When you want to share a file with a friend but don't want to hassle with email attachment limits or running a home server, very little beats a fast online file sharing service. Here's a look at five of your best options.
Photo by WebWizzard.
This is an update of our treatment of the topic from two years prior. (A lot has changed.) The following five services take your files to the cloud so you can easily share files with anyone.
Running a home server is a nifty way to share files, but it's not for everyone; it puts the burden of maintenance, uptime, and speed on your shoulders. Online file sharing services are perfect when you want to let someone else handle the logistics.
Drop.io (Web-based, Basic: Free/Premium: From $US19/Month)
The drop.io service is available in two primary flavors. The free service supports "file drops" which can consume up to 100MB of storage. Premium services start at $US19 a month and expand the available storage from 100MB to 10GB and up depending on how much storage and how many drops you'd like. Drop.io's "file drops" are where it really stands out compared to simple file-sharing services. File drops are active pools of files, you can add batches of files, share with others, allow other people to add files and collaborate, and view the media directly from the media viewer in drop.io.
MediaFire (Web-Based, Basic: Free, Premium: From $US7/Month)
MediaFire offers multiple tiers of file sharing. At the most basic you can upload as many files as you want, limited by a 200MB cap per file. Free accounts will hold files for 30 days from the last time they were downloaded. Premium accounts start at $US7 a month and boost the file cap to 2GB per file, enable site-to-site transfer to your MediaFire account, enable embedable Dropbox folders, and enable direct file linking—no MediaFire splashpage when you share. The folder-based organisation of MediaFire makes it simple to share entire batches of files with others, like vacation photos or project files.
Dropbox (Web-Based/Windows/Mac/Linux, Basic: Free, Premium: From $US10/Month)
Dropbox has won over many users by combining online file sharing with local storage and syncing. You can use Dropbox exclusively as a web-based file sharing tool to upload and organise files in folders, easily sharing them with yourself or friends. Grabbing the Dropbox client, however, enables sharing from a folder on your computer. Files stored in the folder are automatically synced to your Dropbox—useful for all sorts of tricks like syncing your OnteNote notebooks among computers or keeping your password keyrings up to date.
RapidShare (Web-Based, Basic: Free, Premium: From $US9/Month)
The RapidShare service has multiple layers of user accounts which, at first glance, can be quite confusing to a new user. Without signing up you can upload a single file of 200MB, your file can then be downloaded up to 10 times—perfect for just sharing a file with a few friends. When you upload files you're offered the chance to set up a free "collector's" account which allows you further options to store and organise your files. A system exists for people with collector's accounts to accumulate points and convert them into a premium account but no clear explanation of the process is anywhere to be found on the RapidShare site. Purchasing a premium account boosts your storage to 20GB and raises your per-file-cap to 2GB.
Megaupload (Web-Based, Basic: Free, Premium: From $US10/Month)
Megaupload, like other popular fire-and-forget file sharing tools, has three tiers of service. You can share files with no sign up at all—they'll be limited to 500MB in size, have a 45 second splash page when downloaded, and be given lower priority in the server queue. Signing up for a free account boosts your priority in the queue, raises your maximum file size limit to 2GB, and gives you 200GB of online storage—not bad for a free account. Premium accounts give you unlimited storage, unlimited file size, remove the wait time for downloading, and enable a host of features like batch downloading, password protection for files, and support for FTP and direct HTTP linking.
Have a favourite file sharing service that wasn't highlighted here? Know a trick or two to share about a service we did highlight? Let's hear about it in the comments. Have a great idea for the next Hive Five? Shoot us an email at [email protected] with "Hive Five" in the subject line and we'll see if we can give it the lime light it deserves.