Owning Your Data — Replacing Dropbox

Posted on Thu 24 April 2014 in Tech

Dropbox as late has come under a fair bit of fire. They've added DMCA takedowns to personal folders, scan/open personal files and have appointed Condelleza Rice as a member of their board of directors. Which has kicked off quite a bit of backlash including a #dropdropbox tag that's gaining popularity.

Seems like an ideal time to start owning your data, dropping Dropbox and moving to your own hosted alternative. What I'm suggesting is up for a bit of debate, instead of using a hosted service like Dropbox, I use a tool called BitTorrent Sync to sync my documents for my laptops/tablets to my own personal server that acts as my file storage. This means that no files are transmitted to server I don't have full root control of. There is, however a downside. Bit-Torrent Sync isn't open source, which is why it won't be recommended on Prism Break and understandably so. The team are looking at open sourcing it, but that could be some time before it's decided.

However, personally I'm happy to take the risk they're not hosting your data and the setup is as simple as it gets. Bear in mind there's also open source alternatives that could do the job quite easily, I just haven't had time to test them.


Just a server really. You can use this guide if you wish but any server should do, you don't necessarily even need a server. Just two devices to sync across. If you had a work/home laptop you could create a synced folder across both.


  • It's so simple really, just download btsync to your server here and run ./btsync.
  • You should then be able to access it via your web browser via http://your_servers_ip:8888 and you're free to configure as you wish. Add an empty folder on your server to act as the sync location.
  • Then simply download the client on your desktops/tablets and have it sync the newly created sync folder on your server.
  • That's it.

If I find the time, I'll take a test drive with the open source alternative and update this accordingly but BitTorrent Sync seems safe enough, if they go down your data is still on your own server and not on a service that feels as dodgy as Dropbox does right now.


I did try owncloud another alternative quite some time ago and found the sync process to be very unreliable and slow. The clients also left a lot of be desired. They didn't run a daemon on the server and your clients merely pushed files to a bunch of PHP scripts, which might explain the unreliability. However things may have improved since then.