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By Paul Muehr

Have you ever found yourself wanting to share files across the Internet, with friends, family, or business associates, but didnít have the means to do it? Sure you can attach files to an e-mail and send it directly to somebody, but what if the file or files are large in size?  Most e-mail servers have a limit on the size of an e-mail they will accept and/or send before they bounce it back.  The e-mail process isnít too automated or flexible either.  Basically, you are looking for a more robust way to share files across the Internet.

Fortunately, you have several choices.  But first, are you concerned about security? You should be.† When you think of file sharing, you should also be thinking of security because the two are inseparable in todayís connected world. Different approaches to file sharing have different security risks, and you are considering an option which, if not implemented properly, has the potential of unintentionally opening up some or all of your computerís files to a hacker on the Internet. Ignoring the security risks could put any personal or financial information on your PC in a position to be compromised. The good news is you can protect yourself and prevent that from happening if you are careful and choose wisely.

In this article, Iíll discuss the pros and cons of several methods of sharing files across the Internet.  Hopefully, it will help you pick the method that works best for your requirements. The methods discussed include:

  • FTP programs

  • Remote control applications

  • Online storage and collaboration web sites

  • Other options (peer-to-peer, instant messaging)

NOTE: You might have noticed that Windowsí built-in file sharing is not included in the list above. Simply put, you should not even consider using the built-in Windows file sharing to try to share files over the Internet. Doing so is like taking the doors off the entrance to a bank (your PC and its data in this case). Anyone can walk right in over the Internet, and they will. Windows' built-in file sharing provides little security, especially with its default settings when first enabled.  Instead, use one of the methods discussed here.

NOTE: Some of the methods I discuss require running a server application.  If you are running a server so that users can come into your LAN via the Internet, and your server is on a shared Internet connection, you will need to configure your sharing application or hardware router to allow access through your firewall.  See the Special Applications section for more info on how to do this.

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