Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sharing Documentation Files with BitTorrent Sync

This is meant to be a blog about genealogy, my projects and tools and techniques I've found helpful in my genealogy hobby. This entry does fit that description because it is focusing on a tool that I am just now beginning to use to backup my data. Forgive my segways into technological descriptions. I'm a technology geek at heart and I'm excited about this new piece of software.

I have about 60 gigabytes of scanned images from the church books of Ulm and Moesbach, A. Achern area of Baden, Germany. It took six months of work to scan in virtually all of their church book images. I have the images backed up onto my external hard drive but I definitely don't want to have to rely on one piece of hardware. What if my external hard drive fails? All my hard work would be gone. In addition, there are at least a couple of people, likely several more, that would be interested in having access to these files. What can I use to solve both of these problems?

First, I'd like to give a quick lesson in BitTorrent technology. BitTorrent is a piece of software you can install on your computer. You then find BitTorrent "seeds", which are files served up from a web server that tells the BitTorrent software about the file. The trick to this technology is that once the download starts for several people, they start downloading different bits of the file. Then new clients wanting to download the file using the BitTorrent software download bits of the file from all the other clients downloading it. This means that the first clients will download a portion (but different portions) of the file from the first server, then all the other clients will download from the initial host machine and from each other. This takes a load off of the originating server and spreads the workload and bandwidth use around to all the clients downloading the file.

The sad part is that this wonderful piece of software is mostly known for pirating large files such as movies, not for its other (legal) uses.

Now, BitTorrent has released a new piece of software, known as BitTorrent Sync. With this software, I have shared up the folders of my church book scans. Anyone that would like a copy of them just needs to install BitTorrent Sync and give it the secret key set up on my share. This will allow you to download a copy of my scans for your own use. Just as important, it provides a backup for all my hard work.

If you are interested in the scans of the Ulm A. Achern church book scans from 1654 to 1788 (for births) and from 1654 to about 1900 (for marriages and deaths) and the Moesbach A. Achern church book scans from 1811 to about 1900 (for births, marriages and deaths), please let me know. I'll give you the key to my share and you can begin downloading a copy for yourself and do me a favor by acting as my backup.

A couple of notes about this software and how I've set it up:

First, NEVER share anything of confidential nature. No matter how secure you believe it is, someone someday will hack into it. I'm sharing what is essentially public knowledge with this share. Anyone could have access to it if they put in the effort to access the books or the microfilm of the books and scanning it in themselves. I want to make it easier for them.

Second, be sure to go into the configuration options of the software. You'll want to limit the amount of bandwidth it uses. Most Internet service providers have some sort of cap on their data usage, even if they don't publicize it. The size of these files is like downloading 13 high quality DVD movies. That's a huge amount of data. I've capped my upload and download speed for this software. Yes, this means it will take a very long time for it to be fully uploaded, but it's better than the speed I had prior to today, which was zero. Given some time, all these scan files will be backed up to the hard drives of others that would like to see them. Depending on how things look going forward, I may increase or decrease this speed. This is new software and I'll need to keep an eye on on it to make sure things work out smoothly.

Let me know what you think by commenting below or dropping me an email. Thanks!


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