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How Should Travellers Send Large Files in 2020?
When Will first started the Broke Backpacker way back in 1827 (only kidding, it was 2014) things were a lot simpler. It was just him and his rickety old laptop struggling with India’s patchy Wi-Fi and India’s notorious diarrhea. He created all the content himself, took his own pictures and uploaded them without so much as a second thought.
You can see some of that vintage content for yourself as much of it is still up on the site today. I do love the simplicity and sheer optimism of it but you can easily see for yourself how different it is from our epic India guide. The epic India guide gets around 25,000 views per month which means that this one single post is more traffic than my entire blog gets. It is also one of the most comprehensive and helpful sources of its kind on the whole entire internet.
To get from A to Z took a lot of effort. It also took some serious help. Building a successful blog is tough but, just like building anything, it’s a whole lot easier if you have the right tools.
The Broke Backpacker is in many ways, run like any other organised business. That means we create a lot of files and data. And we need ways to store, manage, categorize, access and send these files. We don’t have an office and all of our staff are based in different locations around the world.
One of the biggest obstacles we faced was finding an effective way to send large files. Primarily, the challenge is in storing and sharing the countless number of travel pictures our team was taking. As you can imagine, our team has several thousands of photos from the 4 corners of the globe/flat earth (:)) and we all need access to them (except for our personal, private collections. I mean, nobody needs to see my naked beach shots…)
For example, just this morning I was editing an article about Boston, USA and I felt it needed some extra pictures to really make it come alive. Another one of our writers, Chris, did an awesome road trip across Boston and Maine last year and took a load of great pictures. So I simply accessed his shared Dropbox files and took what I needed.
In case you have never heard of Dropbox, I will try to summarise its services as simply as I possibly can. It is a snazzy and user-friendly file sharing service. You upload your files into your Dropbox account and then send them to or share them with another user with a Dropbox account.
To use Dropbox you download it to your Desktop and set up the Dropbox folder. You then move whatever files you want into it. You can set up different files within your Dropbox folder to suit your needs. You can simply have great big files for “Photos” or you can create sub-folders with different themes. For example “Photos from Andalucia 2019” and “Photos of me”.
You can also sync it so that your phone pictures get sent straight to Dropbox automatically.
You then share the relevant folder with whoever you want to and grant them permission to “view” or “edit” as you see fit. If you want to share a file with somebody who does not have Dropbox, then you can send them a link inviting them to sign up and create a free account.
Even if you don’t want to transfer files, you can still use your Dropbox account as a separate storage hard drive to store and access your files on the cloud. This feature comes in very useful for frequent travelers like myself who can be miles away from my USB hard-drives.
Dropbox is updated in real time, it sends notifications every time something is shared and it is fully integrated to work with both iOS and Windows.
A Dropbox account itself is free. The free version allows you to upload and store up to 2GB of data. If you want to upload any more than various pricing options are available for the extra storage.
Once your files have been synced to Dropbox they will stay there forever or until you remove them. Even if you downgrade from a paid plan to a free one, Dropbox will not delete, remove or “lock” anything you previously uploaded. You simply will not be able to sync anything else.
Dropbox is also fully encrypted and amongst the most secure services of its kind. Of course, nothing is totally secure in the Cyberworld so always exercise the usual online security precautions to mitigate any risks of hacking.
Other Ways of File Sharing
Dropbox has proven itself to be an essential tool for us at The Broke Backpacker and we all now use it for both storage and for sending small and large files. However, if you are not sure about Dropbox then there are other methods of file sharing available.
Personally, I do still find USB sticks/pen drives to be pretty useful for large file sharing. Primarily I use them to share music creating software and projects that I am working on with my collaborators in my hometown. I also usually travel with a couple of mini USB drives loaded with films and TV series which I share with people I meet in various hostels around the world. USB drives offer good storage capacity, they are reliable and they are fast.
Of course, the big downside is that you need to physically be able to give it to somebody. This is not practical if you are in a hurry, are trying to share large files with multiple people or of course, are sending the file to somebody on the other side of the world!
Sending large files by email is a classic method of file sharing and is still probably the single most common way of sharing files.
However, it is seriously antiquated. The downsides are that you are very limited to how much you can attach to one email and uploading and downloading attachments can be incredibly slow. Remember that scene at the end of The Beach when Leonardo Di Caprio slowly downloads that one picture they took on The Beach? Well, that was kind of cutting edge in 1998 when the film was released but is decidedly lame now.
Email is also a very vulnerable medium prone to interception and hacking; only ever share confidential files by secure, encrypted email.
WhatsApp is also very handy for sharing files and is especially handy for sharing photos. It’s very quick and allows you to send straight from your phone which is probably where most of your photos are already stored. You can also share them with multiple people.
However, you are still limited to something like 30 pictures a time which is no good for sharing entire albums and collections. The main drawbacks though is that there is no central storage, the images are stored only on yours and your intended recipient’s phones. And phones are frequently lost, stolen or dropped down toilets.
What Do You Guys Think?
As ever, we like to think of our posts are a conversation and not a lecture. So what do you guys think? Have you used Dropbox before? We always love to hear from you so if you have any comments, questions or any ideas please tell us by leaving a comment below!
This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.
Freeborn Aiden. Senior Editor, resident travel insurance expert and 2nd longest-serving member of team Broke Backpacker. Can’t resist a colourful shirt, ideally one with no buttons. Rampant Psytrance addict and seriel cat fancier. Aiden recently realised that his entire reality is little more than a badly written 90’s sitcom.