File sharing around the office and the world

Anthony Caruana
18 August, 2014
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File sharing, business, macworld australiaThere was a time when file sharing meant handing a 720k Floppy disk around the office – what we affectionately called ‘sneakernet’. Over time, our needs grew to Zip disks, CDs and DVDs. But today, we often need to quickly share large files, often Gigabytes in size, with colleagues and clients right across the world.

So, how can we share large files easily?

The old fashioned way

It might seem low tech but copying files to a USB stick or some other media and popping them into the post is a viable way of moving large files. In cases where either the sender or the recipient is constrained by bandwidth and delivery of the data isn’t time critical, it might just be easier to copy the data to some media and either courier or mail it.

Of course, we’d recommend ensuring that the storage media is appropriately secured with the files encrypted and any passwords sent separately.


Email is easy but many email gateways and services limit the size of attachments in order to manage storage and network traffic. In general, we’d suggest checking with the recipient if anything over 5MB will get through. Although there may be restrictions in place, it is possible to get them lifted if the need is urgent.

The trouble with email is that it’s not a very efficient way of sending large files. Depending on your email software you might even find your computer is tied up for a while as the attachment is uploaded for sending.

Cloud storage

If you use an online cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive or Dropbox, you can share files from those services without needing to attach them to an email.

Log into your online file storage service using a web browser. Choose the file you wish to share and locate the sharing option that’s available.

Depending on your preferred service you can choose whether to send the file as an attachment or provide a link to the file. Access to the file can be password protected so that it’s not exposed to the wrong eyes.

One-off file-sharing services

If you don’t use a cloud storage service but can see how one would be useful for sharing files from time to time, then you can look at some other services.

Hightail (formerly known as YouSendIt), Senduit, File Dropper, WeTransfer and others allow you to upload a file that is stored online temporarily. The recipients receive a link so they can download the file at their leisure. The size of the files you can send this way for free vary from 100MB to 5GB or more.

You can password protect the links you send and set expiry times so that the files are only available for a limited period of time, providing some extra security and ensuring your files aren’t stored on someone else’s servers indefinitely.

Roll your own

If you have a server or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, you can allow access to files on those devices from outside your network. You can either create a web server or use a protocol like FTP to make files inside your network available to outsiders.

The process will vary depending on your equipment and network configuration but will consist of these four key steps.

  1. Enable access to the server or NAS from outside the local network by changing settings on your router or firewall device
  2. Enable a file-sharing protocol such as FTP or create a web server on the server or NAS
  3. Copy the files to a specific folder so that the chance of other files being accidentally shared is minimised and create a username and password so that access to the files is limited
  4. Test it all out thoroughly before sharing it with a client

With this approach, you retain all the control, as you’re not reliant on an external service provider. And, if you’re worried about security you retain the ultimate power – you can pull the plug!




2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Jamie says:

    A 720KB Floppy? I wish! I remember the days of a 360KB single sided floppy disk, that if you were clever you could make it double sided “flipper” disk by cutting out another hole on the side and turning the disk the other way up before putting it in to the 5.25″ floppy drive.


    But then again I have been using computers for over 30 years…. damn!

  2. Knud Potente says:

    In the “roll your own” section a very important option was missed: rolling your own self-hosted cloud-like (Dropbox-like) solution, using open source and freely available software such as Pydio, BitTorrent Sync, or Sparkleshare, among others. This is a specially interesting and viable solution for SMBs that want cloud-like functionality but still want to hold full control of their data.

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