Microsoft

Alpha Review: BitTorrent SyncApp

BitTorrent's SyncApp experiment looks rather promising and makes setting up a personalized cloud for your files easy.

Cloud file services definitely are a convenient way to keep backups of all your important documents, pictures and other files. Usually, you sign up for an account, then drag and drop, letting the copy operation take over from there. Despite the ease of use and convenience of such services, a few other points do arise along the way that give us pause, such as whether aforementioned files are secure and if no one managing the server peeks in and looks at the files. With most of the services being free to use, sometimes additional stipulations are added into the service agreements that allow "targeted" advertising and no liability for break-ins.

Personally, I can't see a reason why one cannot create a personal cloud of their own so as to avoid these thorny issues. BitTorrent, Inc. has a little app in the works called SyncApp that should ameliorate those concerns and the future is looking bright.

SyncApp

SyncApp is quite simply a means to create that personal cloud for all of your files. It is currently undergoing restricted alpha testing at this time under the BitTorrent Labs banner, but I have been able to procure an invite to the program for review purposes. Without a doubt, I do like what I see thus far.

SyncApp goes to work, swiftly tackling files

Product Information:

  • Title: SyncApp (Alpha)
  • Author: BitTorrent, Inc.
  • Product URL: http://labs.bittorrent.com/experiments/sync.html
  • Supported OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8, OS X and Linux (x86 and ARM flavors)
  • Price: Freeware
  • Rating: 4 out of 5
  • Bottom Line: BitTorrent's SyncApp experiment looks rather promising and makes setting up a personalized cloud for your files easy, giving you full control without relying on third-parties, like Dropbox.

Essentially, you install the SyncApp on all your computers you want to include in your cloud, whether it be on a Windows, OS X, or even a Linux box. You choose the directories you would like to sync, each with their own special sync passphrase or "secret" that allows you share these locations amongst your allowed machines. Once a computer has your secret and a destination selected, SyncApp will begin to pull any data from the origin computer over the BitTorrent network.

Because of the nature of BitTorrent, the more machines your pool together, the more consistent your speeds will become. Also, in the event of a node going down, your other computers in the self-created mesh will pick up the slack. This is why it's important to add a few extra machines in addition to the primary ones you wish to sync, so as to provide that extra level of redundancy.

Setting a secret on the system in order to sync files back and forth

After playing around with SyncApp, I did notice a strange behavior bug that, although completely expected for an alpha version, will hopefully be addressed before this software is released to the masses. When I synced a directory between two different machines, blew away the files from the originating system and added fresh files, SyncApp seemed to get confused and didn't accept new transfers without first restarting the app on both ends. Once I did that, SyncApp was able to resume normally. This could perhaps be a network peering glitch.

Bottom line

All in all, the very concept of a personal cloud for your files that you are in complete control of is a very welcoming thought. No longer are you reliant on a third-party like Dropbox or MEGA, and you won't have to worry about servers going down or being compromised by hackers. If you properly harden your own nodes for syncing, you can have a very secure and reliable means of mitigating a file-loss disaster. Just be sure to have BitTorrent type activity allowed on your network or get permission from your IT department before deploying SyncApp.

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About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

1 comments
Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Does the prospect of creating your own storage "cloud" using peer-to-peer technology appeal to you?

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