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Introduction To SeedBoxes


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Lots of people ask questions about seedboxes in the forums. But there are so many things to cover so we have been putting off writing this. We decided to start with a 'Very Short Introduction' to Seedboxes and then add to it bit-by-bit. (turned out to be quite long but still shorter than it would be if we'd tried to cover everything!)

What is a seedbox? - Broadly there are two types of seedbox:

1) It is a server, old PC, NAS connected box which is separate to a person's main PC and is connected to your own home connection. The advantage of this type of setup is that you can use your main PC for other things/store the seedbox away in the basement so that the sound of it running 24/7 doesn't bother you. (The concept of a home seedbox is based on the amount of time you keep a torrent running)

2) Is a 'rented' server based in the datacentre of a hosting company. The advantage of this setup is that the datacentre will have an extremely fast connection to the internet. Generally your server will have a 100mbit (or increasingly these days a 1/10gbit connection). This guide is primarily focused on this type of seedbox which is known as a 'remote seedbox' (The concept of a remote seedbox is based on the amount of speed you can attain in terms of both upload and download)

Types of servers

These are primarily sold by companies whose main customers are people hosting websites so we will use that terminology.

Shared Hosting: This is the most basic type of hosting used for websites. Normally you get access to a control panel and FTP access to upload your files. Some hosts also offer SSH access which gives you some more options. Generally you can only run php based bittorrent clients on these servers. However due to the fact that it is 'shared' the amount of resources you will end up using means your account will get cancelled. Not recommended for use as a seedbox!

Dedicated server: The word 'dedicated' basically means that you get access to an entire server of your own! You have full access to the server OS and can install any programs that you like. 

Co-located server: Similar to a dedicated server except that instead of renting the actual server from a hosting company you buy your own and ship it the datacentre where they connect it to their network. You then pay for bandwidth/electricity/etc. We wouldn't recommend this type for a seedbox as the initial costs are high, bandwidth allowance on a co-located server is usually less & more expensive than dedicated (The reason for this is that most customers do not use all of their allowance with a dedicated server but colo customers do hence the bandwidth cost to the provider is higher for colo customers leading to higher pricing/less inclusive bandwidth) and it limits your options for upgrading.

Virtual Private Server: Commonly abbreviated to VPS/VDS (or semi-dedicated) - this is designed for people who need more than shared hosting but don't need/want to incur the cost of a full dedicated server. The hosting company will split a dedicated server into parts (virtual machines) using VMWare/Xen/etc. and sell each one to a different customer. i.e. if the original server has 1000GB of space and they split it into 10 equal parts each person will get 100GB disk space. The experience is usually very similar to using a dedicated server but with less resources and cheaper (though in recent years some very powerful VPS's have become available)

Shared seedboxes/seedbox slices: In recent years as seedboxes have become more popular some companies have started selling servers designed for use as a seedbox rather than for webhosting. There are a number of different variations of these and you will need to check with the supplier to determine what exactly they are offering:

- Some are just VPS's
- Some are VPS's with torrent/FTP/etc. clients already installed
- Some are just dedicated servers
- Some are just dedicated servers with torrent/FTP/etc. clients already installed
- Some only give you access to the torrent client's web UI and ftp download (i.e. you do not have direct access to the OS)
- We expect there are more options aswell but as we don't use one we don't know (if you use a shared seedbox/slice which is different to the ones listed please post a reply and let us know)

An alternative to a VPS/Shared seedbox is to get together with some friends and split the cost of a dedicated server. If you don't know any p2p'ers post in the forums more/talk on irc and make friends!

Cloud Hosting: One of the problems with Dedicated Servers/VPS is that you have fixed hardware (dedicated hardware can be upgraded but you will have downtime). A cloud server is basically a Virtual Machine except that it has redundancy and scalability. Redundancy - if the server your website is running on breaks down within seconds your Virtual Machine can be loaded and running on another server. Scalability - you can quickly and dynamically add Disk Space, RAM, CPU to your server (useful for fast-growing websites which need to upgrade often). For an example have a look at the Node configurator here.

At the moment Cloud Hosting is generally more expensive than a comparable VPS/Dedicated and we don't know of anyone running a seedbox on it nor of any reason why anyone should.

Hosting Companies vs Seedbox companies:

Hosting Companies exist primarily for selling services for the use of webhosting - however these servers can be used for many other purposes aswell such as torrenting. Generally these companies own datacentres or rent space inside one. For legal reasons they do not advertise themselves as seedbox provides but on the whole don't mind if you use them as a seedbox. In fact some companies have grown a lot thanks to people buying their products as seedboxes. If they receive a DMCA complaint about your server they will generally forward it to you and just ask you to delete the material in the notice.

Seedbox companies - these companies buy servers from the above companies and then 'resell' them to the seedbox market. Features include pre-installed clients and guides for torrenting this makes them attractive for a first seedbox. However they may be less reliable than hosting companies.

Duration of Contract: Most hosts will have monthly/3-monthly contracts. Though you can usually get discounts/no setup fee by signing up for longer periods.

Once you don't want to use it anymore just give notice, pay anything due and it should stop working on the day the notice ends.

It is generally recommended upgrading a dedicated server every year as hardware gets better and prices come down. Though this does mean that you have to transfer your data and set up the server again.

Payment Methods: Most hosts accept Paypal, Credit cards and Bank Transfers. If you wish to use some other payment method contact them sometimes they can accommodate you.

You may also be required to pay VAT/Sales Tax.

ID: Some companies might want you to scan/fax them some ID (this is a reason why some people prefer to buy from a reseller)

Managed vs. Unmanaged: If you have a managed server (and also pay a management fee) the server providers staff will help you install a webserver, configure your firewall etc. (They can do a lot more depending on how much you are willing to pay!)

Unmanaged - you do all of the above yourself. This option is better for seedboxes.

Public Vs Private trackers: You have similar risks using public trackers on a seedbox as you do at home the main difference being that if someone gets your IP it isn't really yours but that of your server.

It is not recommended to use public trackers on a seedbox as if you get too many DMCA notices from using them the host might cancel your server. On the other hand some people use public trackers on their seedbox and have never had any problems.

You may wish to install blocking software such as Peerblock

Connection: The idea of a remote seedbox is so that you can seed faster than your home connection. Most seedboxes come with 100mbit ports. Some come with 1Gbit ports (however watch out as some providers who only provide 1Gbit connectivity within their own network outside it is limited to a lower amount such as 200mbit). 10Mbit is virtually finished but a few VPS providers offer it.

Remember just because you have a gbit network card in the server it doesn't mean it is connected to a gbit connection - it may just be 100mbit.

Also just because your server is 100mbit doesn't mean you will get full speed download to your home connection as other factors such as network load/peering have an impact on this.

Bandwidth: Some providers provide unlimited/unmetered bandwidth. Some provide unmetered until a certain limit and then reduce the speed of your connection beyond that limit. Most providers have a bandwidth cap i.e. 5TB/month.

Reasons for choosing a capped provider over an unmetered one include - better peering to the provider, better prices, less congested network etc.

Some providers offer 'free' internal bandwidth within their own network. This is one of the reasons why some providers are popular than others.

Most providers offer a Bandwidth Graph or counter to monitor. It is worth running your own app aswell incase of any disagreements with their stats.

Windows: Netmeter, BWMeter, PRTG or Networx
Linux: VNstat, cacti (rrdtool), mrtg

CPU: Pretty much all modern CPU's can handle a torrent client. If you plan to do other things with your seedbox too then CPU choice is important.

RAM: If you want more users logged onto the server you will need more RAM. More RAM also helps with disk caching and HD usage (especially on a gigabit server).

RAID: Some providers offer some form of RAID - You can ask them to turn this off for a normal seedbox so that you can have more usable space on the server.

When you get your server always check that the hardware provided is that which you have paid for (they might 'accidentally' give you a single core CPU instead of a dual-core etc. [or in some cases you might get a better spec than advertised! this can sometimes happen when the host uses whatever CPU it has in stock instead of waiting for the exact one the website lists to be available).

IP Addresses: Most providers offer more than 1 IP address. It can be useful to have more IP addresses if you want to run other services on the server to keep them separate from your torrenting activities.

Hardware firewall: You do not need this for a seedbox

KVM: Allows you to connect directly to the server during boot-up and use your keyboard to control it. Helps to troubleshoot problems. Not generally needed for a seedbox.

However there is also a type of VPS which is sold using the term KVM which is something slightly different - have a look at:http://wiki.frantech.ca/index.php/KVM

Remote Reboot: Allows you to reboot the server from the control panel if it isn't responding - physically cuts the power and restarts the server - generally included for free. It's not needed to pay for it as you can just open a ticket and ask a tech to reboot it if you are not in a hurry.

Operating System: The most common operating systems used on servers are Windows Server, Linux distro's and Free/OpenBSD - I, the writer of this article, am not familiar with the latter so won't talk in detail about it.

Windows: The great advantage of a Windows server is that for most people it is just like using your computer at home as the interface is the same!

Most hosts are now selling Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 however some hosts are still only offering Windows Server 2003.

Windows Server comes in a number of different editions such as web, standard, enterprise etc. For most people Web/Std is fine. 

Windows Server allows 2 people to be logged in at the same time. To allow more people to be logged in you need to buy Client Access Licenses (CAL's) - these do not work on Web edition you need Standard or better. In Windows Server 2003 you can use the /admin switch to log in a 3rd user (must be an admin account) - the admin switch does not exist in Windows Server 2008. One way to get around the limit without paying MS is to run some virtual machines in VMWare and have people connect to them.

There is usually an extra monthly Windows license charge if you wish to use windows on your server. (Some hosts waive the fee if you can provide a legit license key - do NOT provide a hacked/cracked key - unless you want Microsoft asking the hosting company what your billing address is...)

Linux: Most hosts offer a wide variety of Linux distributions - however the most popular are Debian, CentOS and Ubuntu. If you are new to Linux, Ubuntu is a recommended startpoint as it's popularity means that a lot of programs and support is available for it.

You will usually be given a CLI server edition. But you can install Gnome/KDE as a GUI.
Being free Linux doesn't lead to any extra monthly charge!

Re-installs: Hosts with automated re-install systems usually do it for free, others which require manual intervention may charge a fee.

Restarting the server: You should be able to do this in the same way as a normal computer i.e. on windows: start menu --> restart - you will rarely need to do this (sometimes with windows updates etc.)

DO NOT shut down the server you probably won't be able to turn it back on and will need to open a support ticket!

Connecting to the server:

Windows - you can use 'Remote desktop connection' (mstsc.exe) in Windows to connect to a Windows server.

Linux - you can install a vnc server on the seedbox and a vnc client on your home pc and connect to the GUI via this or use putty to connect to the command-line if you prefer.

Some providers offer a remote desktop version of Ubuntu which you can connect to with x2go - http://www.x2go.org/

Clients: If you have access to the OS you can install any client that is available for your OS.

If you only have access to a webui then you will need to wait for your provider to update the client.

If your client supports encryption enable it.

Getting torrent files onto the server: There are a few options:
1) Log into the website using a browser on the seedbox
2) Download at home and upload via FTP
3) Upload through a torrent client webui
4) Run some type of rss/auto-download script on the server or at home 

Accessing the files: Ultimately you will want to get the files that you have seeded on the server from the server to your home PC.

The most common way of doing this is to install an FTP server on the seedbox and use an ftp client on your home PC.

Windows FTP servers: Filezilla Server, Serv-U
Linux FTP servers: VSFTPd, Proftpd, glftpd, Pure-FTPd

Windows FTP clients: FTPRush , FlashFXP, Filezilla client
Linux clients: Filezilla client, gFTP, KFTPGrabber, lftp
(You can also use something like SCP/WinSCP to download from a linux server using your SSH login details)

You may wish to use ftps (encrypted ftp).

You can also use this in reverse to transfer files from home to the seedbox.

Anti-virus: Most servers don't come with AV and most people don't install one - you can if you want (especially if you use public torrents).

Support: In terms of software/OS support most good hosts will give you some help but it isn't really their job unless you are paying for a managed server.

Hardware - they will replace failed hardware free of charge (unless it is a co-located server) on a 'best effort' basis i.e. when they have the time to do it.

If you want them to do it immediately (even if it is at 2am in the morning) you can usually pay extra for a 'Service Level Agreement' of which there are many types.

Some hosts have better support than others - so consider their record when buying a server.

Encrypting your hard drive

Commonly used is TrueCrypt on Windows Server 2008.

This is optional but can provide some extra security incase the server company's technician's need to log onto your server to fix something. But if you choose not to encrypt the drives, the techs generally don't seem to look at the files and even if they would, they probably wouldn't care.

The best idea is to change all the passwords on the server when you get it. You can also create a special account for tech's so that you don't have to give them my password (but if it is an admin account as it probably has to be they could change your pw and log on as you in theory).

Passwords/Passkeys etc.

By using a secure password, you normally won't have any problems with the security of my passwords or passkeys - however there is always a small chance someone may be able to access these.

As long as you stick to recommended companies you should be fine. It is a bit like internet credit card fraud - statistically there is more chance of someone breaking into your house and stealing your card than getting it via the internet.

Also if you are sharing the box with someone else make sure you trust them!

Other uses for a seedbox: (these mainly apply to dedicated and VPS)

Run websites - the original use for a remote server - just install something like apache or lighttpd and serve your website! (You might also need php and mysql)

Connect to IRC - you can use the server to connect to IRC (and be connected 24/7) and take advantage of sitebots/IRC RSS etc. (Most hosts allow IRC but a few do not so check before buying).

Encoding - You can use the server to encode episodes/movies freeing up your home PC for other things.

Proxy - you can proxy your traffic through it so your ISP can't spy on you. Also it can be used to access TV streaming sites which are geo-blocked i.e. Hulu or BBC iPlayer if your seedbox is based in a country which allows access to them.

FTP - You can run an FTP server for friends and family to download from.

Distributed Computing - join SETI or Folding@Home

As mentioned a Dedicated server is just like any other PC and you can do lots of different things with it.

Choosing a location: You should consider a few points when choosing a location

1) Generally the closer the server is to you geographically the better the peering/speeds are likely to be.
2) If the torrent site you wish to use it on has a lot of a certain type of server,  you may be disadvantaged by having a seedbox in a different place. You can check what boxes are popular by looking in the peer list in your client - you will see the DNS.
3) The legal status of torrenting/filesharing in your country and the country that the server is located in.
4) Some countries just have better internetz! - netherlands for example (mainly because a number of major european internet exchanges are located there and that server companies and their infrastructure is quite well developed)
5) Some routes have bad peering/speeds - i.e. from France to the U.S.
6) If you want to use it as a proxy consider which country the endpoint will be in
7) Exchange rates - normally you pay in the currency of the country that the provider operates in (euro and $ being the most common). If your currency fluctuates a lot against this it may be an issue. 
One way to tackle this is to pay upfront for an extended period (then you don't get affected by your currency depreciating but also don't benefit if it appreciates - also a small risk that they company folds and you don't get a refund).
Some firms may also agree to a fixed price in your own currency for a set period.
cool.gif Timezones - if the time difference is large you might not be able to get efficient support.

Generally it is a good idea to Ping and Traceroute a test IP before buying - you can get a test IP from the host.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi , so im trying to learn all of this from scratch, not knowing , yet, about seedboxes and private trackers. Just the bits of basic info i come across and read up on...much like this post, which was very helpful btw. Thanks ^^.

So basically my main goal from all of this in a nut shell is to get early releases of anime and tv episodes before they appear on the average anime, tv streaming websites. I kind of get my episodes , waiting for such sites to upload them. Some sites are faster than others. But then i start to think "Where are THEY getting their episodes from?" ....and as i dug deeper...i started coming across terms like "private trackers" and "seedboxes". And so here i am. Not really knowing if i am in the right place to be asking about this ....if i am way over my head by being part of this community , which i got an invite to,  I just want to know where to begin =/ ....i got invited to this community for some reason . I really dont want that oppotunity to go to waste. This seems like such a good place to start learning. Can someone please help me out here , show me where to begin, or give me the basics of how to achieve my goal?



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