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4Shared is more than just a virtual drive for storing your digital content. And it's more than just a service for sharing that content with friends and family. 4Shared (free) accomplishes both of these tasks, but with its browser-based sharing of audio and video, it also does more than that.
To access the free service, you create an account online at 4Shared.com. When you sign up, you get 10GB of free storage space; verify your email address, and you get 5GB more. 4Shared's Web interface bears more than a passing resemblance to Gmail's design, which means it's reasonably attractive. The overall look is a bit cluttered and text-heavy for a file sharing service, however. Still, it's easy enough to create folders and upload content (though no file can be larger than 2048MB). You can set permissions for each folder, allowing its content to be shared or remain private. You can set passwords, determine whether users see all of the files or only certain ones, and allow specified users to upload their own content.
To share your 4Shared content, the service provides links that you can send to friends and family. 4Shared generates its own links for your entire account, specific folders, and individual files, depending on how much you want to share. You also can create your own subdomain (such as liane.4shared.com) for sharing content, if the link you want is available. You friends don't have to be 4Shared users to view your content, though they will be faced with several links encouraging them to sign up.
4Shared allows users to subscribe to your feed, and makes it easy for users to sit back and scroll through your content. It also allows users to download the files you've shared--which makes it an easy way to get your own content on multiple computers. But what's more impressive is the way the service shares audio and video files. Both can be enjoyed from within your browser, which allows you to use the service as a streaming media player when you're on the go.
If you're going to be sharing a lot of audio and especially video files, you may need to upgrade to a Premium account. Pricing starts at $6.50 per month (when you sign up for a year), which grants you 100GB of storage space and allows you to upload files as big as 5GB.
4Shared is not just a cloud-based app; the company offers 4Shared Desktop, a downloadable app that lets you upload multiple files at once. 4Shared Sync, meanwhile, offers a folder that can be synced across your 4Shared account. And the service works on mobile devices, too. 4Shared Sync is available as a free iPhone app, as is 4Photo, which lets you upload photos from your iPhone right to your 4Shared account. 4Shared Mobile apps also are available for Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian devices.
4Shared isn't perfect. Its interface is a bit text-heavy, and its message inbox (which allows you friends to message you) came filled with messages touting 4Shared features. But it offers a powerful, pleasant way to store and share content online.
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