Transferring a large file isn't always easy. When e-mail won't work (which it often doesn't for files of any heft), you can burn to a disc or send a file piecemeal, but neither option provides much value to the person who just needs your file now, and simply.
Online file-sharing services can transfer large files for you. To use these services, you upload your file to them, and then your recipient gets a link to the download. The file itself doesn't go through e-mail, just the link to it. Let's look at a few different products that perform this service.
Box.net may be billed as a service designed for companies, but it's equally useful for consumers.
Overall, Box is extremely easy to use and its interface is second to none. After signing up for an account, you can upload a file of up to 1GB in size, add comments to it to provide some context for other users, and save it to a single folder or multiple folders on the site. Once the file is uploaded, you can e-mail or IM a Box link to others, who can then download that file to their local machine. You can even create a shared workspace and work together online. Whether it was uploading the file or using that shared workspace, Box provided me with an outstanding experience.
One of Box's best features is its customizable widget. After heading to its widgets page, you can upload files, customize the look and feel of your widget, and share it with others by embedding it in your Web site or blog. You can keep adding files until you hit the 1GB limit. It's a really neat feature and a great way to share files that you don't mind keeping unsecured. I created my widget (right) in under a minute.
Unfortunately, Box only provides 1GB of storage a 25MB upload limit for free. If you need more than that, the company charges $7.95 for 5GB of storage and 1GB uploads or $15 per user per month for businesses that want 15GB of storage and 1GB uploads.
Dropbox is similar to Box because it allows you to upload files and share those with others. But in order for them to see the files, the service requires you to add them as authorized users.
Once you sign up for Dropbox, you can immediately start uploading files and creating separate folders to control access to documents. Once a folder is created, you can share it with others by inputting their e-mail addresses into the sharing box on Dropbox. The service then sends those users a link to sign up and start sharing access to the folder.
Uploading files in Dropbox is simple and generally zippy. If you want to create a photo gallery that can be viewed by anyone, the site boasts a Photos section where you can upload pictures. And although it works as advertised, it doesn't compare to nicer galleries like those you'll find on Flickr.
One of the most compelling reasons to use Dropbox is its offline functionality. When you sign up, you can download the company's desktop client, which allows you to drag-and-drop files into it. Once complete, it syncs with your online account in the background while you work. It's an outstanding feature.
Dropbox also offers an attractive pricing model. Although it doesn't provide as many collaboration features as Box, it offers more capacity for free. In fact, you can upload up to 5GB for free. It costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year to have 53GB of storage.
Microsoft's Live Mesh is an ambitious cross-platform sharing tool that allow you to collaborate with others and share files in a manner that's similar to Dropbox. Unfortunately, it's just not as appealing as its competitors.
Once I signed up for the service, I was able to create folders and after uploading files, share those with others. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to share individual files like you can in other services in this roundup, and trying to find all of Live Mesh's features was made difficult thanks to its clunky design.
Live Mesh features a handy sync tool, dubbed Live Desktop, that allows you to pick folders on your PC and upload them to the service. They can then be shared with others and any changes to the files will sync with your local copies, so everything is up-to-date and you don't overwrite any progress you or other people in your network make. Even better, music files can be streamed over Live Desktop using Microsoft's Silverlight player, but iTunes tracks and other copy-protected music won't work with it.
Unfortunately, Live Desktop peer-to-peer synchronization is "available for Windows PCs only" so far. Microsoft says Mac OS X and mobile device support for Live Desktop will be coming soon.
I should also note that when I started synchronizing my computer for the first time, I experienced a staggering decline in processing speed. Subsequent to that, I didn't experience any slow-down when it synchronized existing files.
Live Mesh is free and allows you to upload 5GB of storage. And although it works well with Windows PCs, it's not full-featured on a Mac or Linux machine and its user interface leaves much to be desired. So far, Live Mesh simply isn't an ideal service.
YouSendIt is the tool I use most often when I need to send large files to people who I don't want to collaborate with. It's quick, it's easy, and if you don't mind losing all the extras you'll find in competing products, it's ideal.
YouSendIt is free if you want to send a file of 100MB or less. After registering for the service, you're presented with an upload page that allows you to send files to up to 100 recipients. Uploads are quick and once complete, the service stores that file for seven days and e-mails a download link to all the recipients you added prior to the upload.
Although it's a simpler service than competing products and it doesn't provide you with collaboration tools, YouSendIt comes in especially handy when you download it as a plug-in for Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, or Microsoft Outlook. When you're ready to send the file you're working on, you can opt to "Send with YouSendIt" by following a link in the respective program's drop-down menu. Once you do that, you'll immediately be brought to the company's Express application, which uploads and sends the file for you without requiring you to go to its website. I've used that function on many occasions over the past month and each time, the upload is fast and and easy.
YouSendIt isn't designed to be a company's collaboration tool. Instead, it aims at providing you with the fastest file transfer on the market. And based on my testing, I can say that it achieves that goal. My witnessed upload times were slightly faster than those on other services and although it was only saved for seven days, that's more than enough time for a file to be downloaded by the recipient.
YouSendIt offers a slew of plans. Its free Lite plan allows for 100MB file uploads and 2GB of monthly storage. If you want 2GB file uploads and 40GB of monthly storage, the company charges $9.99 per month or $109.99 per year. It also offers pay-per-use deals that charge you $8.99 if you want a one-time use of 2GB file uploads or $3.99 for a return receipt. It also provides payment plans for small businesses and corporations. Needless to say, there's something for everyone at YouSendIt. And it's worth the price of admission.