I’ve been looking for an alternative to back up my iPhone 5S 16GB (iOS 8.4) in order to free up space to upgrade to iOS 8.4.1 that wouldn’t install as it needs 691MB of additional storage. The biggest storage suck on my phone is the ‘Photos and Camera’ folder (7.1 GB). The alternatives for additional storage are to upgrade my iPhone, delete unwanted pictures and videos, or put data onto the iCloud. A quick search revealed some other options but none of these alternatives seem appealing, because :
1) My iPhone is in perfect working condition
2) Deleting unwanted data and videos is too much of a hassle
3) Backing up the iPhone to Google Drive or Dropbox or an external hard-drive is not an option as I have a Rockstor powered NAS box at home
4) Backing up to a computer (Macbook for me) is not attractive either, as I prefer my photos sync to backup daily
5) Buying more storage on iCloud is its own beast. It involves recurring payments (that I despise as these appear innocuous upfront but then sneakily add-up). Take a look at the monthly iCloud plans in the US.
iCloud plan cost (per month) in United States (USD)
20 GB: $0.99
200 GB: $3.99
500 GB: $9.99
1 TB: $19.99
(Source : https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201238)
Even though it does not apply to my use-case, it is worth noticing if there are 4 users in a household, it would cost approximately $48 a year (assuming $0.99, 20GB plan per year for each of the users), and if you are a small business and you and your employees need to share photos on iCloud, it comes with its own restrictions and limit. Click here to know these restrictions.
6. Another reason to not upgrade to iCloud or Google Drive or Dropbox is privacy. While it is not important to me at this point, as my Camera folder contains everyday photos, but could matter to certain users. Apple manages encryption and there have been news about recent iCloud hacks into celebrity photos and articles about hacking into iCloud.
So, it was time to look for another solution and I found the solution right up my alley – a Rockstor powered box with Bittorrent Sync Rock-on. In this blog, I describe the process of setting up backup for your iPhone. (Note : I’ve used free version of BTSync 2.0 for this use-case. When you first install BTSync rock-on, the trial version of BTSync Pro is automatically turned on. I am still under free-trial, but will test the behavior once the trial period expires. I understand that there are restrictions like, folder limit to 10, that apply to free version and BTSync Pro is pretty expensive, $39.99 per year, per device, so it would cost $79.98 to use Rockstor + BTync + iOS for backup, and iCloud plan up to 200GB is cheaper compared to BTSync 2.0 Pro.).
First step was to download and install Sync app on my iPhone (search for ‘BTSync’ in App Store). The app looks something like this :
Once the Sync app was installed on my iPhone, the next was to start configure the Rockstor box and start BTSync Rock-on and then sync iPhone to Rockstor box using BTSync.
1. I am assuming your Rockstor box is already setup. If you are new to Rockstor, read the Quick start guide. I created a 100GB share called ‘vinima_iphone_backup’ in the ‘rockstor_rockstor’ pool.
2. Installing the BTSync Rock-on is pretty simple. Just follow the install wizard with defaults as documented here with screenshots. After the initial Rockstor settings, its time to start the BTSync service.
3. Now, it’s time to configure the BTSync Rock-on. In BTSync Install Wizard, choose “vinima_iphone_backup” for Data Storage. This folder (share) was created created in step 1.
4. This share shows under ‘Resource Type’ under BTSync Install Wizard. Click ‘Next’ and then click ‘Submit’ to finish installation.
5. Proceed to start the BTSync service on Web-UI.
6. I tried to link iPhone to Rockstor backup by scanning the QR code on iPhone and manually (by copying the key) to ‘ BT Sync’ app on my iPhone. You may need to scan either the QR code or enter the key manually. For some reason, scanning QR code didn’t link the iPhone and Rockstor backup for me, so I copied the key. Once the code is accepted, BTSync Rock-on detects the ‘Sync’ App on my iPhone. I pointed to “vinima_iphone_backup” share.
7. Once the iPhone and Rockstor box are synced, you can see the file transfer. You can look under ‘History’ in Web UI to see the individual files uploaded. After syncing, a random name ‘8079baf89ba’ was assigned to the BTSync rock-on on Rockstor box. I changed this random name to ‘BTSync-Rockstor’ under “Preferences” in the BTSync Web UI.
7. This is how things look on my iPhone. BTSync app identifies the BTSync service on Rockstor box and starts backing up my files from my camera. According to BTSync help you can only backup your iPhone camera roll, which was actually consuming most of cloud storage for my use-case, but yes, it may not work if you have music or other data on your iPhone that you want to backup. Quoting from BTSync documentation “While Android can back up data from virtually any location the device can reach, iOS applications cannot read files outside the application folder. So the iOS version of Sync can only back up Camera Roll as it is can be accessed by any application if user grants permissions to do it”)
8. Once the file transfer starts, go to the command line, to check the status of file transfer. The status of transfer-in-progress and completed transfer are shown below. You can also check the status by clicking “History” on the BTSync WebUI.
According to the BTSync help documentation, have the backup option always turned on “When backup is enabled, even if you delete the backed up files from your mobile device, their copies will remain intact on the computer you’ve backed them up to.” The initial set-up for backup was done within my home network. It is a good idea to have your phone fully charged as syncing drains out the battery fast. I was able to sync my phone outside of the home network when I was connected to Wi-Fi. Synching outside the home network happens due to a protocol called uPnP (Universal Plug and Play) which works pretty well with the Sync app.
My next step will be to empty the “Photos and Camera” folder. My next blog will discuss that process in addition to the behavior of BTSync beyond the trial period. Also, I will be investigating the possibility of seeing thumbnails of backed up images.