Get started with BitTorrent Sync

One of the big advantages of cloud storage is that most services make it easy to use themselves as a tool for effortless syncing of data between computers. Update a file on one device, and it quickly becomes available to everyone else.

The problem with syncing via the cloud is that you usually have to pay for any meaningful amount of storage space, and that’s before you consider the potential implications of having a copy of your sensitive data stored in the cloud. However tight your cloud provider’s security is, there is always the nagging doubt that your files could be accessed by someone else.

If you love the idea of syncing – particularly when it comes to huge amounts of data – but want to restrict your files and folders to your own hard drives only, then BitTorrent Sync is shaping up to be the perfect choice. Currently in alpha, it makes the task of sharing or syncing data across multiple computers (including Linux-based NAS drives) as simple, fast and secure as it can be.

The service is capable of syncing locally using your own personal network, or utilising the internet to sync data remotely, with the data only in the cloud long enough to travel from A to B (or back again). The major drawback, of course, is that your computers need to be switched on and connected for any syncing to take place -- with the cloud as an intermediary, this isn’t an issue for the likes of SkyDrive or SugarSync.

Getting started is easy: with the client installed, create your first shared folder, making a note of the “secret” 32-character code required to sync with that folder from other devices. This is copied to your other devices, pasted into the BitTorrent Sync client there and then the sync connection is made. It’s also possible to generate read-only codes as well as those that expire after a set period for granting others -- friends, family or colleagues for instance -- limited access to folders.

You can share as many folders as you like, and sync with as many other devices or people as you like too. Make sure you tweak the client’s preferences should your internet connection grind to a halt -- thankfully, like BitTorrent itself, you can put a cap on download and upload transfer speeds.

One immediate weakness with this first public build is the lack of differential sync -- that means if a file is changed on one machine, the entire copy rather than just its changes are synced, which makes the process less efficient than it could be. Nevertheless, BitTorrent hopes to implement differential sync in a future build, which could prove to be the game changer in its favour.

BitTorrent Sync 1.0.116 is available now as a freeware, but alpha, download for Windows, Mac and Linux. We recommend making separate copies of any files or folders you plan to sync with others in case of possible data loss while the program remains in alpha.

Photo Credit: olly/Shutterstock

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