Sending a large file to someone by attaching it to an email is a bad idea. It’s like moving a refrigerator using the US Mail. It’s like giving someone a turkey sandwich, using the whole turkey. It is now completely unnecessary.
It has always been a bad idea. But in the past we didn’t have better options. We could use a CD, a DVD, a flash drive, etc. But email is how we communicate, and Internet companies were not giving us good places to store and share files online. The evolution of cloud storage and computing in recent years has changed this entirely, and email attachment is no longer a good method for sharing documents.
We will still use email to share the file – we just don’t have to attach the file to the email itself. Now there are more efficient ways to transmit large files using email. They’re free and easy to use, too.
The Problem with Email Attachments
When you send a file by email, a copy of it is made, uploaded to the internet, and attached to your email message. The email is sent and stored in your email account. The recipient receives the email, which includes a link to download the file from a server. They download the file, and the copy is stored in their email account.
There are now 4 copies of the document: one on your hard drive, one in your email, one in their email, and one on their hard drive.
When you have large files stored in your Web email account, the account takes longer to load up. It’s bogging you down. It’s using your space. It’s doing the same thing to the people with whom you share large files.
Instead of uploading the file to your email account, why not upload it to a place that’s designed to share large files with people, using email? Send that fridge with a moving company, not the mailman.
When you put a file in your Dropbox folder, within seconds it is automatically uploaded and stored on the Internet, just like when you attach a file to an email. So that part of the job is already done.
A link is also created, for use in sharing that file with others. Now all you need to do is send that link in an email. You have shared the file, but the email message stays light and small; it won’t bog anything down.
To send a link with a PC:
- Open Dropbox and locate the file you want to share.
- Right click it, select Dropbox > Share Link.
Your Web browser will open and display the file.
- Copy the Address from the Address field at the top of the window.
- Paste the link into your email.
The file is safe. No one except the person with whom you share the link can find it. Here’s a link to a file stored in my Dropbox.
As you can see, there’s no chance anyone else could guess that link: it’s like having a secret password to the file built in.
Does the recipient need to have Dropbox too? No. The recipient doesn’t have to do anything special or log in or sign up for anything. Just click the link, and they’re done.
Keep in mind that the button in an email to download an attachment is also a link they have to click. This isn’t more complicated, it’s just better.
Dropbox securely backs up the file and syncs it with all of your computers. Including your smartphone or tablet. So you could be riding (not driving!) in a car, open your Dropbox iPhone app and share a link. Dropbox will even start and compose the email for you!
To share a file from iPhone:
- Open the Dropbox App, locate the file, and tap to open it.
- Tap the Share icon, which looks like an arrow flying out of a little square.
- You are given a list of options for sharing the file, including email, text, Facebook and even Twitter.
This same kind of functionality is also available with Skydrive, Google Drive, Box, and even your own Web site if you have one. But I’m focusing on Dropbox for now, because of its ease of use across platforms.