Tech, Tools

BitTorrent Sync : free P2P based Cloud Storage offered by BitTorrent

bit torrent sync

Cloud Technology seems to be everywhere nowadays, given that its primary motive was the same. The ability to sync and access files anywhere has given us an unprecedented versatility in managing our files and documents. The days of USB drives and compact discs for storing and transferring files are soon fading away into memory.

Had it not been for Dropbox and its little box cleaning up the mess in consumer’s desktops that people began to realise the importance and value of Cloud Technology over the conventional silicon-based storage technologies. Internet Mammoths joined the bandwagon with their own versions of Cloud offerings, like the Google Drive from search engine giant Google, SkyDrive from Microsoft and a host of others like Sugar Sync, ADrive and Mediafire.

All seems to be pretty well, but when the point comes the amount of Storage available, everyone among the cloud service providers seem to compete to burn a hole in your pocket. A paltry storage of 2GB or 5GB is no good at all, considering the immense benefits of Cloud, but unfortunately, it is all that you get while using these services. They have offers and plans to increase the free space but frankly speaking, a limit is a limit, nevertheless.

So is there any alternative? Is there any service that truly provides unlimited amount free storage? And at this point, Captain Jack Sparrow seems to have an answer.

Bittorent Sync

The Pirate’s home has come out with a new alternative called Bittorrent Sync, which seems to answer a few problems that people with the otherwise popular cloud services usually have to put up with on a regular basis . This new service from BitTorrent harnesses the power of the distributed file-sharing network to keep your own private files in sync. The process isn’t exactly what you call “torrenting” but rather uses Secretive keys for syncing files and documents.  BitTorrent Sync works with secret keys that let you selectively choose what to share with whom, and even supports expiring, temporary keys. In a way, it’s a little bit similar to DC (Direct Connect), where files are indexed and hashed for access by everyone in the system.

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Bittorrent Sync was launched on April 23, and is still in Alpha mode, but it already amassed an incredible Petabyte of Storage, which puts it among the bigwigs in file-sharing technology.

Installation and Use

It’s a very simple affair, hardly about two steps. You have to first download the installer package from here.

One great feature of Bittorrent Sync is that it carries no ads at all. BitTorrent Sync is utterly clean of any ads or any other dubious content (and it does not come with a BitTorrent client), and the only sort of special treatment it asks for is making a hole in the Windows firewall.

Once installed, run BitTorrent sync to begin the configuration process.

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You can see two options here. You can start with the Standard Setup because I will talk about the Secret part later. Just click the Next button and you will asked to select a folder to sync.

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The selected folder will now be synchronised and a secret will be produced for it. The Secret is a long string of characters that denotes the address for your file. You can use this Secret key anywhere to access your files at any other place. It’s worth noting that you can use BitTorrent Sync to synchronize any folder, not just its own special folder.

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This is a key difference between BitTorrent Sync and other file-sync solutions: There are no user accounts, and you won’t be asked to create a password for yourself at any point in the process. Rather, each folder has one or more secrets, and that’s what you use to connect to it.

Using Bittorrent Sync

After syncing your first folder, you will be taken around a tour involving 3 steps.

Step 1 :

6Step 2 :

7Step 3 :
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In the first step, you will be shown around the control panel, and in the second step, the method to sync unlimited number of files will be shown. In the final step, BitTorrent Sync shows how you can quickly copy the secret for any shared folder, to share it with family or friends.

One amazing feature of Bittorent Sync is that you can add folders to it, practically from anywhere in your computer. You can add them via the Add button in the Shared Folders tab. Once you add a folder that already contains files, BitTorrent Sync will take a few moments to index its contents. You will already be able to copy its secret and share it with other BitTorrent Sync users. Once I entered the secret for this folder on another computer running BitTorrent Sync, the other computer’s name showed up in the BitTorrent Sync window, and files started going through instantly (they were on the same LAN, but this should work over the Internet as well, assuming you’ve let the installer configure your Windows firewall).

Managing the Secret Key

The key provided to you while synchronising your first file is your private secret access key and is absolutely not meant for sharing with anyone else. Once your keys get leaked, then you can well, be prepared to face some hostility. So, keeping your Secret key safe will be the safest bet.

Awesome Secret tactics

What if you want to share a folder with your friends but do not want them to delete or modify your file? Do you want to provide access to your files only for a limited period of time? Bittorrent lets you have it all. Just double-click the folder, switch to the Advanced tab, and you’ll get the following:

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Here, you can see three kinds of Secrets, one which gives anyone full-access to your files. Second, which gives read-only access which means one can see the files but cannot replace or delete your files. The third type of secret key is the most awesome offering from Bittorrent, which can be generated, to be used only once. The key doesn’t allow users to access yours files more than once.

That’s freaking awesome, isn’t it? Ability to sync extensively and also manage them completely with various sharing options is just too good to ignore.

WebUI

In case of Linux, WebUI is the control panel sort of thing that can be reached at YourLocalIP:8888/gui. Both General and folder preferences can be controlled from here. It acts the same way like a desktop application.

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The Technology behind the scenes

It practically uses the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) technology, which is usually used in torrents. This protocol is very effective for transferring large files across multiple devices, and is very similar to the powerful protocol used by applications like µTorrent and BitTorrent. The data is transferred in pieces from each of the syncing devices, and BitTorrent Sync chooses the optimal algorithm to make sure you have a maximum download and upload speed during the process.

As far as security is concerned, All the traffic between devices is encrypted with AES cypher and a 256-bit key created on the base of the secret—a random string (20 bytes or more) that is unique for every folder.

Overall, Bittorrent has done some amazing work in bringing out such technology. The notoriety of helping piracy with their torrents technology is just a statement. The technology carries a lot of potential, which just came out in the form of Bittorent Sync.

Initially not much usage was expected because of the extreme popularity of the conventional cloud technologies, but astounding amounts of support has been pouring out since its launch. It’s not even a month before launch and it has completed a collective storage of over One Petabyte at the time of writing this article.

The day isn’t very far, when it will be accepted by the mainstream audience.

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  • Let’s Brainstorm

    Thank you. Very well-written. I’ll start using one now.
    You didn’t mention whether both computers have to be on at the same time. I assume it does, since following the BitTorrent method?