Cloud File Exchange | Share and Share Alike

May 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Mike Levine



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Most of these businesses are structured around what’s often called a “freemium” model: They offer free basic services, but give you the option to pay either a small monthly fee or a discounted annual fee for more full-featured and robust options. Although some users might be tempted to go with the free services, you’ll soon find that for professional uses, it’s more than worth it to pony up the $10 or so a month to move up to at least the first tier, if not a bit higher. Moving to the paid tier typically provides you with larger file sizes, additional security measures and options for tracking the receipt of your files.

Another incentive to move to the paid tier is that on many services, if you use the free version, your recipients will have to wade through a jungle of advertising to find their download link. On many sites, for example SendSpace and MediaFire, the recipient’s screen is so cluttered that it makes it hard to figure out which is the actual download button. Often there are larger buttons that say “Download,” but actually bring you to downloads of the advertisers’ offerings. This is not something you’d want to subject a client or collaborator to.

Yet another annoyance on some services’ free layer is a delay imposed before sending the file. For instance, RapidShare (, a Swiss-based service that’s particularly big in Europe, makes free users wait 90 seconds before their file begins downloading.

Security is a big deal when sending music files. The last thing you want is to send a mix to a client or colleague through a file-sharing site and then find the song spreading virally on the Web. Luckily, most sharing sites employ encryption such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for files as they’re transferred, and many also offer password protection. If you read the Security sections on most of the file-sharing-service Websites, you’ll see that many go even further. YouSendIt, for instance, has a seven-point security plan that includes tight measures around its data centers, ISP-grade firewalls and more. Dropbox and Gobbler prohibit their employees from accessing any of the files that are sent through their services. If you’re concerned, it’s definitely worth checking what a site says about security before signing up.

Now, on to the players. There are two basic types of services that allow for cloud-based file sharing:

  • file-delivery sites (YouSendIt, SendSpace, MediaFire and RapidShare)
  • file hosting and synching sites that also offer file sharing (Dropbox and SugarSync).

The file-delivery services also offer some storage of the files that you upload, but their raison d’être is sharing files, not storing them. Some don’t let you send folders, just files, so if you want to send the former, you’ll need to Zip them first. On the plus side, these sites provide more options around the delivery of the file—most importantly, password protection of individual files.

The hosting/synching sites offer a wider range of services, and if you need a place for offsite backup of important files, and synching your files between different computers and/or mobile devices, you might want to consider signing up for one because you’ll also get file sharing. (Still another class of sites, like Carbonite and Mozy, are dedicated backup services and have a different array of features.) File-hosting/synching sites also allow for folder sharing, which can be very useful on a collaborative project. However, they don’t typically offer password protection for sending individual files, which, depending on your situation, might be problematic.

Many file-related sites of both varieties offer free software applications to enable their full functionality. For the file-sharing sites like YouSendIt, using their application gives you faster and more convenient uploading and downloading of files than you’d get through a browser. For the hosting/synching sites, the software is often necessary to access their features. Dropbox and SugarSync also have free mobile apps, making it possible to gain access to files in your synched folders from your mobile device.

Because music files can be so large—especially multitrack sessions—they often exceed a service’s file-size limitations. Some people split their session files up into different folders, then zip them and send them through the cloud. Others don’t even bother trying to send full session files—having sat through a four-hour download once—electing to overnight them on hard drives or large Flash drives.

If you’re going to be sending large files into the cloud, check the service’s file-size limitations before choosing a provider because they vary. The hosting/synching services typically have more generous limits or are unlimited. If you do a lot of sending, you might consider subscribing to both types of services. The per-month charges are small enough that it might be worth it for the flexibility.

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