Syncing like Dropbox Without Dropbox, Unlimited, Free

As a low-budget cinematographer who is also a family man and has to make a buck, I’m always conscious of how I am spending my company money. A little research can almost always save money, sometimes hundreds of dollars.

This is why I’ve decided not to renew my 100GB dropbox account. As much as I love Dropbox, and will continue to use their free service (I have a nice, 11GB thanks to referrals, which get you extra space). Instead, I will be transitioning to a few free tools which will serve me better:

  • Bit Torrent Sync (http://www.bittorrent.com/sync) is a wonderful tool which uses the Bit Torrent technology (the same that you use to download large files such as Linux distros or large movie files) to sync between two or more computers. There is no “cloud” in-between, so both computers have to be occasionally on at the same time to sync files. This allows me to sync files which I use on my Macbook and iMac, and need regardless of which computer I’m using. For example, my production music library stays in sync between the two computers automatically, and so does my Magic Lantern software, which I use on all my Canon cameras. Soon I will be syncing other things too. There are no limits on space except the size of your drive, so this is really only the beginning.
  • Owncloud (owncloud.org) is a nifty little way to set up your own dropbox-like service. I have installed it on my own web server (you do have to know a little about linux and the command line to do so), and I have done some limited testing. It works similar to Dropbox in that it can sync between computers, and you have a web interface also through which you can share files. It’s not as refined as Dropbox, which is one reason I am not totally giving up on Dropbox, but you can install “apps” from their library to expand functionality. In my case, the ability to share videos is paramount, and I am not quite satisfied with the built-in player nor the options from their app-library, so for now Owncloud is relegated to sharing non-video content.
  • iCloud (iCloud.com). Of course, I use and have grown to love Apple’s clunky but wonderful service. It keeps all my contracts and templates in sync across my devices. I can update my contract template on my Macbook, and it will update it on my iPad where I send it to Notability to have clients sign it directly on the device using a stylus. It’s a no-brainer to use this tool, whereas before iCloud I would save my docs on Dropbox to sync between devices.

By balancing the load between services, I can keep my file sharing pretty much free, which is awesome, and allows me to budget for other purchases, such as a new camera (The A7s or GH4) or a Vimeo Plus account (vimeo.com). Or, maybe it’s just enough to cover my wife’s credit card bill. That’s life!