Photographer Niall McKenna: 5 Ways I Use BitTorrent Sync

In today’s post, photographer and Shutter Discovery blogger Niall McKenna shows how Sync can be used for things like file backup and group collaboration on projects.

From Niall:

The primary use that first drew me to BitTorrent Sync was the ability to backup my data on my machines easily, which allowed me to have complete control over where the data was going, avoiding reliance on the cloud (where you do not have total control over where exactly your data is stored). Another reason to use Sync for backing up is if you have a large amount of data to backup, using cloud services would take months to upload all your data, where as sync can be a lot quicker for the initial backup. You can find out more details on my backup strategy here.

Niall McKenna BitTorrent Sync


I have found Sync incredibly useful and easy for sharing files while collaborating on a project. You simply create a new folder to share and give the others on the project the key (or link) and that’s it; now every file change is updated in the background. I think the peer-to-peer protocol lends itself very well to this kind of scenario, as the files can be uploaded or downloaded from multiple peers at once. For instance, say that one member of the team lives in a different time zone and their laptop has been turned off. If the others on the team are already synced up, when the third member turns their laptop on, Sync begins to retrieve the updates as it can retrieve it from both the other peers at once. For this reason, the speed can be faster than a typical cloud-based system as the bandwidth is shared across multiple sources and the sum of their upload speeds is the pace at which you download the updates in the folder.

The versioning system in Sync is also hugely useful in this type of environment in case a file is accidentally deleted or you must revert to a previous version of a file. All old files are stored inside the Sync folder under a subfolder for 30 days (by default) which can be adjusted in the settings. This operation happens to all the peers, so everyone will have local access to previous versions of the files. Another major advantage is that if you are sharing files between members on the local network, it is much faster than using a cloud service equivalent because the files can be transferred directly through the LAN and can use the full bandwidth capabilities of the network, where as many cloud based services do offer some kind of LAN functionality they are often speed limited.

Phone Backup

Niall McKenna BitTorrent Sync

Both Android and Apple phones have auto backup systems built into their operating systems which allow you to backup to the cloud seamlessly; however, this means the files have to be downloaded again from the cloud if you have to retrieve them for some reason. Using Sync allows you to have the same functionality of automatically backing up your photos, but you can back them up directly to your computer or laptop. You then have direct local access to your photos from your computer and on top of this, Sync allows you to backup any folder on your phone so you can also backup any videos, music, documents or any other files you wish (and not just your photos and videos).

File Synchronizing

You may already be using a service like Dropbox to sync up some of your files between your laptop and desktop for example. This can be achieved using BitTorrent Sync as well, and it keeps all of your data stored on your local machines- which I find to be more secure than relying on cloud services. One minor disadvantage when using Sync in this scenario is that at least 2 of your machines need to be on in order for it to work, as the data cannot be retrieved otherwise; however, I don’t personally find any problem with this as I usually leave my desktop on most of the time and on top of that, I use my HP Microservers as a kind of personal cloud.

Media Distribution

Niall McKenna BitTorrent Sync

One use of Sync that I have discovered quite recently is using it to distribute or publish media; for example, the “No Agenda Show” podcast is available through the usual means of RSS and direct download, but it is also available through BitTorrent Sync. I think this is an interesting use of the peer-to-peer technology and would like to see more uses like this. It decentralizes the method of attaining the source file and removes the reliance on an Internet service with centralized servers. The media is distributed through the viewers/listeners machines directly. It would be interesting to see what other types of published media could be distributed in this way.

If you haven’t already tried BitTorrent Sync, I suggest you give it a go and see how it can work for you!