Like many of you, I too have found myself wooed by the convenience of using Dropbox. It's cross platform, simple to setup and provides a cloud storage option for those who might otherwise be less inclined to store files off-site. In this article I'll explore alternatives to Dropbox for Linux users.
BitTorent Sync – When BitTorrent Sync first became popular, I loved it. I found it was faster than competing technologies and I could sync huge files on my LAN very quickly. I loved the fact that syncing to a third party service (a cloud) was never part of the equation. WAN syncing also works well, for those needing to sync over the Internet.
What I liked: BitTorrent Sync is simple to use, doesn't sync to the "cloud" and has no folder size limits. The UpnP port mapping worked flawlessly with my router.
What I didn't like: BitTorrent Sync doesn't offer selective sync with their free version. It also doesn't allow me to change my folder access permissions. Not having the ability to sync to the "cloud" also means any backup of your files is on you. The strong encryption is also nice, although we're talking about a proprietary application.
Summary: If you're a heavy Dropbox user and are willing to pay the one time fee, you could save yourself some cash overall.
Syncthing – Sync your files between computers over your LAN or across the web, using strong encryption and open source software. When BitTorrent Sync first mentioned their new premium version some users felt betrayed; they felt it should have remained completely free. Instead, the free version lost features to the paid version. For some, switching to Syncthing was the natural course of action.
What I liked: Syncthing is open source, has packages for every sort of platform you can imagine and is relatively easy to setup...usually. I also love the ssh support in case you're needing to avoid the web UI when away from home.
What I didn't like: Despite Syncthing providing options for UpnP, I've never had much success with it. I've read that this could be the result of a timeout issue or perhaps the router doesn't know what to do with the discovery service. I did eventually have it working with UpnP after changing out the router with another one. So be aware, UpnP can be hit and miss.
Summary: If you're able to iron out or avoid the issues with UpnP, Syncthing is a very strong contender to replace Dropbox. Like BitTorrent Sync, there is no cloud storage in the equation.
SpiderOak – I decided to include SpiderOak with these Dropbox alternatives as it provides device syncing in addition to data backup. Most people use SpiderOak as a secure means of backing up their files. I've found it's also useful for syncing between PCs running SpiderOak.
What I liked: SpiderOak provides a zero-knowledge storage platform. This means your privacy is fully respected as your data is encrpted at all times except when you decrypt it on your own PC. I've also found that their storage (like Dropbox) is cheap. You can get upto 1 TB of data storage for $12 USD per month.
What I didn't like: SpiderOak uses some open source components. Unfortunately, there are still some aspects of SpiderOak that are not fully open source. The software for Linux feels a bit bloated. Great UI, but the flow of the application can bring an older computer to a screeching halt.
Summary: If you want end to end encryption with better privacy options than Dropbox, then SpiderOak is for you. This is also a great option if you're needing to backup your files in addition to simply syncing them.
Google Drive – The next option is a bit of a rough spot with many Linux users. Despite years of empty promises, Google has yet to deliver on a working Google Drive client for Linux. Thankfully this is not a big deal-- there are alternatives. Both the latest Gnome desktop and Insync provide great Google Drive access for Linux users.
What I liked: Google Drive offers free storage up to 15 GB. An additional 100 GB is only $1.99 USD. Syncing is easy, simply run one Insync or Gnome desktop to keep your files accessible. Most people waiting on Gnome to make this happen will end up using alternatives like Insync in the meantime.
What I didn't like: Cost aside, the lack of commitment from Google to Linux users in this space is frustrating. Bundle this with the fact that Google is famous for completely dumping products makes me hesitant to rely on Google Drive for anything terribly important.
Tarsnap – Unlike the other options listed here, Tarsnap puts Linux first. Going even deeper, Tarsnap doesn't support Windows. The rates are very reasonable, as it uses AWS for its storage. Setting aside its geeky nature, Tarsnap is a big hit among a number of Linux users.
What I liked: Cost. Tarsnap is setup to provide reliable backup at a fair cost. If you set it up to do so, Tarsnap can be used to sync files between machines. Tarsnap also provides excellent security and is open source software.
What I didn't like: It's pretty difficult to use for a casual Linux user. If you're comfortable reading documentation and using the command line however, this is a great fit.
Summary: If you are dead set against using more mainstream options or simply would prefer to stick to using the command line, then Tarsnap is a fantastic option.
ownCloud – Unlike the other Dropbox alternatives listed here, ownCloud is more of a Google Apps replacement. Collaborate document editing, calendars, galleries and more – ownCloud is a full software suite designed to run on your own server. Like Google Drive, you can also use ownCloud to sync files between machines.
What I liked: Once installed, ownCloud is dead simple to use and provides a great open source experience. It feels a lot like Google Apps. You can share your files with anyone you wish and ownCloud offers you decent encryption and security.
What I didn't like: You need to install the software on your own hardware to act as a server. Not a big deal to geeks, but it could be confusing for a casual user expecting a Syncthing like experience. In the past, I've had ownCloud choke a bit on larger files. Though I've heard this has been resolved but I'd urge caution until you feel comfortable with it handling your most important files.
Let's face it, there are a ton of solutions out there. And there may even be some options available I've never heard of. Using the Comments form below, share your favorite Dropbox alternatives. How do you use them and do you rely on cloud based storage or direction solutions like Syncthing. Hit the Comments, share your ideas and experiences in this arena.
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