An email has been the traditional method for sending files across the Internet. Of course, some decades ago, Megabyte-size files were uncommon, and nobody even spoke Gigabytes.
But now email providers have had it. They had to put a limit on the size of attachments people were sending. In the case of Gmail, you can’t send anything larger than 25MB— which is really only a couple of PDFs.
In this post, we’ll go through the eight best methods to transfer and share large files. Whether you need to upload a couple of files, your entire media collection, or database backups— the following methods will give you flexibility, speed/security at various prices.
The best ways to transfer, send, or share large files:
1. Cloud Storage
Popular cloud storage providers such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Files.com, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, and OneDrive provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to storing and transferring data. Most of these cloud storage solutions offer free storage but are cost-efficient when you want to scale.
For example, you can get free cloud storage from Google Drive for the first 15GBs. Another popular cloud storage is Dropbox, which offers free storage for less than 2GBs, but you can upgrade to 2TBs of storage, for $19.99.
To Go Beyond
Files.com, a secure file-sharing for businesses, starts only at $10.00/month/user and 1TB of monthly usage (and scale to 5TBs, for $15.00). Sign up to get a free trial with files.com.
Most of the popular cloud-based storage services, allow you to share files via email or sharable links. For example, Google Drive, Files.com, Jumpshare, Dropbox, etc, allows you to share a file by just granting permission to a user via his or her email, or also by providing them with their sharable link.
2. File Sync Solutions
File synchronization, also known as File Sync, is a method that ensures files in two or more locations (or devices) are automatically updated, using a certain set of rules. File syncing is often used for backup and file versioning.
Most file sync solutions are based on the Rsync protocol. It skips rewriting identical files, copies only new files, portions of files, etc.
With file sync software, you can transfer a copy of your data stored on-premises to another device on the same LAN or to a cloud server. Examples of these file sync solutions include Resilio, Dropbox, and File.com.
- Resilio Sync It is a proprietary P2P file sync tool. It is great for sharing large files across different platforms. It does not store data in cloud servers.
- Files.com Optimal for businesses that have files across multiple cloud providers. Files.com opens secure connections and creates the same versions of the data across different cloud providers. Sign up to get a free trial with files.com.
- Dropbox One of the pioneers in file syncing, Dropbox has made some innovations in this area, such as LAN syncing and Smart sync.
3. File Transfer Protocols
File transfer protocols were made to send and share files regardless of type and size. In fact, many cloud storage services use file transfer protocols to transfer files between client and server.
To use these protocols without any additional cloud service, you would need a client, the server, and software. For example, you can use your computer with FileZilla client and perfectly connect to an FTPS Server using WinSCP, and transfer large files over FTPS. You can use these protocols in free tools like FileZilla, WinSCP, Cyberduck, or SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server.
Below are examples of popular file transfer protocols often used to transfer and share large files.
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP), is the fastest but less secure. FTP doesn't use any encryption, so, it shares all data including authentication, in plain text. FTP is not recommended unless you are using it in an internal secure network.
- FTP Secure, but also referred to as FTP-SSL (FTPS), is based on the standard FTP protocol but adds security via TLS/SSL encryption.
- SFTP. SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is not related to FTP but works via the SSH protocol. This mechanism is very secure, fast, and easy to use.
The SolarWinds FTP Suite
The Free FTP Voyager is an FTP client for Windows. It supports FTP, FTPS, and SFTP and comes with automation capabilities that allow you to schedule downloads/uploads.
With Solarwinds FTP Voyager you can set automatic folder synchronization and schedule transfers, which is perfect for large file backups. Another highlight of this tool is that you can also create multiple FTP server sessions from a singular client and perform concurrent file transfers.
If you are also looking to set up your FTP server, you would need server-side software. The Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server provides file transferring services for FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and HTTPS.
If you want to share large files, setting up an FTP server that scales is key. The Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server integrates with NAS/SAN and other external servers for storage and easy access of files.
4. WebDAV: HTTP-based File Transfer
Although HTTP and HTTPS were made to display websites, and not explicitly to transfer files, the protocols still need to load files from the server like HTML, PHP, JS, and anything that makes a website and service work. They need to transfer files between the website (server) and web browser (client).
Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), is an extension of HTTP, but with a twist. It allows full management of web content on a remote web-server. In other words, it makes a web server act as a file server. Many cloud-based collaboration services, such as Sharepoint, use WebDAV to allow its users to create, modify, upload, download, remote, etc on the files.
A WebDAV client can be used to log into a collaboration service account and take control of the files on the webserver.
- WinSCP is open-source file-sharing software, with support for WebDAV.
- There are some cloud storage services, such as Files.com that allow users to access remote files via WebDAV.
Nowadays, due to security concerns, most WebDAV clients would only connect via HTTPS (HTTP over Transport Layer Security (TLS), or (HTTP over SSL). WebDAV also includes innovative features like DAV locking, properties, namespace manipulation, encryption (via HTTP over SSL), authentication, caching, and proxying.
5. P2P – BitTorrent
BitTorrent is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing mechanism designed to distribute and share large files. The protocol is highly underrated— mainly because it has been widely adopted by the pirate community, but the protocol is perfectly legal.
Some Linux distributions use it to share their software with their end-users in a more efficient and faster way.
Other examples? Blizzard, a gaming company uses BitTorrent to share its updates and patches. A Facebook engineer, also officially stated that they use BitTorrent to internally push updates to all their distributed servers.
How Does it Work?
Being able to take massive files, create chunks out of them, share them to multiple destinations, and reconstruct them on the other side, makes BitTorrent a fantastic file-sharing mechanism.
6. Network File Shares via VPN
When sharing files within internal networks, people often use techniques like NFS, SMBs, homegroups, or NAS. Obviously staying within network perimeters, makes these file-sharing mechanisms the safest and the fastest. But nowadays, hardly anyone stays within network perimeters, they are either always on the move or working remotely.
So, how to access these shared libraries and files remotely? There is a solution to make those shared (NFS or SMB) folders remotely accessible— but bear in mind that these require advanced technical expertise.
Creating a VPN
VPNs were originally designed with the idea of connecting distributed endpoints to a headquarters in order to access internal network resources and download files using network file shares.
Using a VPN is one of the safest ways to transfer large internal files using the Internet with a VPN you would be able to:
- Map a network drive (NAS or SAN).
- Connect to Samba Shares.
- Or just open a shared folder.
7. Remote Desktop Software
Remote desktop applications were designed to access and control desktops— not really to transfer files between them. However, advanced remote desktop solutions started to include file sharing mechanisms to allow end-users to transfer any file between clients/servers, without the need for any additional software.
- Splashtop A powerful remote desktop with drag-n-drop file sharing.
- Parallels Desktop Best remote desktop for mobile devices, also support file sharing.
- LogMeIn Pro Best remote desktop for enterprises. It also supports file sharing and storage.
- TeamViewer One of the most popular remote desktop solutions for multi-platforms. It also supports file sharing.
Most of these applications allow large file sharing between PCs, laptops, and even mobile.
8. Shipping a Hard Drive or USB
Using a shipping or courier service to take your hard drive with massive data, is often faster than using your own Internet connection. It is also cheaper, as you don’t have to upgrade your bandwidth.
But, bear in mind that sending a hard drive by mail is not always a good idea. Some carriers might not be even aware of the contents within the package, so your data can be prone to theft, loss, or disk damage.
However, there are some solutions to this problem
The AWS Import/Export for Massive Transfers
AWS Import/Export is a service that helps you transfer massive amounts of data from your on-premises to the AWS cloud; that otherwise would take a long time to transfer with your Internet connection.
How does this work?
- You mail a portable storage device with your data to AWS.
- The AWS Import/Export service transfers data from your physical storage to AWS’s internal network, using high-speed internal transferring.
- Your data is in the AWS cloud within one business day.
Deciding on a file-sharing tool
When it comes to transferring, sending, or sharing any file (regardless of size and type), security and speed are two crucial factors.
- To ensure security: Always use encryption mechanisms embedded in HTTPS, SFTP, or VPN. Authentication is also key when sharing anything across the Internet. Most cloud services use these mechanisms.
- To ensure speed: When uploading folders to cloud storage, always compress your files. Use free compression software like 7-Zip or WinZip. FileSync and P2P are two great methods for sharing large files.
To find flexible solutions with security and speed, cloud storage is the way to go. Cloud solutions such as files.com, Google Drive, Dropbox, provide amazingly flexible pricing and even free storage.