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Getting Excited over BitTorrent Uses

Any organization or group with a lot of content to distribute can benefit from the financial savings of using BitTorrent instead of traditional FTP or HTTP transfers over the Web. If you plan to make media and other files available online and want others to be able to distribute them, do so using BitTorrent and be clear about whether you're permitting users to put the files into trackers and continue to share them. It's to your advantage if you do enable continued distribution, because users looking for the content won't have to come to you to download it.

Knowing the best uses for BitTorrent

BitTorrent distribution is best suited for

  • Big files: Very large files, or sets of files that together are quite large. You can distribute small files with BitTorrent, but it's not the most efficient use of network resources.
  • Popular files: Content that is going to be extremely popular during a short period. Bandwidth costs go up when you have lots of people trying to access the same file at the same time. If your content is going to be hot as soon as you announce it, BitTorrent can help you keep costs down and actually get people the files faster.
  • Non-super-secret files that aren't protected by copyright: Content that can be freely distributed. Remember that the BitTorrent network isn't designed in any way for you to control access to torrent files. In fact, you can't predict where a file will end up when you release it to the BitTorrent network; nor can you predict how long it will remain available.

Introducing cool distribution possibilities

Here are just a few ideas for content suited for torrent distribution:

  • Distance learning: Academic institutions and companies whose employees are geographically distanced from each other can distribute video lectures and presentations to outlying offices and branches.
  • Sharing of databases: Companies and organizations that share large databases of contacts, records, files, and more can distribute the databases over a distance, without burning dozens of copies of a CD.
  • Libraries resources: Libraries with collections of electronic research materials and archives can make these resources available to users, as some are already starting to do in other file formats.
  • Records: Share records of employees, patients, and new members with remote locations that need access to the records. This potential offers a great opportunity to improve flexibility for international companies that frequently transfer employees from site to site.
  • Software: Distribute software releases without incurring huge bandwidth loads every time you release a new bug fix.
  • Court documents: Everyone knows being a lawyer means drowning in a sea of paper. How many trees could be saved if lawyers began sharing discovery documents as torrents instead of making 45 copies of the same content on paper?
  • Archives: Any archive is rife for potential distribution via BitTorrent. Got a microfiche archive you just put in digital form? How about scans of all those old photographs? This content won't be changing anytime soon, so you can turn it into a torrent and call it done.
  • Internal sharing: One of the exciting potential uses of BitTorrent is for organizations that need to share content internally — perhaps content that is never available to the public. Your organization would need to make sure not to use a public tracker to announce the torrent, and putting some other security measures in place would probably be advisable, as well. There is no reason not to use BitTorrent to share some of the large files that must move between outlying offices and branches of a company anyway.
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