Cloud

Forget Dropbox: BitTorrent Sync Allows You To Skip the Cloud Entirely

BitTorrent is harnessing their infamous filesharing protocol for good.
The BitTorrent offices in San Francisco (via Stack Overflow)

The BitTorrent offices in San Francisco (via Stack Overflow)

As cloud service companies battle it out for supremacy, one file sharing service sets itself apart by skipping the cloud altogether. It’s called BitTorrent Sync, and starting this week, it’s going to be available through Netgear’s native app store.

Sync is like a cloud storage solution, only with no actual cloud storage involved.

Cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive keep your data in a central online database that you can access from any device — for example, you can work with files on your tablet or laptop, and when you switch over to your PC, the files will still be accessible.

Sync is similar, only there’s no central database. All of your devices are simply connected to one another, so when you change a file on your phone, it will update that information across all of your devices directly.

Sync takes the BitTorrent protocol that’s often used to download music and movies illegally, and harnesses that technology for good — helping you move files at what BitTorrent claims is seven times the speed of Dropbox. It’s free to use, and the only limits on how much storage you have are based on whatever devices you’re connecting with it.

The software is still in beta testing, but has already racked up two million users.

(image via BitTorrent)

(image via BitTorrent)

Still, cloud services do have one thing going for them: with Sync, the sending and receiving devices need to be turned on in order to move the information back and forth. Cloud servers are always “on” and can transfer and update information even when some of your devices are off.

That’s where the Netgear partnership comes in. Netgear makes network-attached storage (NAS) devices or, put simply, file servers. Individuals and businesses who want to avoid cloud storage can get a small server and use Sync to make it their own private cloud storage.

“When you have a NAS device, it’s designed to be always on,” BitTorrent VP of Product Development Erik Pounds told Betabeat, “so it will hold your data and make it available even when your device is off.”

This gives BitTorrent an edge for anyone wary of cloud services, which have been giving people more to worry about lately than just pricing and storage limitations.

“[Cloud storage servers] are just very big data servers that are growing and growing and growing,” Mr. Pounds said, “and the more they grow powerful, the more control they gain over your data.”


Snoops, Thieves, and Idiots

If you do use cloud storage solutions, the least you could do is give yourself a second layer of security. Read more here.


Handing all of your data over to a cloud service can cause all kinds of problems. For one, a thief getting his hands on your username and password could potentially let him access all of your files. But another growing concern — especially in the international community — is that cloud storage services that keep databases here in the U.S. are compliant with the NSA.

Dropbox has taken flak lately for its compliance with government requests for access, and that outrage came to a peak when they took Condoleezza Rice onto their Board of Directors. If the government requests data from Dropbox, there are instances when Dropbox can hand it over without informing you that they’ve even done it.

“If someone shows up with a discover complaint, cloud services can abide by that and not let you know,” Mr. Pounds said. With Sync, if the government showed up with a warrant, at least you’d know, and could deal with it personally.

People who are hesitant to use cloud storage are Sync’s biggest market opportunity — whether it’s businesses and individuals looking for something more private, or governmental organizations that are legally unable to use cloud services.

BitTorrent doesn’t have a plan to monetize Sync yet, and insists that the basic product will always be free. They don’t see themselves as Dropbox or OneDrive’s competition — more like ahead of the game entirely.

“There’s a lot of benefits to cloud storage,” Mr. Pounds said, “but we’re at the tip of the iceberg.”

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com