms. From Dropbox to Google Drive to Canonical's Ubuntu One, there are dozens and dozens of software packages to choose from in this category. (See, for example, this very long list.) Meanwhile, the fact that ownCloud's commercial offerings are based on open source code that anyone can download for free only complicates the challenges the company faces in turning a profit.

Granted, the approach to file-syncing adopted by ownCloud--which, as its name implies, allows organizations to build their own clouds, retaining control of both the hardware and software sides of their data-syncing systems--brings a fresh take to the channel. By itself, though, that's hardly enough to push customers to ownCloud amid so many competing options.

Yet over the last year, ownCloud has experienced significant growth despite the various challenges it faces. In quantifiable terms, the company boasts:
  • Nearly 100 members of its partner program.
  • More than 1.5 million downloads of the ownCloud server software, counting both the community and commercial editions, with consistent increases in download rates of 40 percent from quarter to quarter.
  • Approximately 200,000 downloads of ownCloud mobile apps and desktop PC clients.
  • "Dozens" of enterprise customers throughout the world--which, according to ownCloud representatives who I asked for a more precise overview, represent between 50 and 100 organizations that include "schools, well-known financial companies, even government entities."
In 2013, according to ownCloud representatives, the company will continue this momentum by announcing "our most stable, secure, open and feature-rich sever edition yet," as well as continuing to build partnerships and showcase ownCloud to potential customers.

To be sure, at the outset of a new year, the data-syncing market remains as competitive as ever. The path ownCloud has before it is anything but smooth and simple. But given the success enjoyed so far by the company, and the open source project around which it was founded, it seems like a safe enough bet that ownCloud likely will remain an important innovator at the crossroads of open source and data-syncing going forward.