Since the advent of the Internet, a number of ways of sharing files have emerged over the years. From passing along a document as an email attachment to sharing an entire library of multimedia files, the ability to exchange important files has been important in the Internet experience. Peer-to-peer file sharing describes the distribution of digital media using technology that enables users to download files located on the computers of users in peer-to-peer networks. This is different from setting up a website or server with access to files that visitors can download. This peer-to-peer file sharing at one point accounted for a little less than half of all Internet traffic.
The Concept Behind Torrenting
One of the most popular peer-to-peer file-sharing protocols is what is known as BitTorrent. Digital media files tend to be relatively large, especially for high-quality video or audio files. Downloading or uploading one or more of these files can be very resource-intensive, especially for the servers and internet connections involved. The BitTorrent protocol allows a user to connect simultaneously to multiple other users, regardless of bandwidth size, effectively allowing a group of computers to work as servers when it comes to file sharing. This lower bandwidth usage prevents a spike in internet traffic, keeping overall speeds higher for connected users.
The Nuts and Bolts of Torrents
Imagine a scenario where 100 users wanted to each have their own copy of a single 1000-page document possessed by one user. It would take a significant amount of time and resources for all 100 users to have their own complete copy under a typical file-sharing protocol. With BitTorrent or “torrenting,” this original document holder becomes a seed. Instead of the other 100 users waiting in line to copy the entire document, each user or “peer” connects to the seed and copies a small, yet different portion or “segment” of the original document. Once each segment is copied, each peer simultaneously shares their copied segment to the other peers who compile these segments non-sequentially into their own complete copy of the original document. Once each peer has a complete document, they also become a seed and continue to share with other peers, including new peers beyond the original 100 wanting their own copy of the large document or file. Eventually, everyone has a copy in a shorter amount of time with a much smaller demand for resources from any one user.
Working with Torrents
The BitTorrent protocol is an effective way for a peer to download a large file without taxing their bandwidth or that of the seed to whom they’re connecting. You would need to use a BitTorrent client, or program that makes the connection to seeds and other peers download the individual file segments authenticates each segment and re-orders them into a complete, useable file once all segments are acquired.
Unlike a traditional download/upload where the information flows in one direction, in BitTorrent file sharing, each connected seed and peer is engaging in some type of upload/download. This means that each connected peer or seed can be considered to be a distributor of the content in a torrented file. Torrents are often used to share illegal or pirated content. This has prompted some internet service providers or ISPs to limit the bandwidth when any type of torrenting activity is detected. File sharing with torrents is a legitimate way of sharing large files, so you should consider using a Virtual Private Network or VPN for torrenting. A VPN extends a private network to multiple computers. enabling connected users to appear anonymous when on the Internet.
It’s a great big Internet out there. You can instantly connect with users all over the world to exchange information, ideas, and files. From a simple email between friends to more complex technologies that involve multiple users, exchanging data is a critical part of the Internet experience. Torrenting is a popular and effective way of sharing large media files between multiple users. It can be risky, so it’s incumbent upon you to be safe and responsible for the kind of files you share and how you share them.