Use the Right Tool for the Job: When to Use Online File Sharing vs. Email
Would you use a saw to hammer a nail? It can be dangerous to use email to share files with others when it only leads to chaos and people using the wrong version of the file.
We all know the wisdom of 'use the right tool for the job' - to do otherwise is to invite mistakes through people using the wrong file versions. It’s no different with the many choices of online Internet-based tools: pick the right one and you job will be sped along to successful conclusion.
Email is the #1 Internet application. Free mail services such as Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Hotmail and Google GMail are perennial favorites because they provide powerful mail capabilities, work from any browser or computer, and are free. Many of us still use PC-based mail programs such as Microsoft Outlook.
However, no matter what mail program you use, you are bound to have used it at times to share files with friends or colleagues. It’s so tempting because it’s so easy - just attach the file and hit ‘Send’, and the message is sent off to Joy, Rachel, John and Ted. Not only that, but you can be sure they’ll notice it - it’ll be right at the top of their email inbox.
Or can you be sure? There are several potential hitches with sending files by email, and a more pervasive problem when people slip into using their email programs as a ‘filing system’ for dozens or hundreds of file attachments they’ve received.
First, the potential hitches to them even getting the file in the first place:
1. Your email system or theirs might definitively refuse to transmit the attachment because it's too large or because virus protection software is over zealous and stripping out attachments
2. Their email system might have spam filters that prevent them from ever seeing the email
3. Your email might get lost in their inbox - never noticed by them; only leading to you being asked to ‘send it again please’
Second, the more pervasive problem when you and your colleague Joy, Rachel, John and Ted slip into using email as a filing system. The problem is that email inboxes and folders fill up with many emails with many attachments, and when you send a new version of a file, the old version of the file never goes away - it’s also still there, lurking in their email folders. It’s all too easy for them to mistakenly refer to the wrong version of the file. This can be a major source of confusion, mistakes or worse.
There's a better way to share files with a group of friends or business associates than sending them via email attachments - post the files online into a single file sharing website, where all your colleagues have secure access to the files. That way, members always access the latest, most current version of the files.
There are a variety of excellent online file sharing solutions for groups. The best provide various levels of support for groups to set privacy levels so the files can only be accessed by group members who log in with passwords. Here are three good choices:
1. Google has a good directory at http://www.google.com/Top/Computers/Software/Internet/Clients/File_Sharing/
2. Yahoo has a good directory at http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/Peer_to_Peer_File_Sharing/
3. KeepandShare file sharing at
The third, from www.KeepandShare.com is an easy-to-use system where you create a free account and organize your essential information in folders that you name whatever you like. Folders can contain files you upload, as well as native web documents you can create in KeepandShare. You set the ‘sharing’ on the files and folders to control who sees what - so your essential information is always as secure as you want. You can even grant edit rights to allow others in your group to upload files into a folder for sharing.
Lastly, KeepandShare also offers group calendar sharing with the same password-protection as the calendar.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joy enjoys writing web advice articles.