Transferring a small file is dead easy but what are the best ways to share big files as fast as possible? That question is especially valid in a business scenario where time is money and when security and privacy are equally important aspects when sharing a bunch of files with coworkers.
Depending on the size and number of files you need to send, moving files aruond can be problematic. For instance, Gmail only allows users to attach files of up to 25MB to emails (although they can receive files up to 50MB in size). Not to mention the fact that large files will quickly eat into your storage space quota while lurking in your Sent folder.
If you need to send big files online, there are plenty of good ways to do so without running into trouble – and we’ve highlighted some of the best here, the vast majority of which are free (though they tend to have premium tiers if you want to pay for an improved service). Oh, and we've included some of the best cloud storage providers as well.
We've evaluated various options to find the best ways to send large files from one user to another and from one user to many users. And since it is all about transferring files from one computer to another, we looked at how to improve upload speeds.
Also, we've reviewed the best cloud storage for photos.
Best ways to transfer and send large files faster
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- Get a VPN
- Use a specialized service
- Use bonding
- Use a file compression
- Send the files by post
- Use a faster internet access
- Use cabled broadband
- Use super-fast wireless
- Use a files transfer service
Backup your big files online with cloud storage (opens in new tab)
IDrive, the cloud backup veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 10TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available.
The best ways to share big files in 2023 in full
1. Use a VPN
"What?" I hear you say. What does a VPN have to do with sharing large files? Well, unbeknown to many, some internet service providers (like Virgin Media) use broadband traffic management to moderate upload bandwidth (rather than download).
Using a VPN like our number one choice, ExpressVPN, means that your ISP cannot determine the type of files you're uploading and therefore cannot - in theory - apply traffic shaping to your account. Of course, nothing prevents you from trying a free VPN as well to start with.
P2P (peer-to-peer), one of the most popular and reliable methods for moving large amount of data, is the one type of content that's most likely to be flagged and pushed down the priority lines. We have compiled a list of the best VPN services available. Just bear in mind that your mileage will vary and using a VPN can also slow down your connection.
There's a new breed of file transfer services that are browser based and have built-in proprietary technology to accelerate the upload of big files. Masv (opens in new tab) is one of them (the other major players being Aspera and Signiant) and specializes in the transfer of huge (up to 5TB) files via the cloud.
It offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model with a cost of $0.25 per downloaded GB. There's no subscription fees, no contracts, no support fees user limits or file size/bandwidth limits.
While far more expensive than traditional file transfer services, Masv and similar services are far, far quicker than Dropbox or Google Drive and are more resilient than consumer offerings. Masv has a web and desktop app, and there's a mobile app in the pipeline.
Read our full Masv review here.
- You can try Masv for seven days, free, with a 100GB test (opens in new tab)
One of the easiest solutions to the problem of sending large files is to use file compression software such as the cross-platform program 7-Zip. This is particularly handy if you have multiple files, as you can place these in one folder and compress them all in one go. As a rule of thumb, a large file will transfer faster than a folder containing smaller files of the same size.
7-Zip is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and can compress files to the regular ZIP format as well as its own slightly more efficient 7ZIP. Most major operating systems can extract ZIP files without any additional software. 7-Zip also lets you set a password to protect the files, so you can share them safely. Just bear in mind though that uploading very large files can time out.
Read our full 7-Zip review here.
- You can download 7-Zip here (opens in new tab)
4. Courier a 144TB external drive (opens in new tab)
The fastest way to transfer a large number of big files is not via the internet but by using a disk drive and a courier. All the big cloud providers (Microsoft, Google and AWS) have the ability to transfer large amounts of data using hard disk drives.
Microsoft Azure charges a nominal flat fee of just about $75 per storage device handled, but you must be prepared to supply your own drive. This is similar to Amazon Web Services' Import/Export disk, whereas Google uses third parties.
At $4379, with a whopping 144TB capacity, the OWC Thunderbay 8 external hard drive (opens in new tab) is the biggest and most cost-effective device of its category and comes with a five-year warranty as well as eight 18TB hard drives.
Transferring the 144TB worth of content on a 1Gbps dedicated broadband line would take more than 500 hours (or around 20 days), on consumer-grade broadband lines, expect it to last more than one month and that's for the upload only. Just remember to keep a copy of your files and to encrypt the storage device you're sending.
Alternatively, you can get a USB flash drive (up to 1TB in capacity) or a microSD card (up to 1TB in capacity as well). They are more practical to be sent by registered courier should you only need to transfer a relatively small size.
If you want to share files faster, then one way to do it is to use Speedify which allows you to combine two internet connections. Can be satellite/Wi-Fi and satellite/Wi-Fi (desktop only) or with 3G/4G/5G cellular network (desktop and mobile).
Bonding, as it is known, helps improve reliability - critical when you are uploading multi-terabyte files - as well and as an added bonus, Speedify offers VPN capabilities which means that it will encrypt your traffic to and from your device, masking it to the ISP and preventing it from blocking or throttling your connection.
Speedify is relatively affordable at $14.99 for a one-month contract (or $4.99 per month if you take a 3-year plan). There is a free version, but it comes with too many restrictions to get a recommendation from us.
Read our full Speedify review here.
6. Use a faster internet access
It is obvious that to get faster file transfer speeds, it does make sense to combine one or more of the tips we have listed today. Getting a faster internet access is a no-brainer if you plan to share large files often. Remember that your upload speed is what counts, so you should ideally be looking at services that prioritize this where possible.
In the US, services from Google (Google Fiber), Verizon (Verizon Fios) and CenturyLink offer upload speeds near to 1Gbps. The speeds are usually available through what is called FTTP (or Fiber to the Premises), essentially having an optical cable physically plugged in the property. It is worth checking with your Internet Service provider what the best options would be for your needs, especially if you plan to use it for business.
Business broadband often come with lower contention ratio and with an enterprise-level SLA (Service level agreement) that usually includes rock solid support (e.g., 24/7 access to engineers, specialized hardware etc.).
7. Go for cable broadband where possible
If you have the option, plug the computer you are using to transfer the file in your modem using a cable. If you are lucky to have an Ethernet port on a recent computer, you will have a 1Gbps connection to your modem (assuming that it uses 1Gbps ports).
While that does not necessarily translate into much faster speeds (remember, that depends on your upload speed), it helps improve reliability and mitigates the risk of interference from other appliances in your vicinity. There is also the fact that data transfer usually have some overheads and having a high transfer rate helps eliminate that by ensuring you do not hit any speed ceilings.
Using an Ethernet cable will ensure you enjoy high-quality data transfer that is considerably more secure and power efficient than a Wi-Fi connection.
8. Use the best wireless technology available
One of the first things I did when buying my laptop was to change its Wireless card upgrading it to the latest Wi-Fi 6E technology. Doing so improved the reliability (i.e. less dropouts) but also the speed of my connection and its Quality of Service (QoS). If you're feeling brave enough to do so, that's a sure way of getting your speeds up.
Opting for the latest 802.11ax wireless protocol can have a dramatic impact when transferring (and uploading) large files but it will require that you have compatible devices both on the client side (i.e. your laptop) and on the transmitting side (e.g. your router).
Businesses and individuals can always use their ISP router in modem mode (although that depends on your service provider) and plug in a more up-to-date wireless router loaded with the latest technologies.
9. Get a file transfer service
All the above options tend to focus on a 1-1 file transfer but what about if you want to upload files that is then downloaded by entire teams, hundreds of people and more? You need a service that caters for the uploader as well as the downloader. Such a service would provide options like multi-platform uploads, the ability to have expire dates, upload resume as well as enforcing download limits.
There are literally dozens of these services around and they include a mix of cloud storage providers (e.g. Dropbox) but also fully fledged file transfer services like Wetransfer. Mediafire is also one of our favorites.
Register for a free account and you get 10GB of storage. Connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts, install the mobile app, and refer friends to earn up to 40GB of bonus space. You can upload files either directly from your computer or the web, and generate a link which will allow others to download your files from the MediaFire website.
Paid subscriptions begin from $3.75 a month (around £3) and include 1TB of storage space, a hefty 20GB limit on file sizes, as well as eliminating annoying Captchas and ads. Another handy premium feature is one-time links which make sure that once your recipient downloads your files, they're no longer accessible.
How to choose the best ways to share big files for you?
The best way to share big files depends on multiple factors, like the file size you want to send, how quickly you want the transfer to complete, and how secure the transfer process is.
If the file size is small, then an online file transfer service should be enough. If the file size is larger, you could use a file compression tool to lower the size and share it online. But if the file's running into several TB, then it makes more sense to courier a large external disk drive.
Increasing your internet speed is always helpful when it comes to digital file transfers, and using Ethernet over Wi-Fi is guaranteed to give you speed improvements.
The best ways to share big files: How we test
We've evaluated different ways to share big files, keeping in mind factors like ease of use, pricing, accessibility, security, file size limits, and overall reliability, among other things.