Need extreme upload bandwidth for your torrents? An always-on machine that meets your various tracker ratio obligations while leaving your primary PC free for other tasks? Are you a victim of traffic shaping? Are you a content producer who wants to keep distribution bandwidth costs to a minimum? Or are you a hardcore filesharer stuck on on a P2P unfriendly network, maybe at college?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, a seedbox may be the solution for you.
The information presented in this article was gleaned mostly from postings regarding the subject both here at Slyck and at the forums of private BitTorrent sites. The author has no personal experience with seedbox use - the aim of the piece is only to shed light on the matter, not to serve as an official authoritative guide.
Paradoxically, there isn't really any specific type of machine called a seedbox, any more than "email PCs" exist, because just about any machine can do either task. To be a seedbox, a machine must simply:
1 - Seed a torrent from its location
2 - Be on a fast (100mbps+) connection
3 - Administrated primarily via remote access
From these criteria, technically nearly any machine can be a seedbox, from a cheap laptop to a powerful HTPC. In practice, however, because seedbox users get the service from a remote provider, they will never actually physically see their machines, which are likely to be server-class hardware.
While it is possible to get a shared server, dedicated servers are recommended. Seedboxes usually run either Linux or Windows, with the latter being the more expensive option. Linux seedboxes are typically accessed via SSH, but some hosting companies will install VNC for users for a fee. Windows seedboxes are typically accessed via the Remote Desktop feature built into the OS.
Unfortunately, some private BitTorrent sites use a combination of IP address and account matching, passkeys and the like to ensure that both the BT peer and the browser are at the same location (or are the same person). This is to prevent cheating and infiltration. These checks may be circumvented on Linux seedboxes that run rTorrent though, by doing the following:
In the rtorrent.rc file, set the option:
"bind = a.b.c.d"
This will bind outgoing and incoming connections to that IP address. Then set the option:
"ip = a.b.c.d"
This will set the IP address that is reported to the tracker.
Once access is set up, the seedbox behaves like any other remotely administered PC. With its massive bandwidth, a seedbox can seed (relatively, compared to a home PC) many torrents to many sites simultaneously, thus assisting greatly in ratio maintenance and file distribution.
The steps for uploading a torrent using a seedbox are:*
1 - Create torrent on PC
2 - Upload files to seedbox
3 - Upload torrent to site
4 - Download torrent to seedbox
5 - Start seeding
Commonly suggested seedbox hosts are:
(their main selling point is that they're offshore)
∙ Vectoral Servers
∙ JMH Services
∙ Layered Technologies
While most forum experts seem generally to recommend against using seedboxes for public torrents (when asked about it, at least), we can't think of any reason a seedbox would be a bigger target than a PC on a regular connection, unless enforcement authorities knew beforehand about the seedbox, or BitTorrent is against the seedbox provider's policies. In fact, it is arguable that since the odds of detection increase with the time a peer remains connected to a swarm, it may actually be more secure to seed public torrents using boxes. This would allow the original uploader to dump the file to peers and disappear very quickly. Perhaps this is already being done, but Slyck has no concrete evidence thereof at this time.
As mentioned at the outset, seedboxes are likely to become even more relevant as Comcast, the largest US broadband provider, allegedly obstructs BitTorrent seeding for some users on its network and even more so if other providers follow suit.
But why stop at BitTorrent? It would seem that a seedbox is good for just about anything that generally demands upload bandwidth, e.g. IRC sharing and newsgroup binary posting.
In any case, the seedbox appears to be an easy solution for hardcore uploaders.
Strictly speaking, there are other ways to go about this, including FXP, Usenet, etc.