BitTorrent Sync, My Dropbox Replacement

Dropbox works great at what it does, I think just about everyone would agree with that statement. However it just doesn’t “fit” for me anymore. I don’t know if its the security issues that regardless of how many of them are irrelevant or not they exist. The problem with Dropbox alternatives (which there are a lot of) is that while I want them to be like Dropbox they fail to be Dropbox. So Dropbox ends up being the “standard” that as far as I’ve found there is not any app that meets the standard… and it sucks.

One of the most important features I required for my Dropbox alternative was the LAN sync which allowed me regardless of my internet connection to share files locally – it seems this is not a popular feature in Dropbox alternatives. So this eventually lead me to BitTorrent Sync.

BitTorrent Sync

BitTorrent Sync

I had heard of it before but never really tried it. Maybe when I first saw it the software was too early in it’s infancy for me to really want to try it and I didn’t see it again until now? Who knows…

Basically with BitTorrent Sync I get my P2P lan sync functionality, including their iOS app which can automatically backup my photos to my computer. Which happens right over my own wifi vs trying to upload over my slow internet to some third party server and then download it again, on slow internet, to my computer. Thanks to P2P what took 4 days to sync before from my phone to my computer took 30 minutes.

My Upload Speed Sucks

I haven’t blogged about it yet but I moved in October this year. I moved away from that super fast low latency 100Mbps fiber optic line to a rural area where our “Extreme” cable internet plan tops out at 10Mbps down/1Mbps up. This same internet has gone out 5 times in the course of a month, so I looked into a cheap backup connection and if the phone company offered DSL in the area it would have cost a whole $8 for 6Mbps down… but we are so far out DSL is not an option. Neither is 3G, let alone LTE, because cell services is on averge non-existant. Not only is it maybe 1 bar at the best of times it is not even 3G when it is one bar.

All of this leads into my need for a P2P system so I can quickly switch from my iMac to a Macbook so I can get out of my office on occasion and enjoy our back yard.

Our new Backyard

P2P vs Central Servers

As a developer Dropbox vs BitTorrent Sync in my mind immediately relates to SVN vs Git (or Mercurial for HG folks). Dropbox (like SVN) has a central server everything goes back to and comes from on the clients. This saves you when you are not home and still need your Dropbox because it is “always on” whether your computer is on or not. BitTorrent Sync on the other hand like Git is P2P or computers speak back to each other rather than connecting to a central server. This means if I leave my home network for the Macbook to connect to my iMac it would have to go through my slow internet… not good.

Even though it is P2P this does not mean I HAVE to limit myself though. While the server is still being provisioned I am going to setup a server with BitTorrent Sync running on it remotely. This server has 4 1TB hard drives in RAID 10 (this creates 2TB of space that is redundant and twice as fast as a single 2TB hard drive) along with a GigE uplink. For me this means that even away from home I have a reliable peer within my little personal cloud that is also “always on” even if my computers are not.

Sharing Folders

Not using Dropbox means I cannot share folders or access shared folders like I used to. That is OK for me though. My plan once I have my data server running is to also run Nginx allowing directory listings where I can have a least one “public” folder. I can probably allow secured access to other files but will wait to do that at a later time.

If someone were to share a folder with me on Dropbox, I can still access it through the Dropbox website without installing their application.

Security?

One of my original Dropbox concerns was security. There are always security concerns but in my case I’ve limited them. My server will be secured as much as possible but the biggest benefit here is most people do not know me or my servers. Dropbox is a target, it is a company that many people trust with their data. There is no way not to look at it as a giant bullseye. Nothing digital is ever impenetrable but by putting myself way out in left field I am “out of sight” and therfore “out of mind” 🙂