(4-min read) Before the days of the internet, if you wanted to share a document with a colleague or client, your options were somewhat limited. You could manually bring it to them. You could mail it to them. You could hire a same-day messenger service. You could fax it to them. These manual transfers used up time and gas money. Mail wasn't great for urgent documents. Messenging services were about as secure as a guy on a bicycle because, in more urban environments, that's all they were. Faxing larger documents was a paper-wasting hassle. Fortunately, technology has made file sharing across vast expanses a breeze.
What is digital file-sharing?
Digital file-sharing can take on many styles, but at its core, its the distribution of digital information with others over a local network or the internet. File transfer methods allow users to grant various levels of access to different users. How this precisely works can take on many sharing styles.
The Primary File Sharing Styles
Peer-to-peer network file transfers are software systems that enable direct user-to-user transfer without the need for an intermediary. Some examples of theses are Skype, or various instant messaging services that allow for direct upload. Peer-to-peer sharing had been somewhat controversial in the past due to its ability to facilitate the illegal transfer of copywritten or stolen materials. These same technologies have been used to create lucrative peer-to-peer sharing services for the personal and business world. If peer-to-peer file-sharing weren't digital, it would be best represented by a direct hand-off of files with an intermediary.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Programs
A file transfer protocol (FTP) is a rule system that decides who can and who can't access shared files on a specific network. Using FTP, a user can access a file for downloading or editing within a system. These systems are usually password-protected to ensure security. If an FTP program weren't digital, it could be represented by a locker whom only a handful of individuals had the combination.
Third-Party Online Sharing Service
One of the most commonly used file-sharing methods is likely an online file sharing service. These third-party services allow users to register themselves or their teams for a certain amount of online file storage. Much like an FTP, these services will enable a user to upload or download files to or from a separate source online. Unlike an FTP, online filing sharing and storage services are run by a third-party company with much more robust, user-friendly features. If a third-party online sharing service were not digital, it's analog equivalent would be hiring someone to hold onto files and providing them with a list of people with whom to allow access.
Removable Hardware Storage Devices
One of the more back-to-basics forms of file transfer would be in the form of a removal hardware storage device. Devices in this category range from easily removable hard drives to USB-connecting flash drives. While likely the least convenient due to the nature of physical device transfer, removable storage devices could be the most secure due to a decreased likelihood of remote accessibility. For maximum security, it's recommended that the files on these drives are encrypted and password protected. It's also recommended that, for security reasons, that no one ever connects an unknown drive with their computer. If this method of transfer were not digital, it would be most akin to the physical folder you use to contain documents in transit.
Find Your Company's Best File Transfer Option
Your company may have experimented with a variety of file-sharing options with mixed results. For a professional file transfer service, you may need the input of electronic content management professional.