29 July 2007

#31. Here Comes the Big One

Hello again from Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill. This week let’s sit in the corner booth and talk about what happens when size really matters. It’s an increasingly common problem that frequently causes frustration and embarrassment. More and more we hear questions like “How do you expect me to take that huge thing?”

Yes, sending big files used to be a hassle. The wired world’s needs to exchange more digital photographs, movies, music, and other large files sometime seem to outrun the network’s limits. Though Gmail (also known as Google Mail) allows you to send and receive email attachments of up to 20 megabytes, sometimes media files or collections run to hundreds of megabytes, or even over a gigabyte. But worry not; clever Internet entrepreneurs keep finding new solutions to our new problems.

Not for Flower Deliveries

FTP (that’s File Transfer Protocol – not FTD, the florist) is an old Internet standby for large file transfers. Using FTP has become much easier than in the old command-line days, when we had to remember arcane command syntax. Today many FTP utilities offer familiar graphic interfaces, usually resembling Windows Explorer. Highly rated examples include CoffeeCup Free FTP (available from http://www.coffeecup.com/free-ftp) and CoreFTP (free from http://www.coreftp.com/).

In fact, you don’t even need to install a new utility. Add-ons (also called plug-ins) for your Web browser, whether Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, or others, can handle FTP transfers without separate software. A good example is FireFTP for Firefox (free at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/684).

Even so, using FTP can be somewhat challenging for non-techies (for example, the sender has to learn how to set up an FTP server account). And FTP often is no longer necessary, now that a new crop of Web sites have simplified large file transfers even more. Read on….

For Heavy Lifting

Many Web sites enable you to transfer large files – even one to five gigabytes – for free. For starters, see my list of on-line backup sites in post #26 (24 June 2007) and my update about DivShare (#27, 1 July 2007). You can upload a file to one of these sites, then give your user name and password to the recipient who wants to download the file.

Is that still too complicated for you? Then you can just log on to a Web site and supply the location of your big file and the recipient's email address. The site uploads the file from your computer and sends an email notice to the recipient, who simply clicks on the link in the email to download the file. That is the promise of this selected list of free services:

Some other services are personal peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks, which are a bit more complicated and require both sender and recipient to download and install software. Examples include Civil Netizen (http://www.civilnetizen.com/), with a 4 GB per file limit; Pando (http://www.pando.com/), limited to 1 GB per file; and FolderShare (http://www.foldershare.com/), with a 2 GB limit.

For a very comprehensive list (without personal recommendations) of free file transfer sites, sorted by size limit, see the recent entry at the ever-helpful "Fix Your Desktop" blog.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If so, please tell everyone you know about my blog. Do send me your suggestions, either by posting comments below or by writing to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. And don’t hesitate to click on any advertisements that might interest you. See you here next week!


  1. Hi Jonny,

    This is super-helpful. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Good info. Plus, I like your style!

  3. Thank you very much, Marc, for alerting me and all your fellow readers to this change. I appreciate your reading my blog, and especially your taking the time to write in to help others.