BitTorrent Sync is something I’ve been looking for for a long, long time.
I use a lot of computers and often find myself needing a file that I have stored at home when I’m at the office, or remoted into a server somewhere on the Internet, or… you get the idea. Over the years I’ve used dozens of different things to access these files from FTP servers to rsync to Dropbox, on and on and on.
Dropbox was my favorite for awhile because it thought ahead for me and sync’d files before I needed them, but then I experienced one of the biggest problems with trusting your data on someone else’s server; they got hacked .
Since then I’ve been looking for a way to get that level of simplicity without having to rely on other people’s servers, but they all leaned on a server at some point, or required some sort of account, or transmitted data using non- secure methods, etc. Enter BitTorrent Sync .
I’ve used BitTorrent to transfer files on a case-by-case basis, but this is awkward and requires forethought (you need to publish the files before you forget them), and it also puts your files out in the open which isn’t always acceptable.
BitTorrent Sync uses the same “swarm” mechanism for moving data round efficiently, but in the form of a sync application that lets you share folders on your computer and automatically sync their contents with other authorized machines. The transmitted data is encrypted, and since authorizing other sync points requires exchanging an encryption key, security is preserved.
Other services provide encryption but what if their servers get hacked? This is where BitTorrent Sync really shines because there are no servers to hack. BitTorrent Sync uses the same serverless mechanisms of the regular BitTorrent protocol to connect computers and sync data across the Internet. This is done through various discovery mechanisms which are configurable depending on the level of privacy and anonymity you require.
My only beef with BitTorrent Sync is that it’s currently closed-source, and there’s no public API either. It’s still in beta so this may change, but I’m not going to count on it. I have some very interesting application ideas for BitTorrent Sync, but I’m holding back a bit because I’m cautious to build on top of closed software, but hey maybe we’ll get lucky and they will open it up, or perhaps an open alternative will come along.
In the meantime it’s an excellent way to synchronize your data in an very secure and private way which also happens to be free (as in beer), at least for the time being.
BitTorrent Sync has clients for Mac, Linux, Android and Windows. The Linux version, while lacking an X-Windows interface has a cool http-based front-end that makes using it on “headless” servers and NAS boxes a piece of cake.