Self-managed Dropbox replacements?
March 10, 2015 10:47 PM   Subscribe

What do you recommend for a Dropbox-like file sync utility that doesn't rely on a server I don't control?

I have some files on Dropbox. For various reasons, I would like to start instead keeping them on a private Linux server.

I need to access the files from both Windows and MacOS devices, including a laptop that's frequently offline. Ideally, I'd like to view them from iOS as well, but that's not a deal-breaker. And I would like to access them the same way as I'm accustomed to: through a local folder that syncs with the server automatically when needed.

What software do you recommend for this?
posted by baf to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I like seafile. People will recommend owncloud but it never worked well for me.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:50 PM on March 10, 2015

+1 seafile
posted by caudingo at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2015

I've been very happy with Bittorrent Sync. I have a Linux server, a Mac Mini, and a MacBook all synced up. I've used the iOS client a few times and it also works fine.
posted by zsazsa at 12:13 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Syncthing without a doubt. It's open source, actively developed, and has a good message board.
posted by devnull at 1:30 AM on March 11, 2015

Seconding Bittorrent Sync. Pretty awesome, although the fact that it's closed source is a problem.
posted by JHarris at 2:28 AM on March 11, 2015

I use owncloud ( and can recommend it. Easy to install with via linux package management and sync clients for Windows, Linux, Apple and Android and iOS
posted by ironicon at 3:10 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Owncloud has matured rapidly over the last year or so, and is highly customizable. With the proper web server configuration, it can offer very high grade SSL encryption which some of the other options at the time did not.

If you need a server to go with that, you can build (or buy) a FreeNAS system that will provide a highly reliable file ZFS-based storage solution that will do a better job at protecting your valuable data than most other alternatives.
posted by jgreco at 5:20 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm in a small organization that uses Owncloud. I'm satisfied with it.

FWIW, there's a conceptual difference between Owncloud (and Seafile, I think) and Bittorent Sync (and, near as I can tell, Syncthing). Owncloud acts more or less like Dropbox, where you've got a server "out there" that syncs to all the client computers; Bittorrent Sync has no server—it only has peers that sync to each other.

Owncloud also optionally lets you install apps that make it more like Google Drive.
posted by adamrice at 9:02 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The fact that you're looking for something for a Linux server suggests you're probably technically savvy. However if you're not, or if you're looking for a super-simple option, Tonido is pretty good, and they've just made all their consumer-grade stuff free. The only bit that the Tonido service does off your machine is provide a domain through which you can reach your server. Mobile and desktop clients for most platforms are available.
posted by sincarne at 9:04 AM on March 11, 2015

I would also recommend Bittorrent Sync if you aren't doing anything too complicated.

And now for a caveat: I run some programs that modify the same files over a period of time over a few computers for a project I'm working on, and once in a while BT Sync would just erase all the bits in those files! Now I use dropbox for that task instead.

But if you are just backing up files and not modifying them constantly, Bittorrent Sync is wonderful.
posted by wye naught at 9:11 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take a look at git-annex assistant. Dropbox on steroids.
posted by aeighty at 10:37 AM on March 11, 2015

I use Bittorrent Sync as an easy way to sync files between my (Windows) desktop and (Mac) laptop, for files that are too big for Dropbox. As mentioned, it does have some weaknesses:

- Not terribly great at resolving conflicts (but in my experience only Dropbox does this in a satisfactory way)
- Not as fast if transferring tons of small files (much faster with large files)
- A bit awkward to set up a new sync folder
- By default, moves deleted files to a hidden folder -- this is actually a good thing as a CYA, but can have privacy/disk space concerns.

Other than those caveats it works great. Notably, just like regular Bittorrent you can stop/start the transfer in the middle of a large file without a hiccup.

Another nice feature is "read-only" sharing, where someone else can download files and be updated when you change them, but doesn't have access to modify your copy.
posted by neckro23 at 5:59 PM on March 12, 2015

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