In brief, a seedbox is a server where you set torrents to download. Upon completing, you can download it directly from the server through https or sftp. The benefits of a seedbox include that the P2P traffic is headed somewhere else (for concerns about copyright infringement), you use less bandwidth from your ISP (only download, not upload), you could download the files from any web connection, and you can control torrents a bit more conveniently – server is always on, you can add torrents through a web interface or an app on your phone. Of course, you could set up these conveniences on your own computer without the other benefits and having to pay for the electricity.
I try to stay as legal as possible in all things including downloading copyright infringing materials. I pay for cable and use a TiVo to record any shows I’m interested in. However, if a friend recommended I watch a new TV series and it was already a few episodes in, I might download the first few episodes in order to get caught up. Other one-off instances might exist where I have to turn to torrents but I’m not as zealous about it as those behind the Digital Media Consumption Manifesto at www.dontmakemesteal.com.
However, I do have my concerns regarding ISPs becoming the enforcers of copyright infringement. While US ISPs might have backed away from disconnection (which costs them customers) as a means of punishment, there was recently a new copyright enforcement plan agreed upon by major ISPs and the RIAA and MPAA. It has been reported that the new plan could include a number of punishments like filtering access to websites, throttling connections, or severing connectivity entirely, although not much is officially known about the plan.
Lawsuits are still quite prevalent against copyright infringement with a 200,000 person lawsuit named just this month. Of course, bandwidth caps are also a concern with actually using your “unlimited” Internet connection. Not only is this a concern among pirates but any individual that embraces the increasingly prevalent cloud. Streaming videos and backing up files can quickly consume your allotted bandwidth. One such example ran in Wired’s July issue Comcast Bans Seattle Man From Internet For His Cloudy Ways.
All of these reasons – ISP disconnection, lawsuits, and bandwidth caps – might make you consider subscribing to a seedbox. With a seedbox doing your torrenting for you, the P2P traffic would be heading to the server and you would be downloading the files directly from the seedbox with an https or SFTP connection, so your connection would be encrypted and the bandwidth consumed would be less. The electricity to power the server would also be covered by your seedbox, so you wouldn’t have to leave your computer on. With these concerns subsided you would probably be able to seed longer, resulting in healthier torrents. Seedbox speeds might also be greater than what you can achieve at home, so the download would be residing on the server and would allow you to download it at your convenience.
When you rent a seedbox, you’re getting a configured slot on a shared server that has a web GUI for a torrent client up and running. All you have to do is upload a .torrent file or point it to the URL of the .torrent file and it will start downloading. Once it’s downloaded, you can download the file from your seedbox.
Each seedbox provider is different so you might want to check for FTP or HTTP access before you pay or any other features that matter to you. Other differentiating factors include what torrent frontend is used, such as rtorrent, rtgui, wtorrent, rtorrentweb, avalanche, utorrent, rutorrent, or transmission. Of course, the big elements will be the ability to create torrents, the speed of the seedbox (usually 100Mbps though many go higher for more money) and how much bandwidth is allotted. Another cool feature of your ‘always-on’ seedbox is the ability to add and control torrents from your smartphone from an app like Transdroid.
There is a nearly endless list of seedbox providers that a simple Google search will turn up dozens. Your best bet is to search for reviews or recommendations in private tracker forums. To write this article I used an unlimited bandwidth plan from WhatBox.ca and was very content with the service and rutorrent front-end. This spreadsheet is a pretty good starting point to compare providers and plans.
Of course, you can make your own seedbox. If you just want a dedicated box in your home for torrenting, you could build a simple desktop tower and use that but that only provides some of the benefits. If you have hosting, you can follow DIY Seedbox or the Seedmehome project.
Is it worth a monthly subscription to torrent? Perhaps if bandwidth caps are pressing down from your ISP or you create torrents and need a good way to start seeding them. Would it just be better to buy access to Usenet so you don’t have to download twice? You could buy the content or stream from Netflix or Hulu+ what you might have had to torrent. Availability seems to dictate piracy trends. With Fox delaying its streaming content, it will likely see an increase in piracy of its shows.
404 Tech Support does not condone piracy or theft and respects intellectual property and recommends you do too. 404 Tech Support does not condone bandwidth caps or falsely selling “unlimited” Internet access nor invasion of privacy by forced copyright-enforcing ISPs.