The way we do business has been profoundly affected by the use of the internet. The way we communicate, the way we find contacts, buy supplies, and do research have all been improved; and as technology changes we are adapting our business practices to follow the newest and most efficient methods available to get our jobs done.
Every business has email, and email itself has gone through many changes in how it is utilized. Beginning as a convenience, then becoming an essential business tool, email is used for everything from communications to advertising to sharing files. But in that respect, email is no longer the best tool to use – move over email, and make room for File Hosting!
Large computer files have become a staple in business. We don’t gather at the conference table to view a chart anymore – we compile our data on the computer, and send it to everyone who needs to see it. When the internet was first gaining popularity, most businesses and individuals had dial-up connections – too slow to send someone a large file, or groups of files or photos. We talked to each other on email, but called Fed Ex to send CDs containing big files. Now most businesses use a high-speed connection, but email is still not the best choice for distributing large files securely.
Is email secure enough for your important files? We have identity theft, phishing, email spoofing. We also have more SPAM mail now than ever, and everyone from our hosting company to our ISP is looking for new ways to block the SPAM from ever reaching us. Many of us are finding that our large file attachments are being blocked, stripped, or otherwise prevented from reaching their intended recipients, because they look like possible SPAM. A big file, sent to multiple people, often has enough of the hallmarks of SPAM to get blocked. Large files are also apt to push limits set on the email boxes themselves: not everyone you send a file to will have the email capacity to receive it if they have other large emails coming in at the same time. It has become insecure and inconvenient to send large files through email, but there are other choices.
Many savvy business people began using their own web hosting space to transfer files. By uploading the file using FTP to a specific folder on the business’ website, it is possible to then send a link to the file through email. The recipient gets a simple email that doesn’t look like SPAM, and they can download the file at their own convenience. FTPing files to your webspace is certainly a good solution, and in terms of ‘netiquette’ it is preferable to filling up someone’s email box with a huge file. The drawbacks to using FTP are that not everyone has a hosting/FTP account to upload files to, and not everyone is familiar enough with FTP and webhosting to use it. You may be able to upload a file for your clients, but they may not have the resources or skills to FTP one up for you. Giving numerous people access to you own FTP site is not secure, either.
File Hosting is a relatively new solution to this dilemma. It is a program provided by better web hosting companies, as a stand-alone offering that can be used independently of any hosting accounts . With file hosting, you are provided with an easy to use web-based interface that allows you to upload your large files and catalog and store them for use by co-workers and clients. File hosting interfaces allow you to generate and send an email containing a link to the file to all of your clients, so they can download and view it. File hosting also offers the ability to create unique logins for your clients and associates – you can give them each their own file space, with private access and passwords. With this feature, your clients can now download the attachments you send, edit them on their own computer, re-upload them, then send you a link to download the altered file.
While there are free file hosting services available, businesses should choose to use privately provided service supplied by reputable hosting companies. Free services make revenue from advertising on the file hosting interface – your clients might be logging in to retrieve your files, and be faced with an ad for a competing company. Paid services are very inexpensive, and offer a clean, professional interface with your company’s name or other desired text displayed. Paid services also utilize faster servers, so that when your client downloads your reports or uploads changes to you, the process goes smoothly and rapidly, without lagging and long wait times.
How can File Hosting help your business? Here are some of the most common applications of this technology:
Information Distribution: Anyone with a large text document to distribute to many recipients should be using file hosting. Realtors sending out bulky MLS listings, business that normally create information-heavy newsletters, even people with opt-in mailing lists. Placing your file on the web, and mailing a link to the file allows your clients to view the information when they have time, avoids jamming up their mailboxes, and in the event that they may still be working on dial-up, it prevents a very long delay while they download your file.
Client Reports/Status Updates: Businesses that need to send status reports, financial reports, or other sensitive information to clients or associates can use file hosting. Having a private login and password to enable a client to view, retrieve, or upload their own files helps them feel more secure about the services you are providing. You are not sending their sensitive information out over general email – it is in a private account that they can access
Team Projects: Do you need to get the input of many team members? Do associates in different locations need the latest version of the file to work from? File hosting allows them instant web access to the file, and team members can make edits and adjustments, then re-upload and notify everyone of the changes made.
Information on the Move: File Hosting is even appropriate for home and personal use, for the reasons mentioned above. Friends and family will appreciate receiving your emailed link to all the family reunion pictures, rather than trying to download them from an email. The convenience of being able to get the file when the time is right, without over-filling an email box, is just as appreciated at home as at work.