Transferring large files over the internet – what are the options?

Transferring large files over the internet can be tricky. PowerPoint presentations with a lot of graphics can be from 5-100mb in size. Print-ready images files in TIFF format can often be as large as 75mb. Groups of JPEGs or GIFs (even zipped) can easily exceed the file size limit of mail servers. CD-ROMs or DVDs are still useful for hand-delivering large files. However, time-constraints often preclude the use of mail and courier services are too expensive especially for smaller projects. What are the options for getting files across the globe as fast as possible?

1) File share services such as MediaMax or Badongo:

MediaMax (25GB free) and Badongo (free up to 1GB) will get the job done. Additional space and premium services are available for a fee.

The downside to these sites is security. Once you have transferred the images, can you delete the files? And, are they really deleted?

2) File transfer services such as YouSendIt or MailBigFile:

Free transfers up to 100MB file size. Premium service – send files up to 2 GB with no ads, basic tracking, 14-day expiration, and unlimited downloads.

Same security issues as above.

3) Send via FTP on hosted server:

FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol. You can use a web browser to connect to FTP addresses exactly as you would to connect to HTTP addresses. Using a web browser for FTP transfers makes it easy for you to browse large directories and read and retrieve files. Your web browser will also take care of some of the details of connecting to a site and transferring files. While this method is convenient, web browsers are often slower and less reliable and have fewer features than dedicated FTP clients. The most popular FTP client is Mozilla’s Filezilla.

Assuming you have a web-hosting service will a generous storage/bandwidth allotment such as Bluehost or equivalent, this is a good way to transfer files securely. Setting-up files for download is easy. However, allowing another party to upload is another story. The process is a bit complex requiring setting FTP permissions and passwords. It’s best done using anonymous FTP.

4) Send via hosted server (non-FTP):

This my favorite method for transferring large files over a long distance. You simply created a directory on your server (Bluehost or equivalent) and upload the file(s) via FTP. CMOD the directory and files to 777. You can then send the link (test it first) to the recipient.

Even better is to embed the link in a simple web page with download instructions. I have had problems sending links in Gmail and the natural tendency is for the recipient to click on the link and try to open the image(s) in a browser (not recommended). Once the recipient has download the files, you simply use Filezilla to delete the files on your server. You can then modify the webpage to say the files are no longer on the server. This prevents getting a 404 server error should the recipient click on the link at a later date.

5) Use Gmail (20MB limit):

The Gmail file size (attachment) limit per email is 20MB. Assuming the recipient has either a Gmail account or a mail server that allows 10MB attachments, this is a quick way to send medium-size files.

6) Use Gmail Space – Firefox Extension (1GB limit):

Gmail Space is a cool Firefox extension that uses the Gmail server to store and transfer files. Each Gmail account has a storage limit of 2GB 3.2GB and a daily limit of 1GB of bandwidth. As long as the recipient is tech savy, this is a good way to transfer files. You should create a new Gmail account for this purpose only – as you will need to give the log-in details to the recipient.

In summary, there is no perfect way to transfer files. All of these techniques have their pros and cons. Personally, I use Technique #3 most often for my freelance photography business. I can put image files and an invoice in a folder on my hosted server and make a download page in FrontPage in a matter of minutes. I have never had a problem doing it this way.

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