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Got a file too big for e-mail? Hate FTP? Free(mium) alternatives abound

But only a few offer business-level features

By Eric Lai
August 9, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Free-falling storage prices and cheap bandwidth have led to a bounty of services that allow users to send large files instantly through the Internet -- and threaten to render overnight document-delivery services such as FedEx or DHL obsolete.

Services such as YouSendIt.com, MailBigFile or SendThisfile specialize in transmitting digital images and video clips that are too hefty for e-mail servers.

For instance, the most generous free e-mail service, Gmail, caps e-mails at 20MB in size. Hotmail and Yahoo Mail allow 20MB attachments only to paying users, and 10MB to all others.

In contrast, file transmittal services all let users send files of up to 100MB for free, and many will go higher. Driveway, whose motto is "Size really does matter," lets users send files up to 500MB for free. Pando has a 1GB limit for nonsubscribers, while Civil Netizen is currently the most generous, with a 4GB limit.

Most services let senders drag and drop files into a browser window and enter an e-mail or IM address as a destination. Recipients simply click on a link to start downloading files -- a simpler process for most users than FTP transfer, the longtime standard.

"Setting up an FTP server on their home/work computers and providing their intended recipient with log-in information is really beyond the grasp of most computer users," said Brad Linder, a blogger for DownloadSquad who has written about and tested several such services.

Business-ready services emerging

Most services today are run by what appear to be small start-ups, all racing to introduce Web 2.0-type features and win as many users as possible before the inevitable market shakeout.

For instance, Pando, which is based on peer-to-peer technology, lets users send files from within their Outlook 2003 e-mail program or the Skype Internet telephone service.

While most services are targeting "prosumers," some services are starting to stake out a niche with business customers.

Take four-year-old LeapFILE. Fremont, Calif.-based LeapFILE lets companies place their brands on the download sites where recipients retrieve their files. That, along with compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA security standards, has helped LeapFILE win "hundreds of businesses," according to its Web site. Those businesses include NCR Corp., KB Home, VeriSign Inc. and Intuit Inc.

Others, such as SendThisFile and DropSend, offer the same branded-site option to business subscribers, as well as encryption on all file transfers. SendThisFile also offers detailed administrative reports, while DropSend offers a separate uploading tool for the desktop.

Targeting business users: YouSendIt

The company that has most successfully targeted businesses is three-year-old YouSendIt. The Mountain View, Calif.-based business has 30,000 paying subscribers at "thousands" of companies, according to Ranjith Kumaran, founder and vice president of product management. Big customers include NBC Universal, Forbes.com, Herman Miller Inc., Autodesk Inc. and Hilton Hotels. Many other clients are in creative or entertainment fields.



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