Sync Stories: A Backup System Fully In Your Control

Sync Stories is a column dedicated to our users. Each week, we showcase a different use case for BitTorrent Sync and the personal stories behind it.

In this week’s edition: David Capps, product development manager at Keystone Software, shares how he uses Sync to backup personal files via a work laptop, home PC and Web server, to ensure there’s always a fallback.

From David: 

Recently I’ve been using a tool called BitTorrent Sync to back up my personal data, and it seemed like something worth writing about because it offers a lot of the convenient features we’re used to getting from cloud based services, but with a few interesting differences in how your data is stored. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

If you’ve heard of BitTorrent before, it might be in the context of ISPs threatening to (or actually!) slowing down customers who are using it to download movies, music or games; but it’s worth remembering that like FTP and HTTP – services you use daily, in the latter case at least – it’s just a tool for downloading files. As well as unauthorised movie and music downloads, there’s plenty of legal content online as well – Blizzard uses it to distribute updates for their games, like World of Warcraft. Considering Blizzard has made over $10 billion from World of Warcraft, it’s fairly clear BitTorrent isn’t just a tool for online piracy – it’s got plenty of legitimate uses as well.

Sync in Brief

So what’s BitTorrent Sync? Basically, it’s a program for sharing and backing up your files using a similar method to BitTorrent. You choose one or more folders to share, you get a ‘key’ for each folder, and then you can send the key to someone else; once they put the key into their sync program, they’ll automatically receive all the files in the folder. You can either allow them to change the files, or just give them read-only access. Note that Sync 1.4 also introduced shareable links, but some may find keys to be their preferred syncing method (like those working across their own set of devices, or people using the Web UI, for instance).

So far this sounds a bit like Dropbox, except perhaps a bit less convenient because if your friend puts the key into their computer, yours needs to be turned on as well for them to receive the files. However, you don’t have to use it just to share files with friends – that’s not really the main draw as far as I’m concerned. The reason I use it is quite simple: constant off site backups.

My Setup

I’ve got my Documents folder shared on my laptop. My PC at home has the same folder set up as well; and finally, my web server has the same folder set up in BitTorrent Sync as well. What does that mean? Well, if I edit a file in my Documents folder on the laptop, Sync will immediately start sending it to the other two computers that have that folder key. If I’m at home, it’s clever enough to send it to my home PC over the local network; otherwise it’ll go via whatever Internet connection I happen to be using (and yes – it does encrypt all the files so someone else on the same Starbucks free wi-fi can’t eavesdrop on them!). At the same time, my web server gets a copy of all the files.

If my laptop was stolen or suffered a disk failure, then I know there’s two copies of the files elsewhere – crucially, both on computers I control, and I don’t have to remember to run any backups. It just happens automatically whenever I create or edit files. For a business, that could be an important selling point. Are you sure you want to use an online service like Dropbox or iCloud to store all your critical business data? Using BT Sync, you control all the computers in question: set your MDs laptop to automatically synchronise files with the company servers in your main and satellite offices, and no matter what happens to the laptop you’ll have a copy of the files held directly on computers you have physical access to. In the worst case scenario, you aren’t beholden to a third party company to get access to your backups. And because BitTorrent Sync is smart enough to synchronise via the internet when required, even if your MD is composing new documents in a coffee shop on the other side of the world, it’ll encrypt them and fire them back off to your servers any time it finds an Internet connection available.

Other Sync Uses

Of course, while the backup uses are pretty substantial, it’s also potentially useful for sharing files within a business too – perhaps even more useful than for personal users, since a business is much more likely to have a server turned on and available 24/7 for sharing files. Got a set of documents you want the sales team to have available? Set up a shared folder for them on your server, and their laptops will automatically download any new or updated files; remotely, if you want. Give them write access, and one salesman can correct an error on a document at one trade show; all the other sales team members will start receiving that corrected version next time their laptop is online. It might take a little longer to set up than using a cloud based solution, but ultimately the big selling point is that you’re never dependent on a third party to access your data.

Hopefully some of you are interested in BitTorrent Sync now – although it’s not been around for long, I’ve had good experiences with it (and it makes me feel a lot more comfortable knowing that my documents are all backed up automatically!).

For more info on Sync, click here and if you’ve got an epic Sync idea, use-case or how-to, shoot us an email at sync[at]

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