What is file sharing? Simply put, file sharing is the process of distributing digital data. These can be documents, images, videos, audio, ebooks, spreadsheets, presentations, and more.
Until recently, file sharing took a lot of work. The first thing people tried to do is email the file. But it had problems. The file could be too big to email or service. Security was also a concern.
Some shared files by saving it to media like a USB drive also known as a thumb drive or flash drive. The downside was getting that drive to the person who needs the file. You may not be in the same building. Who wants to drive someplace just to drop off a file? Or go to the postal store, pay for postage, and wait several days for the recipient to receive the file?
How Do You Share Files?
Apple users can relate to this scenario. An operating system update comes in. Files containing the operating system updates tend to run large causing many to see a warning that storage is full. After a little grumbling, users start deleting big files and apps. In some cases, they may transfer the files to a computer, file sharing site, or using one of the following ways to share files.
Many Gmail users have run into this. They try to send a big file. Instead, Gmail saves it to the drive and sends a link instead.
Removable storage media
Removable storage media are standalone devices that store files. They’re not part of a computer. These include USB drives, memory cards, and external hard drives.
USB drives can be inserted into most computers with a USB slot. As for memory cards, digital cameras often contain a memory card slot. Some printers may have a slot for memory cards to print photos.
External hard drives can make an excellent source for backing up data from a computer or laptop. Some connect to the computer. Others stand alone and connect to the local network. This lets you access the external drive from your computer or device to manage files.
The downside of sharing via storage media is that it requires physically delivering the media. Rather than shipping or hand-delivering media, people send files by email. Unfortunately, some files are too big for emails to handle. Besides, some files have viruses or malware in them. Thus, some people avoid opening attachments.
P2P networks allow users to send and receive files directly between computers. To do this, users run a client or an app to connect to a P2P network like BitTorrent and uTorrent. Many P2P networks have been shut down for illegal activities such as sharing copyrighted material and spreading viruses.
Hyperlinked documents on websites
A webpage can contain a link to a file. For example, here’s an image of a computer with a cloud. If you click the link, it’ll open the image. The file lives on the server hosting this website.
File transfer protocol (FTP) applications
FTP is a standardized network protocol for transferring files between two computers. You can move files with an FTP client software like FileZilla. Think of an FTP client like File Explorer on Microsoft Windows or Finder on MacBooks.
Most web browsers support file transfers using FTP. This lets you upload and download files to a server. The most common users of FTP are webmasters or people who manage websites. They post files on their website with an FTP client.
Online file sharing services
Also known as online file storage or cloud storage, online file sharing services store files in the cloud. Instead of being stored on your computer, files live on a server or computer outside of your location. This makes it possible to access the files from anywhere.
Many online services have apps and tools for devices. Not only can you manage files from anywhere, but on most devices.
9 Best File Sharing Sites That Are Free
Determining the best file sharing site is a tall order. That’s because all these free file sharing sites don’t have the same features. And when they do, they offer different options. For instance, one may offer 5 GB free storage and unlimited file transfers. Another may offer 10 GB free storage and limited file transfers.
These file sharing sites simplify sharing big files. They’re listed in alphabetical order. One thing they all have in common is that they use cloud storage.
It makes sense for those who use Apple devices to opt for iCloud. Naturally, iCloud assimilates well with Apple products. That means iCloud can automatically transfer files between the device and iCloud. ICloud offers up to 5 GB of space free. To add more requires a paid plan based on the total amount of storage. Apple offers 50 GB, 200 GB, and 2 TB plans.
Typically targeting enterprises, Box cloud storage sees itself as a cloud content management system for sharing information and collaboration. Box’s apps are compatible with Windows, macOS, and most mobile devices. The service connects to more than 1,400 apps. Box offers two plans for individuals. The free plan includes 10 GB of cloud storage, but you cannot upload files larger than 250 MB.
Dropbox offers many options for accessing and managing your files. From a connected device, go to dropbox.com in a web browser or use Dropbox’s apps for desktops and devices. The desktop app allows you to manage your files just like you would with your computer’s files. The free plan comes with 2 GB. You can get more free storage by referring friends. Otherwise, more space requires upgrading to a paid plan.
Like iCloud works seamlessly with iOS and macOS apps, the same goes for Google Drive and Android devices. Google Drive provides up to 15 GB free. However, Gmails count toward the allotment. If you have Google Docs and Google Sheets files, those live on your Google Drive. They also count toward storage.
HighTail, formerly YouSendIt
Formerly known as YouSendIt, Hightail aims to support team collaboration. That’s why it’s no surprise enterprise information management (EIM) company OpenText has acquired Hightail. They both tailor their products for businesses and teams. Still, its free plan comes with 2 GB of storage. However, it has a 100 MB file size upload limit.
For personal use, MediaFire’s free plan contains up to 50 GB of storage. The largest file you can upload is 4 GB. The free plan comes with unlimited bandwidth, multiple uploads, and unlimited downloads. You can share files with a one-time link. This prevents the recipient from sharing with someone else. MediaFire paid business plans provide more storage and support more users.
Apple products work well with iCloud. Androids with Google. And Windows with Microsoft OneDrive. Windows 10 has a default folder for OneDrive for unified file management. Microsoft’s service stores up to 5 GB free. Anything more will need an upgrade to a paid plan.
If you’re looking to share files and not store them, WeTransfer allows users to share files up to 2 GB free. To keep it free, the service depends on advertising. It devotes one-third of its advertising to creatives they admire and causes they care about. Users will need to upgrade to a paid plan to use WeTransfer for file storage.
A free service, Zippyshare promises unlimited disk space and download limits. It supports up to 500 MB per file upload or download. You don’t have to sign up to use it. The drawback is that it only keeps files for 30 days. Thus, it’s not ideal for file storage. The website is plain and content limited, but it gets the job done for those who simply want to share a file.
You may be wondering why [insert name of file sharing service] isn’t included. Even if it’s well-known, it doesn’t mean it’s one of the best places to share files online. These best file sharing sites offer different features and file limits. The right one for you depends on your file sharing goals.