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What is file sharing—and how to do it

File sharing is like giving your files an online passport. It’s the practice of letting your important documents, essential photos, or even just funny cat videos, travel freely from one device to another.

Whether files are heading to your colleague next door or a friend on the other side of the globe—it’s all a part of file sharing.

Savvy sharers can level up their file game with DocSend—a tool for professional file and document sharing that lets your data travel the internet in style. Sign up for a free demo and share like a pro.

What are the main types of file sharing?

You can share a file with a few clicks, but have you ever wondered how files go on their little adventures across the internet? Here’s a breakdown of the main methods:

Peer-to-peer (P2P sharing)

P2P is the method friends most often use to share files from their collections, whether that’s the raw data of a new passion project or a cool collection of videos you’ve amassed over the years.

With direct, fast connections between peers—there is a clear advantage to this type of file sharing. But, it’s not the best for large groups and there’s the potential for viruses from uninvited parties.

Cloud-based sharing

This method keeps your files floating sky-high in the cloud, which is ideal for teamwork among large, dispersed groups—as you can access your files anywhere, anytime.

The downside is you can’t store many files in the cloud for free, and there may be security concerns from less reputable cloud services. Cloud storage may also go down occasionally.

Email attachments

The old but classic method of file sharing, where attachment files take a ride via your email inbox. This type of file sharing is quick and easy for small files.

But, big files get stuck in traffic—and your inbox groans under the weight of receiving a large file. It’s an old-school method that doesn’t cut it these days.

File transfer protocol (FTP)

FTP gives you the best of the best for file transfers, with ultra-secure file transfers that are great for tech-savvy users.

The UI is not the friendliest though, so it’s the method of choice for expert users who can’t even dream of a slow or unreliable transfer.

How does file sharing work?

You’ll need to choose the method for your file-sharing adventure wisely, it’s like choosing a plane vs a train vs a car—you’ll get there, but the trips will feel different. So how does file sharing work?

File encryption

Encryption locks your file in a magic box that only opens with a special key, which makes it perfectly safe to share. This is crucial for sharing confidential or important files.

Files are blended up during encryption, and only those with the secret code (like a shared password) can unscramble them. Encryption guarantees safety during transit.


Users will face a barrier when trying to access, share, or modify shared files, it’s like the security at the door of a nightclub. Not everyone gets in—and you need to prove you’re on the guest list.

It works pretty much like an ordinary username and password but may require another form of ID too (like a fingerprint reading) when authorized access is paramount.

Access controls

In file sharing, there is a leader in the access controls kingdom—an admin. This leader sits in the permissions castle and mulls over who can roam freely—and who might need an escort.

Access controls work by letting you specify who can view, edit, or download files—like a decree from on high, granting specific privileges and levels of data use.

Protocol protection

Web communication protocols are the police escorts on the data highway. Familiar protocols like HTTPS and SFTP act as armored guards to ensure safe passage for your files during their journey.

Another way to think of protocols is as a kind of digital translator, that helps different devices and systems chat seamlessly over the internet—ensuring everyone speaks the same language.

User tracking and expiring links

Things change, so file sharing often works by putting expiration dates on download links or removing access to a file after a set time. You can keep tabs on who’s coming and going too.

This is one of the many file sharing features of DocSend, which lets you monitor who accessed your files and ensures your links self-destruct when their mission is complete.

Tips for more effective file sharing

It may sound like tech sorcery but with simple tools, you can easily become the almighty genie of secure file sharing. Here are some tips for better, safer, and more effective file sharing:

  • Use dedicated file transfer programs: Choose professional tools designed for efficient and secure file sharing. Tools often include features like encryption and user authentication.
  • Leverage cloud storage: Reputable cloud storage platforms, like Dropbox, offer seamless access and collaboration. Dropbox also provides robust security measures and version control.
  • Prioritize security measures: Protect sensitive data by incorporating encryption during file transfer. Consider password protection for all shared files and folders.
  • Implement user authentication: Ensure only authorized individuals can access shared files. Utilize tools, like DocSend, that offer secure user authentication methods.
  • Consider non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): Clearly outline terms and conditions to protect sensitive data. When sharing confidential information, using NDAs can legally enforce privacy. 
  • Regularly update and monitor access: Keep files secure by regularly updating access permissions and always monitor file access logs for any suspicious activities.
  • Educate users on security best practices: Train your team on secure file sharing practices. Emphasize the importance of strong passwords and responsible sharing.

Want to know the best way to share your pitch or financials with a business prospect? Learn 5 ways to securely share files.

Benefits of file sharing software

Here are some reasons people ditch sluggish email attachments and embrace dedicated file sharing software:

  • Speed: Dedicated file sharing tools zoom past traditional email attachments, making file transfers quicker and more reliable—particularly for large files.
  • Collaboration: File sharing tools aren’t just about sharing files—they’re a conduit for team collaboration, helping turn a cacophony of ideas into a harmonious masterpiece.
  • Remote access: From the palm of your hand to the far reaches of the cloud, file sharing tools grant you access across devices—transcending the boundaries of space and time.
  • Compatibility: Forget compatibility hiccups, file sharing software can speak the universal language of collaboration—ensuring all platforms recognize and can use your files.
  • Security: Trust is the glue holding digital organizations together, and software ensures your files are not just shared but securely tethered in the vastness of the digital landscape.

Warp-speed transfers, seamless collaboration, universal compatibility, reliable remote access, and other features are great for those looking to save money and time with scalable sharing software.

How to choose the right file sharing software

Whether you’re an individual or an organization, the following will help you make a decision:

  • Consider file size limits and ensure the software accommodates file sizes you work with.
  • Prioritize security standards to protect sensitive data during transfer and storage.
  • Look for collaboration features like real-time editing, version control, and easy sharing.
  • Opt for an intuitive interface to streamline the file-sharing process, reducing the learning curve.
  • Assess compatibility so the software works seamlessly across devices and operating systems.
  • Check for integration options with other tools or platforms you use to streamline workflow.
  • Consider cost and scalability to ensure they align with your current needs and potential growth.
  • Learn from the experiences of other users by reading customer stories, reviews, or testimonials.
  • Assess the quality of customer support to ensure prompt assistance, just in case of any issues.

It’s also wise to opt for software that lets you start a free trial period whenever possible. Specialist tools like DocSend make file sharing easy and give you control of shared files, even after sending.

Share files, documents, and collaborate with DocSend

File sharing is about making life easier, but to truly make it easy you need the right tool. Look for software that handles your file sizes, works securely with your data, and fosters collaboration.

Whether you’re a small team or a solo genius, find that perfect match for your file-sharing with DocSend. Sign up for a free demo or trial to start file sharing today and let your files fly freely.