When I compared Dropbox versus Bitcasa a number of people, and we are talking several dozen, emailed me through the contact form to inform me that Bitcasa does not do sync and for that reason alone was an inferior service. I thought I was pretty clear in the post that Bitcasa did not do sync and I can understand why they dropped sync when they left beta there are other, better tools that do sync and one of those new tools is BitTorrent Sync.
There are many ways that you can use BitTorrent Sync to create your own private Dropbox clone. If you are concerned about privacy at all with all of the revelations of how the United States NSA and other government around world spy on people you might want to make sure your data stays on computers that you control instead of uploading to some nameless cloud service provider. This also gives you the ability to use your own encryption to secure your files using tools such as TrueCrypt or EncFS.
Option #1 Use Your Own Computer
One of the great things about BitTorrent Sync, like Dropbox, is it is cross platform. In fact BitTorrent Sync runs on more platforms than Dropbox. It can be a computer you do not use anymore, your main desktop, a Raspberry Pi or even a Chumby.
The benefits of using your own computer is you know where physically where your files are. You can easily control access and speed on your internal network could easily be faster than if you are syncing out to the cloud. A downside is that is your home Internet connection might not be near as fast as you would like so syncing data between your iPhone or Android device when you are out and about might not be as quick as you like. Another problem is if you tend to turn off your computer all of a sudden you have no place to sync data to since the data resides on your own machines.
Option #2 Setup A Remote Computer
If you want faster syncs with your own Dropbox clone it is possible to setup BitTorrent Sync on a remote cloud server such as an Amazon EC2 server or even an inexpensive virtual private server. If you are a fan of using Amazon EC2 Sam Glover has a fantastic guide to get you rolling. Using something like Amazon EC2 means you need to keep a close eye on your cost. You might be fine using the free tier for a year but as it is mentioned on that guide after the year you will have to pay or if you exceed the micro tier limits.
If you are not a fan of Amazon EC2 another option is to look at an inexpensive virtual private server to host your own BitTorrent Sync cloud. If you look through the BitTorrent Sync forum a popular VPS host is Backupsy. I am sure there are other companies you can get an inexpensive VPS from to run BitTorrent Sync on but Backupsy does offer a great deal. You can get a 500GB storage VPS with 512 MB of RAM and 2000GB bandwidth starting at $20.00/month. If you use the promotional code GOTMEADEAL you can get a permanent $13.00/month off making your new 500GB VPS only $7.00/month. It sounds like a good deal and if you need more bandwidth it will cost $7 per additonal terabyte but unlike Amazon if you do run out of bandwidth they turn off your server to avoid excessive charges.
Whether you use Amazon EC2 or a VPS service like Backupsy be prepared to spend time configuring your operating system and setting things up using the Linux command line. If you are not familiar with the Linux command line it could get frustrating pretty quickly. I would recommend going with a Ubuntu install with either service because the BitTorrent Sync blog has a good guide on how to get it up and running.
It should also be noted that files stored on a remote server are stored without any encryption. It is possible that people at Amazon or Backupsy could see your files. While BitTorrent Sync transfers them encrypted, the files are not stored encrypted. You would need to add that extra layer of file encryption to keep anyone else from seeing the contents of your files. Lifehacker has a list of the five best file encryption tools. The post is a little old but those are probably still your best options.
Setting up your own Dropbox clone is not for everyone. For people that have an interest in doing it yourself and like to tinker and tweak settings you could easily have your own Dropbox clone up and running in very short time. You also don’t need to do just option #1 or option #2. The nature of BitTorrent Sync is distributed so as soon as you add a computer to sync it also helps to sync to the other computers that are connected. You could easily have your home computer and a computer elsewhere syncing the same files. Don’t need the VPS computer syncing all the time just turn it off and on when you need it. You could even just create your own cloud between you and your friends. With BitTorrent Sync you have many options. The one thing that is missing is the lack of an API with BitTorrent Sync that Dropbox has. I am sure the Dropbox fans will jump on me for this just like in the Bitcasa post but BitTorrent Sync is still in testing and if you look at the forum you will discover that there is currently a post looking for people to test an API Beta. We could very soon be able to send files to our BitTorrent Sync folders from third parties.