Syncthing

This article is “off topic.” That is, it has nothing to do with the normal topics of this newsletter: genealogy, family history, DNA, and related articles. However, I believe it will interest many people, genealogists included, who use more than one computer.

Do you use two or more computers? Perhaps you have a desktop system and a laptop computer. Perhaps you use one computer at the office and a different one at home. Then again, perhaps you have two homes; a summer cottage or perhaps one home in the sunbelt and another “up north.” Do you keep separate computers in each location?

Perhaps you and a relative who is also working on the family tree want to keep genealogy information and old family photographs updated all the time in both of your computers in your homes. Whatever your situation, the question this article hopes to answer is, “How do you automatically keep some of the information up-to-date on both (or all) of the computers?”

The question can be answered with one word: Syncthing.

Here is a quote from the Syncthing.net website:

“Syncthing is a continuous file synchronization program. It synchronizes files between two or more computers in real time, safely protected from prying eyes. Your data is your data alone and you deserve to choose where it is stored, whether it is shared with some third party, and how it’s transmitted over the internet.”

In short, the name of “Syncthing” is appropriate. It is a FREE and open source piece of software that is designed to keep some (or all) of the information in 2 or more computers automatically synchronized all the time with minimal human action required. It works amongst side-by-side computers at home or computers separated across the country or even across the world.

Syncthing apparently can copy everything although I suspect the more common use is to duplicate only one or more folders (sub-directories) in two or more computers.

Syncthing is available free of charge for Macintosh OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and OpenBSD. The program has been available for several years and has many thousands of satisfied users. In short, it is well tested.

NOTE: Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_open-source_software defines FOSS as:

“Free and open-source software (FOSS) is software that can be classified as both free software and open-source software. That is, anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software. This is in contrast to proprietary software, where the software is under restrictive copyright licensing and the source code is usually hidden from the users.”

Syncthing is Private & Secure

Again, quoting from the Syncthing web site:

Private. None of your data is ever stored anywhere else other than on your computers. There is no central server that might be compromised, legally or illegally.

Encrypted. All communication is secured using TLS. The encryption used includes perfect forward secrecy to prevent any eavesdropper from ever gaining access to your data.

Authenticated. Every node is identified by a strong cryptographic certificate. Only nodes you have explicitly allowed can connect to your cluster.

Also:

Easy to Use

Powerful. Synchronize as many folders as you need with different people or just between your own devices.

Portable. Configure and monitor Syncthing via a responsive and powerful interface accessible via your browser. Works on Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and OpenBSD. Run it on your desktop computers and synchronize them with your server for backup.

Simple. Syncthing doesn’t need IP addresses or advanced configuration: it just works, over LAN and over the Internet. Every machine is identified by an ID. Give your ID to your friends, share a folder and watch: UPnP will do if you don’t want to port forward or you don’t know how.

In short, Syncthing is easy to use and doesn’t share any of your data on some questionable company’s web site. In fact, it doesn’t even upload anything to a web site or corporate server; all data is sent directly between the computers you specify and to no place else. If you still have concerns, you can even examine the source code yourself and even compile your own version of Syncthing. Syncthing is available FREE of charge.

I have been using Syncthing to keep several folders on two computers up-to-date with each other for more than a year and have been pleased with its operation. Even though these two computers are 1,200 miles apart, Syncthing has proven to be very reliable.

The local power companies and internet companies have dropped power and/or internet connectivity at each location several times. Once the power and internet connectivity has been restored, each computer has powered up, rebooted (see the owners’ manuals for information on how to automatically re-boot your computers after a power outage), and continued running Syncthing in normal operation.

You can read more about Syncthing or even download the free program at: https://syncthing.net.

10 Comments

Syncthing is nothing short of terrific.

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SyncToy works well too – have been using it for several years.

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Mary Beth Figgins July 20, 2020 at 10:57 am

Do these work to sync a folder on a laptop and one on an external hard drive?

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    —> Do these work to sync a folder on a laptop and one on an external hard drive?

    SyncThing does that. I am not sure about the other program mentioned here by someone else as I have never used that one. Maybe a SyncToy user can jump in here and answer the question.

    Like

    Yes, one can sync from your laptop to an external hard drive, either all or a specific folder.

    Like

How is this different from OneDrive?

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    —> How is this different from OneDrive?

    Many differences.

    SyncThing allows for DIRECT transfers between 2 or more computers using encryption. Your data is never sent to any company’s servers and doesn’t have all the security issues normally associated with transferring data to some company’s servers. Instead, your data is first encrypted on the sending computer, then a connection is made DIRECTLY to the receiving computer (no servers involved), sent to the receiving computer, then decrypted by the receiving computer, and stored there. There will be no online spying such as is done by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and dozens of other online companies. There will also be little to no chance of online hackers in third-world countries stealing your personal information. In short, your security is totally under your own control.

    With SyncThing, the 2 computers could sit side-by-side in your home or they could be thousands of miles apart.

    In contrast, OneDrive ONLY allows you to store information from your. computer(s) onto Microsoft’s servers. The data is then visible to Microsoft’s employees and to software written by Microsoft looking for your personal data. You are never in control of any security issues.

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    Thanks Dick, I must have missed the direct transfer. That would be useful. I also understand about my data being available to Microsoft but on the other hand, this is Windows and they have some control anyway.
    However, your statement “OneDrive ONLY allows you to store information from your. computer(s) onto Microsoft’s servers.” is a little misleading. While all OneDrive data does go through Microsoft, I can also have it synced back to one or more additional computers so I have multiple copies in different places.
    Any idea if SyncThing has the same problem as OneDrive and DropBox where they can cause corruption by locking a file in order to upload it while the file is being accessed by a database like TMG or RootsMagic? .
    Walter

    Like

    —> However, your statement “OneDrive ONLY allows you to store information from your. computer(s) onto Microsoft’s servers.” is a little misleading.

    Let me restate it a bit for clarity: ““OneDrive ONLY allows you to store information from your computer(s) onto Microsoft’s servers FIRST. Once the files are stored on Microsoft’s servers they can then be copied to almost anyplace else. In all cases, there is no direct computer-to-computer transfers; everything must FIRST be stored on Microsoft’s servers and then copied elsewhere, if desired.”

    Like

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