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A Summary of Computer File Sharing

Dan earned his CompTIA (CIOS) certification in 2010 and worked in the computer repair/networking industry for several years.


People managed to share data in various ways before the advent of high-speed network technology. Computer printouts and mail were common media used to send information and files. When the relatively slow computer floppy disk was common, people often used what was called the sneakernet to transfer data — the nickname given to data transfer by physically walking media from one computer to another.

Modern Options

Although the said options are still somewhat in use, modern alternatives have proven to be more convenient for certain applications, especially as it pertains to business usage. They are also affordable and user-friendly.

Cloud Sharing: Vendors provide services where files and data can be uploaded to and stored on the internet. Optionally, the subscriber can provide links to those files in order to share them with necessary parties regardless of geographical location — provided they have an internet connection.

Peer-to-peer: Regardless of the operating system being used (e.g., Microsoft Windows, macOS, Android, iOS), individual computers such as desktops, laptops, and mobile phones can be networked together via simple, inexpensive routers or Wi-Fi access points. Operating systems provide file-sharing protocols that can be turned on in order for the devices to recognize each other on a network. Device owners may allocate which files they want to share with others.

E-mail: Whether consumers or business owners, most people use e-Mail for sending messages, but e-Mail providers include options for sending files up to a certain size in bytes. Some e-Mail vendors provide free services and typically provide a certain amount of storage before charging a fee.

File servers: Computers can be set up on a local network and designated as file servers. Turning on the network-sharing protocol and selecting a directory to share can be done on any device with network capabilities. However, some vendors provide server operating systems (e.g. Microsoft Windows Server) designed to be scaled to relatively large computer network environments and generally have more features than just file-sharing.

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Text messaging: Since portable computing has shrunk into devices no bigger than the palm of our hands, cell phones, and smart devices provide convenient methods for sending and receiving both text and various other formats. When signing up with a cell phone service provider, plans usually include texting in addition to calling. Android and iOS devices are the dominant platforms installed on cellphones that drive text messaging today.

Social Media: It goes without saying that social media is probably used for file sharing more than any of the other options. Whether people realize it or not, any time something is uploaded to a social media account like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, a file is being shared. Since so many people use social media, it more or less makes social media the most common type of file-sharing system. Not only are files uploaded and displayed, but the files can be downloaded — typically at limited resolutions or sizes.

Moving Forward

There's no right or wrong way to share files and data. The method to be selected should depend on a computer user's budget and goals, although there are recommended methods for certain situations.

For example, installing a local file server for an office crew of only 5 users might be overkill. However, if the owner shares several gigabytes of data, requires high speed, centralized administration, and prefers operating system-integrated backup solutions, a server operating system would generally work better.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Dan Martino

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