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I have a wireless local area network (no internet connection) consisting of 10-20 computers connected by a single router. I want to share some gigabyte-sized files from one computer (let's call it the server) with the rest of the WLAN.

Is it optimal (i.e. faster downloading) to set up a torrent tracker on the server and use bittorrent to share the files? As far as i know, bittorrent uses bandwidth and data from the peers' links to enhance the downlowading speed. In this WLAN, however, everybody is connected via a single router. Or should i just use plain old ftp/samba?

EDIT

Thank you all for your answers. Everybody agrees that bittorrent is not a good solution for wireless file sharing. If i just wanted to share files, a usb hard drive would be the fastest method. However, i want to share files wirelessly, so it is not an option for me. I would also like to emphasize that the WLAN does not have an internet connection.

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You're in control of the bandwidth anyway, bittorrent doesn't make sense bandwidth-wise. Does it save you time? –  M.Bennett May 6 '13 at 11:23
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6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I think this would be an excellent way to distribute your file for a similarly-sized wired network, but with wireless I doubt it will work as well. The problem is collisions. Wired (switched) networks are fairly collision resistant, but wireless networks are extremely vulnerable to packet collisions. Since all clients in a bittorrent swarm need to frequently transmit packets, as well as receive them, you would be creating a situation that greatly encouraged collisions in a wireless network, resulting in the need to frequently re-transmit and greatly reducing overall throughput.

A better option would be to set up a web server on the source and use that to allow each client to download the file in turn via a normal web browser. An FTP Server or even Windows file sharing would also be acceptable. The main thing is that with a single wireless router on a single frequency in the space, you'll do much better with one device (your original server) doing most of the transmitting. Even better still if that main host gets a wired connection to your router, so much better that throughput might be double or more of what you'll get over even a wireless dedicated sender.

The ideal solution would be a wired connection from the server to your router, and some kind of multi-cast protocol that allows you to transmit the entire file once, with every client listening to the one broadcast, and any missed packets can be requested at the end of the transmission. But I'm not aware of any such tool.

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USB key is fastest. Your wireless channel is your bottleneck. Whether you have all clients copy from 1 source, or distribute the source with torrenting, all packets of every file still need to traverse the wireless once to each receiver. All the while your wireless is the slow guy.

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And to make matters worse WIFI is half duplex, making things worse. USB stick or external harddrive and sneakernet is by far the fastest solution. –  Tonny May 6 '13 at 12:21
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I would not recommend Bit Torrent for doing that. Instead I would use "Bit Torrent Sync" or "AeroFS" . For a corporate network, since firewalls sometimes block BitTorrent protocol, I would recommend using AeroFS in those cases. On the other hand, the free version of AeroFS only allows you to sync a couple computers (not more than a handful).

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If you have asus wifi router, you can check modified firmware, in the latest version added possibility to make home media center from your router with so called 'apps + transmission' with 'Trans.BT (RTN13U)' virtual server integrated into the wifi router.

by this clickable

For other trademarks, you can check google, so maybe youll find something similar.

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Torrents would most likely not be very helpful in this situation. The advantage of torrents is that it saves the server bandwidth by not having to hand out the same parts of the file repeatedly. As other computers/torrent clients gain those parts of the file, they can serve them to other clients. Since, all of your computers are on the same network, most of the advantage of that torrents give you is lost. Torrents would become more helpful if you had a lot files and had to do this task often. If not, by the time you set up the torrent clients you could have started the copy on the machines.

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One advantage other answers in this question don't mention is that your typical Bittorrent program is very resilient to all sorts of network issues. Bittorrent isn't really about speed but about distribution. Bittorrent is very robust, scalable to many users and handles large files nicely.

Especially in a WLAN environment where nodes may enter and leave the network at any time, I think it's worth considering. If people need to take their machines, they don't have to cut off their FTP client and restart the transfer later. Long running FTP and HTTP sessions are sometimes fragile, especially if these WLAN users are going to be wanting to move around during the transfer and possibly drop or change their connection. With Bittorrent, you just keep the torrent client running and let it do its thing.

If you are talking about distributing files in a private WLAN, especially very large files, you aren't likely to save time over manually copying them via a USB drive. But, it will save you a lot of headache in keeping track of who has what, etc. Most torrent programs are very friendly with displaying progress, etc. and also very good at dealing with firewalls.

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