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Online file sharing is undoubtedly one of the most convenient ways to get large files across to your friends and the people who need them. Email attachments have a 20MB limit (Gmail) and that’s surely not enough, unless you split the files up and send them one at a time, but what a hassle! I rely on online file sharing to share lecture notes, slideshows and photos with my friends and family. Here are some services which I use the most:

Dropbox
Dropbox was created by 2 MIT students back in 2007. Although they are now a three-man team. Its aim is to simplify file sharing, but it also has a lot of cool features besides the ol ‘upload-and-share’. It is still in private beta but you can get an invitation to join from getdropbox.com

Desktop interface Dropbox

Upon registering for Dropbox, you will have to download its desktop application. This is necessary in order to utilize all of Dropbox’s features. I’ll explain later on. Once the application is installed, a little dedicated folder will be set up, and it will be linked to your Dropbox account. So everything that you put in the folder will be uploaded. This ‘drop’ folder will have 2 sub-folders to arrange your files: Photo and Public. Everything that you dump into the Public folder will have an external link assigned to it, so you can instantly share those files with anyone.

Dropbox public link

What pleases me most about Dropbox is the fact that I only have to drag-and-drop my files into this folder in order to upload and share them online. Another amazing thing about Dropbox is that it has a roll-back feature. Anything you delete or edit will be cached. So in case you delete something and would like to retrieve them again, it’s as easy as clicking ‘Show deleted items’ and restore them. It can also track changes made to files, so the original file will always be available, even though you overwrote it with a never one.

Other features of Dropbox:

  • 2GB storage (5GB for earlier beta testers)
  • No upload limit (or none that I’m aware of)
  • Mac and Windows compatible
  • Folder syncing
  • Shared folders across users

driveway logo
I’ve been using Driveway for a while, and for me it’s been the most reliable. With a new account, you’ll get 2GB of storage. I know, that’s not much. However, if you send an email to your friend telling them about Driveway, you’ll get another 2GB automatically. So essentially, if you sent 10 emails, you’ll get 22GB of storage!

Driveway dashboard

Driveway uses a web interface which is pretty simple to navigate. Click on ‘Upload’ and choose your files/folder to upload and you’re set. There is a 500MB limit on each file, though. Uploading is pretty straightforward and you have the option to automatically send an email to the person you’re sharing your file with. So set the file to upload and leave it running. Nothing to worry about.

upload interface driveway

One cool feature about Driveway is that you get to see the IP of the person who downloaded your file and the number of times the file was downloaded so you’re able to track where your files are going.

Classic and simple file-sharing but reliable.

DivShare is a tricky little devil. Two years ago when I first started using it, they had no limit to their storage. That’s not the case anymore. They’ve set the limit at 5GB; with 50GB of transfers monthly. I have to admit that I’m pretty disappointed with DivShare. Their 200MB file limit is also nothing to be impressed about. Nevertheless, DivShare is one of the big guns in terms of online file sharing and it would be impartial for me not to cover their service.

divshare dashboard

Like all web interfaces, it gets a little hard to manage your files if you have a lot of them. It’s difficult to see all of your files at once, and you have to keep pressing ‘Next’ to move on. That’s the case with my DivShare. I uploaded everything there when I thought that it was still unlimited storage. Now, it’s pretty cluttered.

DivShare does have its strengths. They have an embedded video player, photo & document viewer. So you can actually preview the files before you download them. Any video you upload will have the option to be converted to FLV so that you can use their player. The original file will still be available for download, of course.

Divshare preview

One last thing about DivShare, it’s upload has been a little flaky lately. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but the conventional upload method isn’t very reliable. I resort to using their Java uploader and things get a little better.

Podmailing
Lastly, the new kid on the block. Not many have heard of Podmailing. I’ve written an in-depth article about it, check it out if you want to learn more.

Podmailing is ‘file sharing bit-torrent style’ to put it simply. In order to send files to your friends, you’ll have to use its desktop application. Choose the file to send, enter your email along with the recipient’s and click ‘Send’. Right here, two things happen. Firstly, the file starts uploading to Podmailing’s server. Secondly, an email is sent to your recipient, and if the recipient opens the email he/she has the option to either wait for the file to finish uploading to the server OR download the desktop application to retrieve the file instantly. But how, you may ask, is the recipient able to download the file before it is completely uploaded to the server? The answer is: P2P. Embedded within the desktop application is a P2P protocol. A direct connection is set up automatically between you and your recipient.

The recipient also has the option of downloading the .torrent of the file which you are uploading. Open that with any Bit Torrent application, and they can start downloading the pieces which has already been uploaded to the server and establish a connection to the seeder (you!). If you have multiple recipients, even better as they can help to seed once their downloads are complete, speeding up the process of spreading your files across to friends.