Cloud computing and the file sharing puzzle

The bottom line is this: when the time comes to send large files to someone out there, email has serious size and functionality limitations. But the cloud computing future is upon us and with it, multiple large-file sharing options have surfaced. The following is a review of the few I’ve investigated recently. Keep in mind that much of this stuff is still in beta and searching for its true identity. Promising but not quite there yet.

When it comes to sending large TIFF files to a publisher, for instance, I used to rely on MediaFire. However, sick and tired of their blasting of advertising and pop-ups, I’ve begun giving a few others a test run. Meet Dropbox, G.ho.st, Files Over Miles and Fileai. They all aim, among other things, at providing one with online file storage and sharing capability. As I just mentioned, one of the reasons  behind such services is that most email servers limit the size of attachments and it becomes impossible to email videos or large files. Hence the need to be able to store these files online, awaiting for your recipient to retrieve them, whether they were made public or placed in a private folder. Or, you might just send them live.

Let’s look at file hosting services first: the main difference between MediaFire and DropBox is that DropBox innovates by adding a desktop-based service in the form of a simple DropBox folder somewhere on your hard drive. That folder becomes a drag-and-drop instant syncing tool to your web storage. Add a file to the folder and it gets synced on the web where you have an initial 2 GB of storage. Remove it, and its image on the web gets removed too.

That desktop service comes at a cost, though; while it is syncing with the web, Task Manager shows its process as gulping 64 MB of RAM. However, unless working live for a while, I don’t see a reason to have DropBox running all the time and I’ve set it up as a shortcut that I will only start when needed.

Files to be shared must be in the Public folder unless the recipient also has a DropBox account, in which case entire folders can be shared. For public files, the recipient does not actually navigate to the web site but rather gets a simple download link.

So, different approaches but I must say that in Dropbox, the clean web interface and absence of advertising are quite a relief.

If you’d like to try it or just learn more, please use this link. Dropbox is using the classic viral marketing strategy of referrals, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s legit and efficient. If you follow that link and decide to get Dropbox for yourself, I earn extra free storage, so everybody wins. :-)

Now how about G.ho.st? Well, I’ve posted about it earlier and I won’t go back into details here. Suffice to say G.ho.st is a full Virtual PC service and offers much more than file sharing. But it does have that capability and with an initial 15 GB of online storage, I must say it is quite appealing. The downside is that since you must load the entire virtual PC interface, the whole thing is slower than Dropbox for instance. File sharing also works on a download link basis.

And then there are applications like Files Over Miles and Fileai, both providing simple P2P file transfer without the need for an account. You go to the web site, chose which file to send from your computer, get a download link, give it to the recipient, they enter it in their browser and get the file. Period. Since these applications work live, both parties must be online simultaneously to exchange files, which is a huge drawback. I also haven’t fully explored the security implications. In addtion, Files Over Miles is limited in size to half the RAM available at the receiving end. But still, they are incredibly simple to use and very fast. Well worth a try, I’d say.