Technology Tuesday: Hands on with SyncApp by BitTorrent

SyncApp is a new tool that utilizes the same peer-to-peer protocol that BitTorrent uses that allows you to sync and share folders with impressive security, no-cost, limitless storage size and blazing fast speed. Creating your own backups, sharing large amounts of data and keeping folders synced is painfully easy with native apps for Mac, PC and Linux. While only in pre-release Alpha mode right now, this is extremely exciting and shows tremendous potential.

Think of SyncApp as your personal DropBox. However, instead of having to upload to the “cloud” first and then download from there, your designated folders sync immediately with the only restriction being the network speed that you have. Since you are directly connecting to other machines, there’s no need to purchase online storage space or be restricted to the amount of data that you can keep synced. Limitless, free, fast and pain-free syncing. Read on to learn more about this promising app.

What exactly is this and what are the benefits? A program made by BitTorrent, that is free and allows you to sync folders over the internet or a local network that works with PC, Mac or Linux. There is no limit on the size of data that you can sync and the data is never uploaded anywhere but directly to the people that you specify. Unlike other syncing options, you will not run into a data cap or be throttled in the speed of your upload or download. Nor will you ever have to worry about a service being shut down where you lose all your cloud data.

How does it work? It couldn’t be easier. Simply download the app and run it. Add a folder on the shared folder tab and click the generate button to populate a “secret” for the folder that you want to sync. This “secret” is basically an encryption key using AES 256. Then, on any other machine, once the “secret” is entered with a destination folder specified – the sync will begin immediately. There is no torrent to create, nothing to download and no friction to get in the way. Dead simple. Unlike traditional torrenting, you are free to continue to add to to the synced folder at anytime and those files will be added automatically.

Tabs on the app allow you to monitor which devices are synced, what is currently transferring, transfer speed and recent events (items synced, added or deleted). Preferences tab allows for only a few settings changes including limiting upload or download speed if desired .

[SyncApp interface]

Testing it Out I synced a handful of folders between my machines both over the internet and while home on a local connection. It was incredibly easy to quickly transfer my files but I was curious how it would do with larger folders and more people syncing. I enlisted four friends to help me out and see how easily I could share a larger data set. I created a Grateful Dead folder with nearly 4,000 files in a couple hundred folders with many of them nested in other folders. I created the “secret” which took a bit of time and shared with the recipients. The 50GB transferred to the others in a matter of a few hours and was even speedier when another person started syncing after there was already four complete copies. Just like BitTorrent, the more people sharing, the quicker the speeds. Similarly, if one device goes offline, the rest will chug along just fine. It is worth noting that indexing many files (say a 500GB drive) will take many, many hours initially. Adding subsequent files will be quick. Conveniently, while the index is being created, you can share the secret and start downloading immediately what is initially synced.

I asked Tyler what he thought of the process and like me, he was impressed:  ”I see there being a ton of potential in SyncApp. My favorite aspect of it is how dead-simple it is. Install the app. Enter the secret. Suddenly, you’re downloading and uploading files; contributing to the proliferation of data across many computers in many different locations.”

Drawbacks First off, for the time being, this is only a full two-way sync. So if I share a folder with someone and they delete the files on their machine, they are deleted on mine too. This makes SyncApp not suitable for posting publicly (like eTree). Apparently deleted files go in a special trash folder so that they can be recovered. I was not able to figure out that functionality. Once one-way sync is added, this will really be a tremendous tool for sharing with much, much larger groups of people. There’s also a few bugs including deleting files and having an empty folder remain and memory issues when syncing over 100,000 files. Most bugs have been acknowledged by the development team and should be fixed shortly.

How do I get SyncApp? You can wait for the beta release which should be relatively soon, so keep an eye out. Or, head over to SyncApp pre-alpha sign up page. They are adding a couple hundred users per week so hopefully your wait will not be too long.

Bottom Line Extremely functional, quick and cost-free way of syncing data regardless if it just a folder with a few files or a massive hard drive. The functionality is limited right now to two-way syncing without a lot of options. However, given the great start, this should be an amazingly successful app in short time which will give tons of cloud services a serious threat to their business model.

Questions about SyncApp? Have you tested it yourself? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

Note: The fantastic Satechi Mini Router that I wrote about last week sold-out soon after the column was posted. A few people have asked where else to buy it. There had been listings on Amazon but those too seem to be gone. Bummer. Highly recommend this item so enter your email in on their product page to be notified when it is back in stock.

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6 thoughts on “Technology Tuesday: Hands on with SyncApp by BitTorrent

  1. nuttyriv3r Reply

    Sounds good. Been using FreeFileSync as a robust intranet cross-platform app for selective backup processes. This seems simple with the nice added bonus of sharing to others. I’m hoping this will be cross-platform as well.

  2. Parker Harrington Reply

    yes, nuttyriv3r it is cross-platform. I didn’t test the Linux app but that runs from a Web UI.

  3. KernelForbin Reply

    Very cool. Signed up! Thanks for the great info, as always.

  4. Parker Harrington Reply

    No sweat KernelForbin. This is going to be a Godsend for content creators, people who collaborate a lot, and hoarders of audio files. Ring a bell? Anyway, I hope BitTorrent is going to send me a handful of invites- I’ll send one your way.

  5. salin Reply

    I’m impressed with the alpha – setup in seconds and ARM support is a plus – my raspberry pi acting as a NAS handled it fine.

    I should add that one way sharing is implemented now.

  6. Parker Reply

    Great thanks Salin- hadn’t noticed about the one-way sync yet. That was an important feature to add.

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