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BitTorrent Offers Alpha of P2P File-Syncing App

BitTorrent Offers Alpha of P2P File-Syncing App
By Barry Levine

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Associated in the past with illegal sharing of movies and other large, copyright files, BitTorrent now is trying to establish itself as a legitimate provider of unique services. With its Sync program, which allows peer-to-peer file syncing, BitTorrent wants its brand to be seen as an alternative to the growing number of online storage vendors.
 


Want another solution for syncing content across your various devices, besides online drives? BitTorrent has opened to all an Alpha version of its Sync program.

The free, peer-to-peer Sync allows unlimited, secure and automatic file-syncing for remote backup and for transferring large files or folders between machines. BitTorrent noted that 20,000 users signed up and tested the pre-Alpha version that was made available in January, resulting in more than 200 terabytes of data being synced.

The company said that, since Sync is a P2P arrangement, it "doesn't require a pit-stop in the cloud," so transfers can be conducted at the maximum speed supported by the user's network.

No Cloud

All file transfers are encrypted with 256-bit AES encryption, and the synced data is not stored on a server in the cloud. Data only resides in the devices chosen. Being BitTorrent, Sync is optimized to handle large files, which can allow for uncompressed, high quality media files. The P2P is the standard BitTorrent procedure and protocols, with files transferred in chunks between peers.

Relay servers are used if a direct connection between devices is not possible. An encryption "secret" protects the data from being read by anything but your own, designated machines. The user installs the Alpha version, selects the files or folders for synchronizations, and a 21-byte encryption secret is generated, which the user then copies to the authorized computers. No backup management or versioning is currently available.

The company said it has added several new features and fixes to Sync since its pre-Alpha release. They include the ability to have one-way synchronization, as well as an option to exclude specific files or directories and an enhanced set of preferences. There's also support for additional types of Network-Attached Storage devices, an improved Linux Web UI, and a variety of bug fixes.

Sync requires Windows XP SP3 or later, Mac OS 10.6 or later, or Linux kernel 2.6.16 or later.

Escaping Its Past?

BitTorrent has been actively seeking to establish itself as an alternative to the growing number of online storage vendors, whose new competitive features are being unveiled almost weekly. It's also trying to establish itself as a legitimate provider of unique services, and get beyond the association of its name with illegal sharing of movies and other large, copyright files.

In February, for instance, it launched a beta of its SoShare file delivery service, allowing files or file bundles up to 1 terabyte to be shared. A thumbnail gallery enables a recipient to glimpse an image from the file without opening it, and users can publish a link and use BitTorrent to share a file. The terabyte file size is far above the file size limits for such file sharing services as YouSendIt or Dropbox.

Charles King, an analyst with industry research firm Pund-IT, noted that, "from a technology standpoint, the offer looks interesting" and could appeal to small businesses or to teams within larger ones. But, for IT departments, he pointed out that "the BitTorrent imprimatur could raise questions for businesses, which tend to be risk-averse," because of the P2P technology's use for illegal exchanges of copyright material.
 

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