By Zack Davis
As typical image file sizes increase, many photographers are finding it harder to move, share or deliver their files digitally. Whether delivering the final edit to a commercial client, submitting a print-resolution image to a magazine, or wanting to send work to your home computer from the studio, there are simple solutions available. We’ll cover just a few of the more popular services here including Dropbox.com, Box.net, YouSendit.com and Me.com. These services allow you to send large files as easily as you send an e-mail and access your files from multiple computers whether you’re on Windows or Mac.
Dropbox.com works nearly seamlessly on Windows because it appears as a folder inside your computer. Anything inside this folder is automatically sent to the Dropbox servers, which allow instant online access on any Windows or Mac computer. Dropbox also has a complimentary iPhone app that allows you to access and edit your folders on the go.
If you’re using Dropbox and sharing a folder with other people, you’ll be instantly notified when a new file is added or modified as well. This is great if you often find yourself sending files to a few people over a chat program like Yahoo Instant Messenger.
Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage, and has paid subscriptions ranging from $9.99 to $19.99 per month. Setup is fast and simple; the learning curve is minimal. Additionally files can be uploaded on the Dropbox website if you are away from your computer. I’d recommend playing with the free 2GB version and upgrading to the paid subscription only if you find yourself needing more space.
YouSendit.com stands out from its competition because it offers a variety of ways to send a file. If you have a single file you want to send to a recipient you can select to use their Outlook plug-in or their software called YouSendIt Express. You can choose to password-protect your file for delivery, ask for a return receipt and get certified delivery with tracking. Depending on the type of account you select these services may be free or be available for a fee. YouSendIt also gives you control over the shared files, including how long they can be downloaded. I would compare YouSendIt to a 21st century postal service. YouSendIt also lets you receive files from others via a personal YouSendIt Dropbox (not to be confused with Dropbox.com), which is great if you need someone to return changes, updates, or anything else.
Of all the services I looked at, Box.net seems to bring the most to the game. Their Open Box program allows their service to integrate into just about any computer program, smart phone and even other online services. Not only is Box compatible with iPhone and coming soon to Blackberry, it also is easily accessible from any smart phone via a mobile-only version of their site for Android, Palm and Nokia users. Of course their service is both Windows and Mac compatible. File collaborators can discuss edits via comment boxes right below the folder that contains the file. And you still don’t lose the simplicity of sending a file to someone via Outlook, fax machine, and many more additional programs and add-on’s. What pushes Box.net’s service above the rest is that they have the collaboration of Dropbox, the sharing ease offered by YouSendIt and a website that is amazingly simple to use. Box.net prices start at $9.95 for a 10GB single user account and $15 each for multi-user accounts.
Me.com, or MobileMe from Apple, is definitely different from the other services but in good ways for iPhone and Mac users. It’s perfect for any iPhone user who wants access to, and to share, files on the go. The Me.com user can have a folder in online storage that’s public (shared with others) and another that’s private (only he can see what’s inside). To access your Me.com account from your Mac, you set up your MobileMe account in system preferences, and once that's done, you can easily access your Me.com folders through Go > iDisk > My iDisk from the Finder. From any computer you can go to the Me.com site and log in to access your files. It does lack some of the collaboration abilities provided by the other services as well as other features.
That said, if you’re an iPhone, iPod Touch or Mac laptop owner and want to share files, access to your e-mail, calendar, bookmarks and contacts while on the go Me.com might be your perfect fit. The great thing is, you don’t have to own a Mac to use the software; MobileMe is compatible with Mac and Windows. Pricing is on par with Box.net, another plus at just $99 a year for 10GB of data storage. Oh, and perhaps the best part of Me.com is the Find My iPhone feature! I have needed this myself more than once.
Some people or businesses elect to exchange files using FTP, file transfer protocol, which behaves somewhat similarly to the way you upload files to labs. But this process is more complicated and involved than the options above. Sending files via FTP requires that the computer you are sending the files to, or downloading from, is set to run as an FTP server. You direct your browser (Windows) or FTP client (Mac) to the FTP server address (e.g. ftp.serveraddress.com, and possibly with log-in information, too) provided by the company with the FTP server. Instead of typing the familiar www, you use ftp so the server knows where to send you. PC users can use a Web browser to send and receive files from an FTP server, and programs such as FileZilla are available and free. Mac users cannot use a browser, but there are free programs available like Fetch, or Transmit for $29.95. FileZilla (free) is compatible with Mac, which makes it great for users who have both Mac and Windows systems but do not want to learn multiple programs.