File transfer services have come a long way in the past couple of years, with new business models, features and pricing structures that make sending files online a delight. It’s a far cry from the old world of clunky FTP and shady file upload sites. But not all of these apps are created equal. They’ve each got different features, limitations, and focuses, and finding the right one for your workflow can be tricky.
That’s why we thought it’d be a good idea to compare them and see which ones come out on top. To evaluate these services, we’re going to look at their ease of use, file size, storage, and bandwidth limits, and pricing. This is less of a comparison and more of a roundup of some popular and useful apps, so check out the details of each to decide which one suits your needs best. There’s a wide variety of apps here, ranging from no-registration-required file transfer apps to feature-packed cloud storage solutions, and hopefully you’ll find something that fits the bill for you.
A quick word of caution: There’s plenty of reasons most of us need to share files we’ve created with others, and that’s what these apps are for. However, you should never use them to share files that you do not own the copyright to. If it’s a copyrighted file, you should never be uploading the file online to distribute it to others if it’s not your creation to share.
Quick no-frills file sharing that’s great for home and work use.
AppStorm Articles about Dropbox
Dropbox has become the standard for personal cloud storage services over the past few years, and does a good job of allowing its users to share files as well. The web app was recently overhauled with a great new user interface and makes sharing files from your account easier than before.
To share a file or folder, all you have to do is right-click on it and select ‘Get link’ in the options that appear – and a page with the files, or a preview of a single is instantly generated. You can copy the URL from your browser’s address bar and share it with anyone via email, IM or social networks, even if they’re not Dropbox users. There are no ads displayed on these pages, which is great if you’re sharing files with clients.
If you’re uploading files using the web app, the file size limit is 300MB; if you’re using the desktop app you can upload files as large as your account capacity (example: a single 50GB file if you’ve a 50GB account, or multiple files of any size totaling up to 50GB). A nice touch is the ability to generate links from the desktop app itself. One thing to note is that Dropbox limits public links to 20Gb of bandwidth per day on free accounts, and 200Gb of bandwidth on paid accounts, but unless your file is really popular, you shouldn’t ever hit that limit.
Dropbox currently offers 2GB of free space (with an additional 500MB per referral, up to 18GB) and has paid plans starting at US$9.99/month for 50GB. For the reference, Google Drive is cheaper at about half the price but is still a bit rough around the edges. If you’re already using Dropbox on your desktop, this is a great option to stick with.
Elegant, secure white-label file sharing for professionals
AppStorm Review: AirDropper: Kill FTP and Let Anyone Send Files to Your Dropbox
AirDropper is built for freelancers and companies who need to send and receive files securely, with control over who can see and share files. The app allows you to create packages of files, share them with people by giving them a link and passphrase or request files the same way – while restricting/granting access to them the way you need to.
If you use Dropbox, you can connect AirDropper to your account, and it’ll deposit all the files you receive (up to 300MB each) into a separate folder in your Dropbox. When you share or request files, users will be greeted by a clean page with your custom branding on it. You can choose to share a link with a passphrase for others to access, or create a link that’ll work only once.
AirDropper accounts are available at US$9/month or US$90/year (with a free 7-day trial), come with 10GB of storage space, support for files up to 2GB in size and SSL encryption for your files and logins as well. It’s not as flexible as standard file sharing services, but it makes up for that with fine control over who can see and access your files. Also, if you want a basic way for others to send files to your Dropbox, you can use their original beta AirDropper for free.
Easy-as-pie personal file/clipboard/code sharing with great desktop companion apps
AppStorm Review: Droplr: File Sharing, Reinvented
If you share screenshots, text and code from your desktop regularly, you’re going to love Droplr. The web app allows you to quickly drag-and-drop a file (up to 25MB) without registering to quickly upload and share it via Facebook, Twitter, email or by embedding it on a web page. This is great in a pinch, but the fun begins when you sign up for an account.
Once registered for free, you’ll get 1GB of storage and a dashboard to manage your shared files (called drops). To get the most out of Droplr though, it’s best to use their desktop apps (Mac/Windows), which allow you to not only share files and folders by dropping them on to a customizable drop zone, but also screenshots, clipboard contents and even text (plain text, Markdown, Textile or code) using the baked-in composer.
When you share a file from your desktop, a short URL is generated and automatically copied to your clipboard. You can also access your recently-shared files and share them from the page that opens up. Free users’ drops show accompanying ads, but you can get rid of these with a paid plan (US$3/month or US$30/year) which also scores you 100GB of space, 1GB file limit, statistics, optional password protection for your drops, and even custom domain support.
Droplr is ridiculously simple to use and looks great for both users and recipients. It’s also very affordable and should cover most home users’ needs.
The Droplr competitor – share anything from your desktop or the web
AppStorm Review: Share Files & Links with CloudApp
CloudApp is very similar to Droplr, offering a simple webapp to share files (yes, there’s drag-and-drop) and a powerful companion app for Mac. The difference here is that there’s no limit to how much storage space you can have on CloudApp; the free plan allows you to upload up to 10 files a day with a maximum file size of 25MB, while paid plans (US$5/month or US$45/year) allow an unlimited number of files per day, up to 250MB in size, and custom domain support.
The desktop app for Mac is great and allows for easy uploading and sharing of files, and even supports plugins to easily share files from within other apps like iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop. Windows users can grab a copy of FluffyApp which features similar desktop sharing functionality. Droplr and CloudApp are very similar in features to each other, so you could pick whichever app’s plan works better for you if you’re looking for a simple way to share smaller files via drag-and-drop.
A robust app with unlimited storage space for free
MediaFire has been around for a long time but doesn’t show its age, thanks to a fresh, user-friendly UI. If you want to broadcast files, this is a great choice. You’ll need an account to use MediaFire and its desktop apps – among which, surprise surprise, there’s one for Linux (Ubuntu and Fedora in 32- and 64-bit versions)!
One of the best things about MediaFire is that you get a lot for free, including unlimited storage space and image/document previews for recipients. However, free users are limited to 200MB per file and these are deleted (following 4 notifications via email) if not regularly downloaded. Paid plans (Pro – US$9/month, Business – US$49/month) allow for larger files (up to 4GB and 10GB respectively) which are stored forever and display download statistics.
The free app is fine for most home users, but download pages also contain ads which may not rub clients the right way. The apps for Win/Mac/Linux work great and allow uploads from files right-click context menu, while a notification lets you know your upload is complete and gives you a link to share as you please. The web app is very well-built and makes managing files a snap.
Professional file transfer and storage – not recommended for home users
YouSendIt is another one of the old-timers on this list. They’ve been in the game for a number of years now and have stuck to what has worked well for them – simple, email-based file transfer that’s perfect for business. The free plan is really only for users to get a taste of the app; it offers 2GB of storage space and a 50MB file size cap.
Paid plans (Pro – US$9.99/month or US$99.95/year for – 5GB space and up to 2GB per file; Pro Plus – US$14.99/month or US$149.99/year for unlimited storage and file size) offer more enterprise features, including control over file expiry dates, a dropbox to receive files securely, download tracking and notifications and phone support. YouSendIt also offers multi-user enterprise solutions for those who need them.
The web app works well enough, as do the desktop (Mac/Windows) and mobile (iPhone/iPad/Android) apps – but remember that you can only send files via email. If you need fine-grained control over your files and professional service, YouSendIt is a good choice.
A simple way to broadcast and hotlink files
If you need to allow files you’ve created (such as open-source software, independent films or ebooks) to be downloaded by a large audience, you might want to consider a service like HotFile. The app requires you to create an account before you can upload files and share them with the world. Once you try it, though, you’ll realize this is mostly suited for Premium users.
Free users can upload files of up to 400MB in size and there doesn’t seem to be any limit on storage space – but files are deleted if not accessed for 90 days. Premium users can not only upload files but also allow hotlinking, i.e. high-speed downloads via direct links to your files for all users, even those not subscribed to HotFile. Plus, you won’t have to wait before downloading a HotFile.
That’s right – if you’re using a free account your recipients will have to wait a few seconds before they can download your file. They’re also presented with a page featuring a free/premium features comparison chart – which means it may not be ideal to send files using HotFile to clients. Unsubscribed users will also find their downloads to be significantly slower than elsewhere online.
Having said that, HotFile is great if you need a way to distribute your files by paying for this bandwidth separately as opposed to adding on to your web hosting bill. Paid plans (US$9/month for unlimited downloading and 100GB of hotlinking or US$55/year for 1200GB of hotlinking) come with a certain amount of hotlinking bandwidth and allow you to add more when needed.
Simple, affordable storage, sharing and hotlinking for freelancers
AppStorm Review: Simplify File Uploading with UploadingIt
UploadingIt tries to do a lot of things and gets most of them right – meaning it’s not unpleasant to use. You can’t drag-and-drop to upload files but you can do so within the app to organize and arrange your files and folders. Plus it comes with quality iPhone/iPad apps (Android version in the works) to access your files on the move.
The app requires you to sign up for an account – a free plan scores you 10GB of storage and daily bandwidth, 200MB file size limits and ads on download pages. Paid plans starting at $US10/year offer additional disk space, high priority downloads, hotlinking, and no ads. The larger plans offer a pretty decent value for freelancers and home users.
You can generate direct links, thumbnail links and embed codes for your files and share them where you like – and they can subsequently be shared on social networks by your recipients. The app offers good value for money with its paid plans and hotlinking, so it’s worth a look if you’re distributing files en masse.
Sleek file sharing allowing up to 2GB per file for all kinds of users
AppStorm Review: Share Files Elegantly with WeTransfer
WeTransfer gets full marks for its clean design and scores high on usability as well. The app allows you to upload files without signing up for an account, collects your recipients’ email address before beginning to upload and sends you email notifications letting you know when your upload is complete and when it is downloaded. There are no paid plans for users, only advertisers.
In general, files can be shared using WeTransfer via email – but your upload notification email also contains a link that you can send to anyone. The email sent to your recipients looks professional and ads are displayed on the file download page as a background image (which usually aren’t hideous). Plus, you can upload up to 2GB of files (or a single 2GB file) at a time.
Unfortunately for mobile users, this app is built on Flash – but word on the street is that an HTML5 version is in the works. Until then, if you’re using a desktop, you can send files with WeTransfer to clients and friends alike.
Dead-simple file sharing that anyone can use
Ge.tt really is as simple to use as it looks – just drag-and-drop files on to the page to get started. You don’t need to sign up to use it and you can upload files up to 250MB in size. You can register for free to get an account with 2GB of space, store email addresses of recipients and track how many times your shared files are downloaded.
Recipients will receive a short email with a list of the files you’ve shared, and be taken to a page with your files and a banner ad. They can also share your files via Facebook, Twitter or Google+ from there. There are paid plans (starting at US$5/month for 5GB of space and ads removed, up to US$20/month for 100GB) as well, which are suitable for professional users but are a bit on the pricey side.
All in all, Ge.tt is great for those looking for the simplest way to share their files – and look good doing it too.
Flexible, affordable plans for massive files
Let’s Crate is real serious about file sharing – but that doesn’t mean it’s complicated. You’ll need to sign up for one of three paid plans to use it, but the first month’s free. And here’s where things get interesting – the plans vary in file size limit and a couple of extra features (such as password protection and direct upload-to-email) – and you pay for storage separately.
The plans start at US$10 year (+ 50¢/GB of space) for files up to 2GB in size and go up to US$50/year (+ 20¢/GB of space) for files up to 5TB in size. This seems to make a lot of sense if you want to be careful about how much you spend on your web apps. Uploaded files can be shared with a short URL any way you choose and recipients will be taken to a clean ad-free page.
There aren’t many extra features like desktop apps, social network sharing or even a dropbox to receive files. But If you’re sharing large files regularly and are on a budget, you should definitely consider Let’s Crate for your file transfer needs.
File sharing for the social set
AppStorm Review: Minimalistic file-sharing with Min.us
When we reviewed Minus last year, the app showed a lot of promise with its variety of features and minimalistic interface. Since then, the app has improved greatly and is now a veritable force in the battle of file sharing services. You don’t need to sign up to use the service and can get started by dragging and dropping files up to 1GB in size, and even upload images from the web.
Minus is chock-full of features – from mobile and desktop apps (yup, Linux too) to browser extensions to image, audio and video previews, this service has you covered. It’s also built for sharing – individual files and sets of files can be shared via social networks, voted on, commented on, collaborated on and even made public for other Minus users to browse, making it almost a super-powered Pinterest of sorts.
There’s presently only a free plan on offer with no apparent file limit and 10GB of free space (you can score up to 50GB by inviting friends to join) to get you started. Files are presented in a flexible gallery-style page which allows multiple views and the option to download individual files or the entire set as a zip. If you’re sharing multimedia files, this is the way to go.
Just your everyday storage and sharing service for 2GB files
The first you’ll notice about DropSend is how long in the tooth it looks – gaudy, outdated graphics and pushy copy dominate the app’s homepage. However, behind its crusty exterior lies a fairly decent sharing app. DropSend allows you to share files up to 2GB in size without having to fill out a form (though you’re automatically signed up for a free account – no harm in that, really).
DropSend is built to share large files over email and does an average job of it. Free accounts don’t get access to the drag-and-drop uploader and have to settle for the old-school upload mechanism – and only 5 uploads (sends) a month. The user experience leaves a lot to be desired, but at least you can share large files for free. The account you get comes with 250MB of storage, and you can choose to save a copy of your uploads there if you need to.
Paid plans start at US$5/month for 1GB storage and 15 sends/month, to US$99/month for 500GB storage, up to 100 users, corporate branding, unlimited sends and a dropbox to receive files. However, there are several other options out there that would better suit similar needs and offer a better experience, so try this only if the others are down.
The web is swarming with file transfer apps and the ones listed above are some of the very best out there. It’d be unfair to compare these directly, because they’re designed with certain kinds of users and user experiences in mind. I personally prefer using Dropbox and Droplr because most of my file transfers are for individual recipients (clients, friends) and I need ease of use more than features like download statistics.
It’s great to see how most of these apps have grown and evolved over the years to accommodate users’ changing needs and habits – which means there’s definitely something out there that’ll work for you. Choose with care, and be sure to try an alternative or two – free trials are your friend here. And if you’re more looking for ways to keep your own files synced with your own devices, privately, then check out our roundup of the best apps for syncing your files. Most of us use both a file sync and a file sharing tool, so hopefully you’ll find the perfect tool for both of your needs. Happy sharing!