The Best Ways to Share Large Files Online

Sharing a large file online is not as simple as sending it via email. Most email providers have a file size limit, which means that larger files must be shared via some other means. Gmail, for example, has a file upload size limit of 25 MB. So what do you do when you need to send work files and media that exceed these limits?

The good news is that there are various methods for sending large files over the internet, and they don't all necessarily have to cost the earth. In this guide, we give you some tips on how you can send large files 

The best ways to send large files - 3 Methods

When it comes to sharing large files online, there are three primary methods available to you:

  1. Use a cloud storage service to store and share the file.
  2. Use compression to zip-up the file and make it smaller.
  3. Use a file sharing site to temporarily store the file online and share a link to the file with your contact.

Each of the methods outlined above has its merits, and we will discuss each of the possibilities below so that you can use the approach that is best for your needs.

The important thing to remember is that if data privacy and security is important to you, you will need to ensure you use end-to-end-encryption. This will be essential if you are sharing private business data such as intellectual property or sensitive consumer data that needs to be protected to comply with data protection regulation, for example.

Share a file using a Cloud Storage Service

Cloud storage services like Drop Box, Google Drive, and iCloud are a good way to upload and share files online. The great thing about these kinds of storage services is that they tend to provide some free storage space, which means that you can use them to upload and share larger files without paying a fee.  

Cloud storage services allow you to invite contacts via email to any of your private files – so they can access the file and download it. You can even set permissions such as read only or read and edit, depending on whether you want that contact to be able to collaborate on the file.  

Below we have included the amount of free storage space you get with some of the world's most popular free cloud storage providers:

  • DropBox Basic: 2 GB of free storage
  • Google Drive: 15 GB of free storage
  • iCloud: 5 GB of free storage
  • OneDrive: 5 GB of free storage
  • pCloud Basic: 10 GB of free storage
  • Sync.com: 5 GB of free storage
  • MEGA: 15 GB of free storage

What if I need to share a file securely?

Although the free options mentioned above can allow you to share a file with a contact, they will not provide end-to-end encryption. This means that the files you upload and share will be secured server side, and it is technically possible that the data could be exposed by a data breach.

In addition, because these cloud storage service providers control the keys to your data server-side, they could be compelled to share access to your files by a government warrant. As a result, this can make free cloud storage services unsuitable for sharing highly sensitive data. 

If you want to large files in a completely secure manner, it will be necessary to ensure that files are already encrypted before they are uploaded to the cloud. This kind of security is called end-to-end-encryption or 'zero-knowledge' – and it ensures that only you and the file recipient can access the contents of a file. 

If you are planning to send important private documents, intellectual property, sensitive consumer-related data, or anything else that you would prefer to keep completely private, you will need to use a service that provides e2ee. Below we have included the best options available:

Use file compression software to ZIP or RAR 

Depending on the size of the file you want to send, it might be an option to compress it. File compression algorithms make your file smaller, so that you can send it via email. During this process, the recipient uses the compression software to decompress the file. 

The two most common types of file compression that are widely used today are ZIP archives and RAR archives. However, there are many types of compression formats including: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, WIM, AR, ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DMG, EXT, FAT, GPT, HFS, IHEX, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, QCOW2, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, UEFI, VDI, VHD, VMDK, WIM, XAR and Z.

The great thing about these types of compression algorithms is that there are plenty of free applications on the market for both zipping-up and unzipping files into archives. Some of these formats will provide strong AES encryption to ensure that the data is completely secure against interception or hacking.

The only drawback with this method is that extremely large files may not become small enough to be emailed even when they are compressed. Zipping files will usually reduce file sizes by up to 50%. Thus there will be limits to the files you can successfully send in an email using compression.

That said, you can definitely use compression to send larger files than usual. We have included the best applications for compressing files below:

Use a free file sharing service

Due to the fact that it is impossible to send large files via email, many services now exist to facilitate the sending of files over the internet. These services allow you to upload large files to their servers. Following that, you can share the link to the download with your contact via email.  

Free file sharing websites are an easy and convenient way to share information. However, in order to ensure that the data is secure, it will be necessary to encrypt the data prior to uploading it.

By encrypting and password protecting the data in advance of uploading it to a file sharing service, you can ensure that the information is inaccessible to anybody but the recipient. Below we have included a list of the best free file sharing websites:

File transfer services are a convenient and easy way to share files. However, it is important to note that these kinds of services are free because they collect user data and use it for advertising purposes.

These services are known to collect device-level identifiers, IP addresses, name, age, sex, location data, and data about how you interact with their services. This data is also shared with third parties. Thus, depending on your threat model, you should check the individual privacy policies to understand how your data is affected.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

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