E-mail is a poor way to send files, especially large ones. (For more information on why, check out my post on Unleashing Business.) The problem is that most file-sharing utilities are really designed for collaboration, not sending. This means that you have to set up, beforehand, who you’re going to share files with and what kind of access they’ll need. That’s a lot to go through just to send one file. There are a few Web sites out there, though, designed specifically to allow you to send files quickly and easily, without setting up anything.
The first one, which I have used many times, is WeTransfer.com. The concept is simple: Upload a file (or files), enter one or more recipient’s e-mail addresses, enter your e-mail address, type a message, and then click Transfer. The recipients will receive an e-mail with your message and a link they can click to download the files you sent. You’ll get a confirmation e-mail when the recipients download your files, so you know they were received.
The second service is Fyels.com. It’s somewhat similar, though works a little differently. With Fyels, you drag-and-drop a file from your desktop or a folder right onto the Web page. Fyels then uploads your file to their servers and gives you a short URL (Web page address) that you can send to whomever you want. When your recipients click on this address, they’ll be taken to a Web page that displays a preview of the file (if possible) and a download button.
Both WeTransfer and Fyels are easy to use and do practically the same thing, but each one has its own strong and weak points that might make one better than the other for certain tasks. Here is a rundown of a few differences.
- WeTransfer is limited to 2 GB. Fyels allows 9 GB.
- WeTransfer can send many files at a time. Fyels is limited to 1 file at a time. (However, you can upload a previously-created archive file to Fyels.)
- Fyels allows (forces) you to drag-and-drop files right into the Web page. WeTransfer does not allow drag-and-drop, but uses the standard “file open” dialog box we’re all used to.
- Fyels has a minimalistic interface with a dark gray background. WeTransfer also has a minimalistic interface, but displays garish, full-screen ads behind it. (These ads are also displayed to the recipient. Keep that in mind if you’re going to use WeTransfer for business.)
- WeTransfer keeps files available for two weeks. Fyels keeps files available for some unspecified amount of time. (You can remove files from Fyels manually, but only if you remembered to request the password when you created the link.)
- Fyels gives you a link that you can send to whomever you choose, using whatever means you choose (e-mail, instant messaging, Morse code, etc.). WeTransfer forces you to e-mail through their interface. (Of course, this saves you the step of cutting and pasting a link.)
- WeTransfer sends you a confirmation when the file has been downloaded. Fyels does not.
The winner in the ease of use and flexibility category is Fyels.com. To me, it offers the best combination of features, and it’s limitations are fairly minimal.
When you send a file with Fyels, the link gets to the recipient by whatever means you chose to send it. Assuming you cut and pasted the link into an e-mail, your recipients see an e-mail, from your normal e-mail address, with a link somewhere in the body, along with whatever else you typed in there. When the recipients click that link, they are taken to a minimalistic Web page that includes a preview (if possible) of the file, and a DOWNLOAD link at the bottom right. Clicking that link allows them to download the file, just like downloading any file from the Web.
With WeTransfer, your recipients receive a message from “WeTransfer <firstname.lastname@example.org>” with a subject of “email@example.com has sent you a file via WeTransfer”. (The e-mail address in the subject is whatever you typed in as your address when you sent the file.) This could cause problems if a recipient’s spam filter filters out the WeTransfer address as an unknown address.
The second problem I’ve run into is that the body of the message relies on a lot of images.By default, Outlook doesn’t display images in e-mails unless the sender is marked as “safe”. Without the images, it’s tough to figure out what’s going on with the message.
Assuming the recipient does see the images (or knows enough to allow them to be displayed) they see a download button, followed by your message (and, at present, a picture of a person with a tiger head).
The download link leads to the WeTransfer.com Web site, where the recipent is presented with yet another download link (hovering above their avant-garde full-screen ads). From here, the download process is just like downloading from any other Web page.
From the recipient’s point of view, Fyels.com is the hands-down winner. It’s quick and easy, and doesn’t distract with lots of unnecessary graphics.
What About Security?
Both services claim to delete your files after some amount of time, but there’s no way to verify it has been done. Because of this, you should never send sensitive files through either service without first encrypting them in some way. That really holds true for any means of Internet communication, so I don’t hold them at fault for this.
Neither service requires any type of password (which is part of the beauty) but could also be a problem. WeTransfer seems to use not only a random code to identify the file to be downloaded, but also a companion hash (like a password) to ensure that someone else isn’t able to download your files just by typing in random characters. This all takes place behind the scenes, so there’s nothing to slow down the recipient.
Fyels, on the other hand, uses a simple alphanumeric code to identify each file. Not only that, but the codes used appear to be sequential. Anyone can easily change the last six characters of the URL to something nearby and stumble across other people’s files. Need I repeat the warning about sending sensitive information?
The security winner is WeTransfer.com. I wouldn’t depend on the security of a site like this anyway, so it’s really not a major factor.