New User Experience: Comparing Syncthing Vs Dropbox

Have now been using Syncthing for 2 weeks, My experience on the key differences between Syncthing and Dropbox, classified by importance (to me).

Huge Matters
1… Syncthing is much faster on local Lan transfers.
Dropbox does allow for local lan transfers (port 17500) but as the data also has to go to the cloud servers anyway, this is a limiting factor.
So it becomes practical with Syncthing to sync much larger files (1Gb, 2Gb) which you cannot do with Dropbox because getting these to the cloud would take too long.

2… Syncthing can sync different folders with different devices. So there are some items I share only with other computers,
other items I share with mobile Android devices.
Dropbox shares everything with every device on your Dropbox account.

Big Matters
3… Syncthing can sync multiple folders instead of just one Dropbox folder. So Syncthing can fit in with my file system so the things I sync are better organized.

4… (Linux only) Syncthing installs / updates from the repos - very convenient.
With Dropbox I have to manually download/unpack/install and (as I want to control the update schedule) manually update.

5… Syncthing has transparency - I can see what is happening.
This is important for me, but not for everybody.

6… Syncthing does not sync to the cloud, Dropbox must.
For me, I prefer this, but some people would prefer the cloud backup.

Small Matters
7… Dropbox requires 2 apps to sync on Android: Dropbox + (paid) DropsyncPro.
Syncthing only requires one.

8… Dropbox allows you to share files with someone by just giving them a link, in Syncthing of course this is not possible.
For me, I separate syncing from cloud backup, and so use my cloud backup service for that giving people a link to files.

Really Annoying Matters
9… Dropbox documentation uses phrases like:

“Want more detail? Here’s the scoop:…”

When I read this kind of garbage, I want to smack the person who wrote it, and flush his computer down the toilet.
(in Hitchhiker’s Guide, these kind of people were all put in a ‘special’ spaceship and sent on a very very long journey).
Syncthing documentation is not perfect but it does not insult me with marketing garbage.

Summary
So now I have ‘dropped’ Dropbox.

Hope this is helpful to someone trying to determine if Syncthing is worth the effort of changeover.

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You inspired me to this article:

Hi!

You are right, there is no out-of-the-box way to share your files via a link with other users. This is also a huge thing for me. For this reason, I came up with this solution that works, if you have a server that is always online:

  1. Install syncthing on all your machines
  2. Prepare a special public folder
  3. Let Apache (or another webserver) access and provide the files in this folder, but forbid directory listing. If someone wants to access a file in there, they have to have the full, correct URL
  4. Run a cronjob every minute that checks for new files. If a new file is available, create a text file that contains the link to the file on the server in the publically available directory (this is just for convenience, so you do not have to struggle with typos when you want to give the URL to someone). Save the textfile under a practical name, i.e. original-filename.syncthing_meta.txt in the public directory. For this, I use a simple Python script.
  5. Syncthing will sync back your file and if you have to give the link to someone, you simply look it up in the file on your local machine. You can also have SHA256 hash sums of the file in the meta file and provide this to the recipient, too, if checking the file is a matter in your case.

Cheers

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Syncthing is a real BYO(bring your own)-cloud solution. Which I sometimes agree with you is not always handy. The pro is it is distributed and trust-based. And no one “owns” or runs one or more servers. You can not cover all use-cases with a distributed architecture as Syncthing implements.

If things are not as you expect, you are free to improve the documentation and have a discussion and send a pull request.

In fact there are 3 separate problems:
. syncing
. file sharing
. backup
and I don’t think you should use the same solution for any two of these.
They all have different security and reliability requirements.

For syncing, I use syncthing.

For cloud backup, I use rsync.net but there are many others.

For file sharing, there are many services which are ok to use just for this: eg google drive or dropbox. To use google/dropbox in this way, I don’t need any other software installed on my own machine.

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I agree with this, but I have been using SyncThing for all three. Overall it’s served my friend and I well, despite the fact we’re both totally new to using it, and he’s very new to GNU/Linux and P2P software (other than torrents of course :wink: ). There are a few gotchas that my friend and I have discovered, for example my friend didn’t realize at first that deleting his copy of synced files also deleted my copy :wink: But there are a few ways this could be addressed with UI changes.

Easier

Add some UI elements that:

  • allow the user to distinguish between their own devices and other people’s, giving other people’s devices less permissions by default (eg ability to sync an update to a file but not a deletion)
  • when creating new folder shares, asking the user what their intention is for it (eg keep folders in sync, move files from one device to another, send a copy of files to another device), and guide them through making sure the folders settings reflect that intention

Harder

Develop separate UI for syncing, file-sharing, and backups, using the same ST backend, and the same set of underlying device relationships.

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