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How to Send Large Files Effectively

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My first digital camera took photos that measured 640 x 480 pixels; that’s VGA resolution or 0.3MP. These photos could easily be shared via email, and they had to be as this preceded USB drives and Dropbox. Now that digital cameras are capable of taking photos of much higher resolutions, typically 10MP or more, sharing becomes a little more difficult.

In this tutorial I will show a number of different ways to share large documents, such as photos or films.


Email

Large email attachment
Some files are just too large to send via email.

This is the go-to means by which most people will attempt to share large documents. Whilst it may be possible to attach large file size photos and send them via email, you may not be able to send many at once and you are always running the risk of clogging up the destination mailbox.

As a method of sending large files or photos, email is an easy to understand but imperfect means to share large file size information.

Tip: The maximum file size for email attachments permissible, on the popular email providers, may be larger than you first imagined. Gmail, YahooMail and AOL all allow attachments of up to 25MB. Outlook.com and Hotmail allow 10MB and Mail.com 50MB


SFTP

SFTP
A secure FTP client for transferring files to a web server.

SFTP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol and FTP is the way in which files have shared across the web for many years. When you download a Linux ISO image, for example, that is being shared on an FTP server.

It is possible to upload your files to some webspace and then provide a link for your recipient to download them.

As a method of sending large files or photos, FTP is less easy to understand, for the beginner, but allows for the sharing large file size information. The disadvantages are that you will need some webspace and an FTP client in order to upload information.


Dropbox

Dropbox
Sharing, with Dropbox, is possible from the webpage or from the secondary-click menu

Other cloud-based file synchronisation services are available, but the one best known to most computer users is Dropbox.

Dropbox provides you with 2GB of space for free. There are various incentives whereby you can increase the amount of free space and you can also pay for additional space in order to synchronise files across devices.

You can also share specific files with others. Provided that the file is in your Dropbox folder, secondary-click on the file to reveal the context-sensitive menu and select Share Dropbox Link. This will generate a long URL which will be saved to your clipboard which allows you to Command V paste the URL into an email, an iMessage or another app by which to share the link.

As a method of sending large files or photos, Dropbox is relatively easy to understand and allows for the sharing large file size information provided that it does not exceed the space that you have available in Dropbox. That said, it may still be confusing to use for the novice Mac user.


Google Drive

Google Drive
Sharing with Google Drive is possible, but not entirely frictionless.

Google Drive is well suited to sharing data between devices and you can even share documents with other Google Drive users. It’s also possible to use Google Drive to share large photos, but it is a convoluted method by comparison to the others.

To share a photo, for example, you need to follow this workflow:

  • Open the Google Drive folder in Finder
  • Drag or paste your chosen photos into Google Drive
  • Open the Google Drive web interface
  • Locate your photos and secondary-click to reveal the context-sensitive menu
  • Click Share to generate a URL
  • Paste the URL into an email or iMessage

As a method of sending large files or photos, Google Drive is not particularly easy to understand, for the novice, though it does allow for the sharing large file size information. That said, it may still be confusing to use for the novice and experienced Mac user alike.


iCloud

Unlike MobileMe’s iDisk, iCloud does not have a Finder-based method to share large documents such as photos.

Photostream exists and allows for the sharing of photos between your Apple devices, but it is not set up to be able to share with others.

As a method of sending large files or photos, iCloud is not suitable.


Web-based Services

Web-based file transfer
Some are free, some are paid and some have small file size limits

There are a number of web-based services, such as ShareFile, WeTransfer and YouSendIt, but these services often have limits on them that are not too dissimilar from email providers. A maximum transfer size of 20GB, or just 10GB, is not uncommon. There is even one service that has a limit of 2GB despite advertising itself as being a method to transfer large files.

Once you’ve considered that there is a need to create yet another online account and – in some instances – pay for the privilege, the attraction of web-based services soon fades.

As a method of sending large files or photos, web-based services are not particularly frictionless, may incur charges and may not offer any advantages over email in terms of the size of file that can be sent. Perhaps these services are more trouble than they are worth?


Menu Bar Apps

Mac users are spoilt for choice when it comes to slickly designed apps. Many developers pay a lot of attention to both form and function meaning that a few carefully chosen apps can enhance your day-to-day workflow. When it comes to sending large files, this is no exception.

CloudApp

CloudApp
CloudApp is a simple and easily understood menu bar file sharing app -- though the maximum file size permitted is rather small.

It’s been around for a few years, now, but it’s simplicity is they key. CloudApp is a menu bar app that allows you to drag and drop large files to the menu bar icon whereupon they are uploaded to ‘the cloud’.

Upon completion of the upload, there is an audible ting sound and a URL to the file is inserted into the clipboard ready for pasting into an email, iMessage or other document.

As a method of sending large files or photos, CloudApp is easy to understand and pretty much frictionless. The limitation is on the file size that it is possible to upload unless you choose to pay a monthly subscription for the service. That said, a subscription only increases the permitted file transfer size from 25MB to 250MB … Which doesn’t really come close to the other options examined here.

Droplr

Droplr
Droplr is a simple, or sophisticated, menu bar sharing app.

A direct competitor to CloudApp, Droplr works in a similar way as a menu bar app to which files can be dragged to be uploaded. Depending upon which plan you sign up for, Droplr allows files transfers of up to 1GB or 2GB.

As a method of sending large files or photos, Droplr is easy to understand for the novice. Ideal if you wish to share one file with many people, you can upload and just supply the hyperlink for all of your contacts to download the file. That said, in terms of large file transfers, Droplr is suited only to files of less than 2GB.

Infinit.io

Infinit
Infinit allows a means for direct Mac to Mac, or other computer, file transfer

Infinit is the new kid on the block. At the time of writing it is a service that is in beta with a Mac menu bar app which is also in beta.

The approach that Infinit takes is, however, subtly different to CloudApp and Droplr. Instead of uploading your file to the cloud, Infinit is a service that transfers a file directly from your Mac to your colleague’s computer, be that another Mac, Windows or Linux machine.

In order to transfer a file, both machines must be turned on and connected to the internet and both users must have signed up to, and installed, Infinit.

As a method of sending large files or photos, Infinit is a new take on transferring data as it does not upload it to some we space, first, for it to be downloaded again. Instead it creates a connection with the destination to transfer files fast. This makes it ideal for particularly large files, films perhaps, or for those where you only need to share with one person.


Conclusion

When it comes to sending large files, email will often win out as the one that is the most convenient and the most easily understood even if it is not the best solution.

Menu bar apps are frictionless and allow for a single upload to be shared with many people, though the upload size is limited and there may be a cost. Except in the case of Infinit which does not cost (whilst in beta, at least) and does not impose a limit on file size, though it is suited only for individual computer-to-computer transfers. The usefulness of web-based services is limited and the usefulness of Dropbox links is perhaps undiscovered for most.

Ultimately, it’s the size of the file that you wish to transfer – and the number of people to whom you wish to transfer it – that will determine the most appropriate file-sending solution. Just be aware that email is not always the best way to send large files.

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