File-sharing solutions for small business

By Anthony Caruana | November 1, 2013

Rather than sending documents to someone via email, there are lots of online services that make it easy to share documents.

While email makes it easy to send files, there are some limitations. Some email services restrict attachment sizes while others block some file types from being transmitted. For a small business, this can be more than annoying - it might stop an important document from being sent or received. So what are the alternatives?

Rather than sending documents to someone via email, there are lots of online services that make it easy to share documents. In most cases, these bypass the need to send large attachments by providing a link to a location where receivers can download their own copy of the file or document.

It's also possible to send files directly from within your network, without relying on a third-party intermediary, but that takes some effort as you need to change settings in your router or firewall and enable remote file sharing.

If that sounds too hard and the files you need to send are large, there's always the old-fashioned way.

Online file sharing

If you use an online cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive or Dropbox, you can share files from those services without needing to attach them to an email.

Log in to your online file storage service using a web browser. Choose the file you wish to share and locate the sharing option that's available. You'll get to choose whether to send the file as an attachment or provide a link to the file. Access to the file can be password protected so it's not exposed to the wrong eyes.

If you don't use a cloud storage service, there are alternatives. Hightail (formerly known as YouSendIt), senduit, File Dropper and others allow you to upload a file and send a link to other parties who can download the file at their leisure. The size of the files you can send this way for free vary from 100MB to 5GB or more.

An advantage of these services is that not only can you password protect the links you send, but also set expiry times so the files are only available for a limited period. This means your data is only accessible for a set time, thereby providing added security measures.

The DIY approach

If you have a server or network-attached storage (NAS) device, you can potentially allow access to files on those devices from outside your network. This is a four-step process that requires you to:

  1. Enable access to the server or NAS from outside the local network by changing settings on your router or firewall device.

  2. Enable a file-sharing protocol such as FTP on the server or NAS.

  3. Create a username and password so that access to the files is limited.

  4. Test it out thoroughly before sharing it with a client.

Using this approach, you can control access to your files rather than having to trust an external service - something that might worry you if the files you're sharing are particularly sensitive.

File sharing the old-fashioned way

If it all seems too difficult you can always copy your files to a USB stick or DVD and send them via courier or snail mail.

It might seem a little retro but it works!


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