There Has Got to be a Better Way to Share Big Files

by Derrick Story


I have more big stuff to move than ever. Photos, movies, podcasts... I've gone from a kb world to one of MBs. Originally, I thought that my .Mac subscription would ease my pain. I love the concept of iDisk, and the storage is reasonable these days (1 GB), but the uploading performance is still dismal. I keep thinking that any day now I'll be able to upload 100 MBs in less than 30 minutes. Nope.

I'm hesitant to use my personal server for big file sharing. This is where my websites and email live. Call me paranoid, but giving strangers "secure" access to even a few sectors makes me nervous.

There's got to be a better answer. Maybe you can convince me that opening secure access to my server is really OK. Maybe you have some insight about the future performance of iDisk. Hopefully you have a completely new solution that I haven't thought of. If you do, will you share it with the class?


2006-04-25 11:45:20
Have you tried connecting via software such as Transit (or Fetch)? I've heard that it is faster than using the finder to drag/drop to the idisk.
2006-04-25 11:59:51
I have not tried my FTP client (Transmit, which I really like) to send up files to my iDisk. For some odd reason, it never occurred to me. I'm going to test it though, now that you've mentioned it. Thanks!
2006-04-25 12:07:42
Is your goal:

(a) to give yourself access to your file while you are away from your computer
(b) to give other people access to a subset of your files

(or both)

A solution depends on which of these you really want.

2006-04-25 12:16:59
It's not exactly a new solution, but I've noticed that WebDAV performance from the Finder is extremely shotty. I've found that using Transmit is quite fast!
2006-04-25 12:20:27
Hi, my goal is to give others access to my "big" files. Like if I'm sending in a recording (AIFF) to be produced as a podcast. The original recording is usually quite large because it's uncompressed.
2006-04-25 12:25:38
Isn't your upload speed limited to what your ISP allows you? Most broadband providers limit the upload speed as much as 1/10th the download speed.
2006-04-25 12:29:11
what info would i need to use Fetch to upload to idisk? i thought FTP apps wouldn't work since idisk is webdav and not ftp?
Mike Silverman
2006-04-25 12:37:16
Hi, my goal is to give others access to my "big" files.

Have you considered just using your computer's built-in web sharing? The security risk is very, very low and it is very easy to set up.

2006-04-25 12:40:28
For email, DropSend is pretty useful. For serving large files to the public, Amazon S3 looks promising.
2006-04-25 12:40:35
There really is no good way to share large files from your house with a normal ADSL/Cable modem connection. The upload performance problem is entirely your connection as iDisk supports extremely upload speeds. Hosting them locally using your existing ADSL/Comcast connection will just be worse as then your connection to the outside world can be flooded at any time by someone accessing your photo site, etc, additionally they will get very poor download performance and they will probably fall asleep before getting your content. So you have a couple of options:

1) Increase the upload bandwidth from where your files normally live (probably at home) and the outside world. This is typically very expensive and comes in the form of SDSL or a T1/T3 type solution.
2) Get a colo server on a backbone that you can walk over to and upload files from a DVD or external drive. This is less expensive but inconvenient.
3) Find a similar service that lets you snail mail content to them on DVDs.

iDisk is not your problem. Your upload bandwidth is the issue and Apple tries to help you out with this with their tools by decreasing the size of photos, etc when you email them or upload them to .mac using iPhoto.

Dan Perdue
2006-04-25 12:41:37
There's also several services similar to DropSend that provide methods of sending large files to other people. I don't know if upload speeds would be any faster, but it's free to try so you could give it a whirl.
Chris Mear
2006-04-25 12:43:27
Surely running a website is itself "giving access to strangers"? Why don't you just make a special folder, give it a quick one-time username and password to stop other people accessing it, and give your intended recipient the details? When they're done, kill it. I'm not sure what additional security problems this poses above and beyond what you're already exposing yourself to by running a webserver.

Or, give DropSend ( a try.

Chris Mear
2006-04-25 12:46:04
Like if I'm sending in a recording (AIFF) to be produced as a podcast. The original recording is usually quite large because it's uncompressed.

When you have raw media files like that, compressing them in a zip (or Stuffit or whatever) should decrease the size.

2006-04-25 12:57:42
derrick, i just tried the webdav app Goliath to upload some files to my idisk and it worked surprisingly well. i have a slow satellite connection and idisk would not even work for me, but with Goliath i can upload files. you might want to check it out.
2006-04-25 13:01:18
I want to chime in on a couple things here. First, with iDisk, I don't think it's my ISP slowing things down. I have DSL in two different locations plus access to major bandwidth here at O'Reilly. The iDisk incarnation of WebDAV seems to acknowledge the file quickly, upload it within seconds, then spend the next 30 minutes "finishing it." I'm sure others have experienced similar performance. Yes?

I do zip up everything before uploading, and it does help reduce file sizes. For AIFF files, only about a 10-15 percent reduction though.

2006-04-25 13:15:42
Might I suggest StrongSpace? I have the $8 plan and I get a few gigs of space (3 or 4) and have found it to be perfect for my needs. You might need a different plan if you are letting more people get access to the files though. It's at

2006-04-25 14:13:58
Fastmail ( offer a good premium (but still cheaper than .Mac) service that might be suitable.
2006-04-25 14:26:40
what about I use that to send big files.
2006-04-25 15:58:45
for the Mixed Grill: 2GB disk space on TextDrive, 9GB storage on StrongSpace, and Joyent, which claims to be a hosted application suite. The price for mixed grill is $500 for life, bandwidth is 20GB per month. Unlimited read-only users on StrongSpace; put your Web site on TextDrive with your own domain.
2006-04-25 17:06:49
Part of your problem is probably your home Net connection. If you have pretty much any sort of consumer broadband in the USA you are going to get dismal upload speeds thanks to providers intentionally choking your bandwidth.

I'd suggest that you setup some sort of restricted FTP server if you have a box at home. There are a number of addon FTP servers out there which will allow you to provide restricted, encrypted access to only certain parts of your filesystem to outsiders. I use CrushFTP to present a common set of read only files to all users but individual home directories where users can upload. Users see something like this:


But actually those things are all located on different external disks. I've even got one disk dedicated to a group of users that I know will have more storage needs than others. No users see anything like

/Volumes/Macintosh HD/Users/Chris_B/Project 1 Temp/
/Volumes/300 Raid/Group A/DV files/Project 2/


/Video/Project 1/
/Video/Project 2/

If you are not crazy about CrushFTP there are other alternatives out there to do the same thing.

Hope this helps a bit.

Andy Lee
2006-04-25 17:30:46
You might be interested in, which is currently in beta. It's a service that allows you to send large files directly to other people, using email as the conduit.
2006-04-25 19:16:37
I humbly suggest checking out "peertoweb." It's been a pursuit of a friend of mine and myself for the past couple years.

What is it? A peer-to-peer file transfer system in which the "client" is a web browser (hence the name). Unlike many others mentioned here, the system only transfers the file when your friend wants to access it. Also, it doesn't use email, and in fact, all transfers are SSL encrypted, so it's more secure. Another cool thing is that if you're fetching from within the same LAN, the peer transfer stays within your LAN, for really fast transfers.

It uses Java web-start to launch the "publishing" side, so it's easy to try. Also, it is easy to erase / completely disable.

Jens Alfke
2006-04-25 22:50:53
"The iDisk incarnation of WebDAV seems to acknowledge the file quickly, upload it within seconds, then spend the next 30 minutes "finishing it.""

It's actually spending those 30 minutes uploading the file. The OS has a WebDAV "filesystem", but WebDAV really isn't a filesystem; so to maintain filesystem semantics, what happens is that the main file operations (open / write) happen locally to a temporary file, then when the file is closed the temporary file gets uploaded by WebDAV.

The actual upload shouldn't be any slower than via Transmit or Goliath, though. Maybe it's just that it seems longer to you because the progress bar says "Finishing" and you keep expecting it to be done in a second or two?

Anyway ... I second the recommendation to upload the file to your regular website and send the other person the URL. When I do this, I use a folder that disallows "virtual directory" so no one can get a listing of it, and pick a hard-to-guess name in that folder. This doesn't require giving anyone special access to anything.

Jens Alfke
2006-04-25 22:53:30
Oh, and I forgot to mention that iChat (or another IM client) is a great way to transfer arbitrarily large files, if you and the other person are online at the same time. The transfer is done peer-to-peer, so there are no limits on file size. The only drawback is that, even with the various tricks the AIM protocol uses, in some network configurations it's not possible to get a direct connection and the transfer may fail. But it's usually my first approach.
Dave C
2006-04-25 23:32:48
We use Streamload for exactly this requirement - sending big files.
You upload files to their server then send and email (from the website) with a unique URL.

It has the added advantage that it lets people upload files FOR YOU as well, without them having to have an account, and you get an email saying the file is available.
Free service has limits but you can pay for extra capacity.


M. David Peterson
2006-04-26 02:22:31
Wow... all of these comments, and no one has mentioned Amazon's S3?

2006-04-26 02:44:50
Pietro mentioned Amazon S3.
2006-04-26 08:38:01
so, derrick, which of the suggestions have you tried? :) let us know what works for you...

2006-04-26 09:00:37
YouSendIt. Type in an email address, select your file, click a button. Done.

No sense in making things complicated. We use it to send 50MB voiceover files (2Gb max), and it's fast, upstream and down.

2006-04-26 09:55:47
I knew I would get good suggestions, but there's some really interesting stuff here. I'm going to do some testing today and report back. In the meantime, if more comes to mind, please post.
2006-04-26 16:57:10
And the winners are... Big File Transfer Winner.
2006-04-28 14:17:34
What about bittorrent, with your sever as an always-connected node?
2007-02-01 06:21:10
d516b13671 hi, i`m from india, and i has been very hart by you site)))
2007-07-24 19:12:31
I have used Activity monitor to watch the actual network conection speed while iDisk "finishes" and I have tested my upload speed. Several speed test sites tell that my upload speed is somewhere from 330mb to 550mb. This is far greater than the 45mb that activity Monitor says I am getting from iDisk. It seems to me that Apple is restricting the upload speed to iDisk. Can anyone corroborate this idea.
2008-04-15 09:51:30
try , no registration required.
2008-06-20 13:11:28
I am currently developing a web site that allows you to securely share and send files that are too big to e-mail. There are no file or size limits, no software to download and install, and it is 100% free. It also works on all platforms, including Windows, Mac and Linux.

The site is, and we are currently in open beta. If you happen to stop by and give it a try, we'd appreciate any feedback.

Thanks! :)