Sync Hacks: How a Cancer Researcher Uses BitTorrent Sync for Big Projects

Sync Hacks is a column dedicated to exploring new applications for BitTorrent Sync, as built by users like you. BitTorrent Sync is a free, unlimited, secure file-syncing app. (And now, it’s 2X faster.) If you’ve got an epic Sync idea, use-case or how-to, shoot us an email at sync[at]

In this week’s Sync Hacks: Jacob Scott, a cancer researcher, uses Sync to collaborate with other researchers around the world, and to work on big projects from anywhere. But, before BitTorrent Sync he had plenty of syncing options with one critical problem: space. Read on to find out how Jacob turned to Sync to free himself and his projects from the cloud’s storage limitations.


From Jacob

As a clinician cum scientist, I am almost always involved in collaborations with multi-disciplinary groups. And, as an American who has done some training in the UK, many of those groups are nowhere remotely near one another. To keep myself, and my collaborators sane, I’ve been constantly experimenting with different combinations of cloud based repositories so that we can all work on things together.

The Many Syncing Solutions

Dropbox for limited collaboration.
So, I started out with Dropbox by itself, but quickly found that, without spending money, I quickly filled up my allotted space. Even after maxing out the free upgrades (I think I have 35Gb thanks to some promotion at Oxford, referring everyone I know and being a shameless social media promoter – every Mb counts!), I still am limited.

SugarSync for a bit more storage
So I added Sugar Sync;for my personal files, to clear off Dropbox and leave it for just collaboration. Well, that filled up pretty quickly too, and as I haven’t found SugarSync to be as easy to navigate as Dropbox. I muddled along with these two but still struggled with things like version control and the desire for contemporaneous editing. Which led to Google Drive and Google Docs.

Google Drive for document collaboration
With Google Drive, I had about 25Gb, but the file organization structure made me confused about where things were. When I wanted to collaborate real time though, I was stuck, as Google Docs was really the best thing for editing documents simultaneously.

The Remaining Problem: Working and Collaborating on Large Projects

With all these syncing solutions, I still had a critical problem: working on a big project from my home and lab computer and then sharing those big project with anyone else. I don’t want to leave work late, so that I can see my super sweet little kids, but that becomes tricky because in order to work after they go to bed, I’d have to drive back to the lab. Now that I’m cranking tons of simulations in (what I hope is) the final push toward this PhD thing, I have to deal with plenty of DATA-HOGS of a project. I thought, at first, that I’d just clear out my Dropbox a bit, and try to be parsimonious with what I saved, but as the output for my simulations is mathcal{O} 30Gb/simulation, this quickly became unfeasible.

Enter BitTorrent Sync – My Savior

This little gem (free) lets you have a synced drive on as many computers as you like. The freeing move here is that there is no cloud interaction, so there is no space limitations.There is also no auto-backup for the same reason, but this is obviated if you use Time Machine or something similar.

All you do is download the software (a couple Mb’s) and then, to set up a shared directory, it generates a ‘secret’ which you share with whomever you want to share. The secret is a massive string of letters/numbers that is auto generated – and I bet even the guy at would approve.

So, now I’m set and I don’t have to think too hard. I also don’t forsee having to spend money on the ability to collaborate or work from home with ease (until maybe I have a lab or my own and lots of people, but by then – if that time ever comes – I will have grant money to spend on such things…).


Dr. Jacob Scott (@cancerconnector) is a physician working on a PhD in math trying to better understand cancer. He studies at the Oxford Centre for Mathematical Biology and Integrated Mathematical Oncology. You can check out his blog here.