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Share the Web Way
Sure, you can attach umpteen files to an e-mail and blast it to three or four dozen of your nearest and dearest, but, oh, the hassle--adding each address, selecting and attaching the files one by one, and then choking the pipes of your ISP and those of each recipient. A better way is to post the files on the Web and send everybody a single URL so they can retrieve and open the files on their own, at their convenience. For me, the icing on the Web-sharing cake is that many of the services are completely free of charge (and we all love a bargain).
Of the five sharing services I looked at, my favorites are YouSendIt for its simplicity, and 4shared.com for its winning interface. Now let me share with you my opinion of these Web-sharing sites.
This free service provides 500MB of storage and lets you upload an unlimited number of files (though no single file can exceed 25MB in size). All of the folders you place on 4shared.com's servers are permission-based, so you can easily make some folders available to anybody while restricting access to others. You can also password-protect your folders, which adds another layer of security. Visitors access the folders through an e-mail link.
In less than 10 minutes, I created a dozen folders and subfolders, each with specific rights. You can track how many files are downloaded, but unfortunately you can't find out who did the downloading. One quibble with the free account: You have to upload and download the files one at a time. You get more storage, multiple file transfers, and the ability to store files larger than 25MB for fees ranging from $48 to $84 per year.
Groove Virtual Office
Acquired last year by Microsoft, this collaboration service--and WebEx WebOffice Workgroup (see below)--differ from the other sharing sites I tested in their business-ready robustness, which makes them ideal for sharing data with work associates. However, Groove is also great for sharing with friends and family. The service provides you with a private, shared workspace and offers all the critical collaborative functions: file sharing, instant communications, and shared calendars. You can use Groove's desktop application to collaborate on projects and documents by storing and sharing files in various folders; edit and sync Word documents and other text files; view PowerPoint presentations; and enter meeting and other dates on a shared calendar.
Besides sending e-mail within Groove, you can also conduct real-time, online meetings using the service's built-in instant messaging tool. If you have a microphone connected to your PC, you can use Groove's cool audio-chatting feature. The service even lets you do multiple tasks simultaneously--say, participate in an online meeting while uploading files and collaborating on a document.
The 60-day trial version has document review and other features disabled; you can continue using the app after 60 days (the service is free for personal use), but the meetings tool and other functions won't work, and the connection speed is a poky 56 kbps, which makes the free version impractical for most PC users.