BitTorrent Sync: The free and unlimited alternative to Dropbox
File synchronisation services like Dropbox have become essential for many businesses. The ability to synchronise data across multiple machines, work on files collaboratively and to access data on the go are just some of the benefits many small businesses would have had to go without before Dropbox came along.
That said services like Dropbox are not without their critics. Most of the criticism relates to the fact that these services rely on a master copy being stored on servers owned and maintained by the company providing the syncing service but this is where BitTorrent Sync is different.
BitTorrent has become synonymous with downloading music and films illegally. In reality it is a technology which is used frequently throughout the internet as a way to make transferring large amounts more efficient. I will not go into too much detail about how it works but essentially it allows you to download a file in bits from different locations rather than downloading a copy taken from a complete file in one specific location.
In terms of synchronising data across your devices this means you can cut out the need for the central server which in turn removes many of the draw backs of using services like Dropbox.
Because services like Dropbox use their servers as a hub, they need to keep a tight control over the space allocated for each user. All that space needs to be managed and maintained and more importantly paid for. The free accounts are designed to get you in the door with the hope you then become a paying customers when you need more space.
Because BitTorrent Sync doesn't have the centralised server, your only limit is the amount of space available on your devices.
Sync Multiple Folders
Another common complaint is that you can only synchronise the contents of a specific Dropbox (or equivalent) folder. Simply put, one account has one folder which can synchronise across multiple devices. BitTorrent Sync doesn't use accounts, it synchronises folders between devices. Because there is no need for an account you can setup as many synchronising folders as you like.
The ability to sync multiple folders also means you can control what data is synced to each device so you could sync all your music and video files across your PC and laptop but where space is limited like a tablet device you could decide to only sync your music folder.
Data stays on your infrastructure
There is no way to use services like Dropbox without having a copy of your data stored on their servers. This means you are reliant on them to keep you data private and secure (something Dropbox has struggle with in the past). BitTorrent Sync is a tool rather than a service. While there will always be security risks when synchronising data, at least with BitTorrent Sync you can keep the data on your infrastructure.
Many file synchronisation services have a different pricing levels dependant on how much space you need. While these costs are unlikely to become your largest IT expense, it can ramp up quite quickly and for small businesses or personal users it can be enough to put you off completely. BitTorrent Sync is completely free no matter how much data you need to synchronise.
Not having a central server means that there is no website you can login to where you can access your synchronised data. The only way to get to your data is via one of the devices you have setup the relevant folder sync. This may or may not be an issue for many people. Synchronising data between machines is certainly the major component for these types of services but being able to access you data from any machine with a web browser is certainly a major advantage.
The other major consideration is that not as many people use BitTorrent Sync as use the larger services like Dropbox. Sharing folders with clients and suppliers is common place as so many people already use Dropbox but for the moment at least BitTorrent Sync has quite a bit of catching up to do.
Lastly BitTorrent Sync relies on synchronising data from your other devices. If you have a device which is never on at the same time as the others then that device will not sync up.
Overall we were very impressed by BitTorrent Sync. The drawbacks could be significant if you rely on the web portal or your devices are not on at the same time but if those are not issues for you we would find it very hard to justify continued use of services like Dropbox.
Check out BitTorrent Sync at http://www.bittorrent.com/sync