DropBox is an enormously useful service that has all sorts of different uses for businesses and individuals alike. In principle, what it does is fairly simple, syncing one or more folders to a cloud service and from there to as many devices as users choose to connect. That ability, coupled with the ubiquity of mobile devices and the need to share data between numerous different people has made DropBox one of the cornerstones of the cloud computing revolution.
However, not everyone is satisfied with the idea of sharing their data with a third-party service and relying on that service to keep it safe. While DropBox is relatively secure, that’s often not good enough for businesses who have to adhere to regulatory requirements, who want to keep their data private, or who just dislike the idea of putting all their eggs in one basket under the control of someone else.
BitTorrent Sync is a new service from the minds that created the BitTorrent file sharing protocol that implements a way to sync folders without the need for a third-party service. One drawback of BitTorrent Sync is that, although it is capable of syncing data between multiple devices, without the cloud component, if those devices are lost, stolen, or simply turned off, there’s no way to continue to sync the data. However, if you set up BitTorrent sync on a Virtual Private Server, you get the best of both worlds: a private, always-on syncing service over which you have complete control.
The technology works similarly to the BitTorrent peer-to-peer protocol, with each of the connected devices acting as both server and a client to efficiently transfer data. One of the most important aspects of the Sync protocol is its security. BitTorrent Sync encrypts all transfers between devices with an AES cipher and a secure 256 bit key. BitTorrent Sync works very well on a Linux VPS and has client software for Linux, Windows, Android, and iOS.
In addition to straightforward syncing of data between multiple devices, the service also has some handy additional features for security conscious users, including read-only access where data will sync to a device, but changes on that device will not affect other devices, and one-time secrets, which provide single use access to a folder.
If you want to set-up your own DropBox replacement, you’ll need a Linux Virtual Private Server with the appropriate version of BitTorrent Sync installed. There’s a great tutorial for setting up Sync with Linux, and you can find full instructions for using the service on the BittTorrent Sync site.