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What is file sharing? And why is Dropbox the best choice?

File sharing—it’s just attaching a file to an email and hitting “send,” right? That may have been the case in the past, but today there’s a much simpler—and more secure—way to share and collaborate on files. Whether it’s a work project or a family photo, Dropbox makes file sharing easy.

A remote worker “shares” a file as a paper airplane

When collaborating on projects or just sharing memories with friends and family, you’re often asked to share a file with someone else for them to access from their own device.

What is “file sharing” anyway?

File sharing is the process of copying or moving one or more digital files between devices over a network or internet connection.

Depending on the software you are using, the type and size of file you can share varies. However, with many services, you can share documents and PDFs to images, audio and video files, and even computer programs.

How does file sharing work?

There are a few ways file sharing works. 

A program may access files on a computer or server, which is known as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.  Files might also be stored on a physical or cloud-based server and then transferred to another device.

A device like an external hard drive can also be used to store data from a computer. This stored data can then be transferred by connecting the device to another computer.

Different types of file sharing

There are several types of file sharing. The right one for you depends on your needs (such as time and costs) and data security priorities.

Type Description Example of when/why to use
Removable media A physical storage device, like an external hard drive or memory card, which is used to extract and store data from a computer. When you need convenient or quick transfers, like if you’re at a conference and need to share large presentation files with a colleague.
Client-server file sharing A program, such as file transfer protocol (FTP) software, which stores files in a server and sends them to users when requested through a user interface. When collaboration and centralized control are key, such as for company files—where maintaining security while facilitating collaboration is important.
P2P file sharing A program that allows you to transfer a file directly from one computer to another, without the need for a server. When you want informal, decentralized sharing among trusted individuals, like for a collection of large media files.
Cloud-based file sharing Files are stored in a third-party cloud provider, like Dropbox, and can be opened or downloaded to the device of a user with access. When remote teams are working on a project and need real-time collaboration, version control, and access to files from all devices.

Methods for sharing files

There are a few different ways to share files—some are easier and more efficient than others.

Method Description
Operating system Tools built into your computer’s operating system, like a network drive, which lets you share files over a local network.
File transfer program Services that transfer files over the internet via a server. Some of these services require a paid account.
Messaging application Email, text, or message apps that let you send attachments. This includes mobile, desktop, and web-based services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Slack.
Cloud transfer Services like Dropbox, that allow you to share files from anywhere on any device—even if the person you’re sharing with doesn’t have a Dropbox account.

What to look for in a file sharing service

Ultimately, the file sharing system you go for will depend on your needs. Most people will sync and share all their files with no problem using Dropbox’s easy file syncing features.

This way, you can share files, collaborate, and store data right from your Dropbox account. With Dropbox, you can even share large file types without losing quality.

Let’s explore some more reasons why Dropbox is the best choice for file sharing.

A Dropbox user modifies the permission settings for a shared link to a file.


A good file sharing method should maintain the integrity of your data. That is to say, email and text aren’t the best ways to share sensitive or confidential files, as messages can be intercepted.

A cloud-based alternative with Dropbox offers enhanced security features like the ability to disable file downloads and granular permissions for shared folders.

To control who can access files and when, Dropbox enables you to restrict shared files to view-only access permissions. You can also password protect files and set expiration dates for the files you share.


Sometimes when you’ve got a deadline to meet, gathering the right documents from your collaborators can be a major cause of stress. In today’s fast-paced digital world, you don’t want sending your files to take all day.

Your file sharing method should enable you to share data over any distance seamlessly. Cloud services like Dropbox enable you to share files across devices in a flash.

Plus, the Dropbox mobile app lets you share links to files from your iPhone or Android—so you can keep your workflow moving, even while you’re on the go.

A person sharing their image files on a mobile device in a few taps by using Dropbox.


Need to send a large, graphics-heavy PDF report to your colleagues or clients? Attaching it to an email would be difficult—if not impossible.

You should always check the file size limits before committing to a file sharing system. With Dropbox, you can create a shared link to send large file types to anyone on any device.

After you’ve shared your file, Dropbox cloud file sharing services give you real-time updates—so you can see who’s added, edited, deleted, renamed, or moved an online file.

Need a more substantial solution? Dropbox Transfer allows you to send files up to 100 GB without taking up space in your Dropbox account.

Ease of use

Some methods for sharing files are more complicated than others. Ideally, your file-sharing solution of choice should be user-friendly, intuitive, and easy to get to grips with.

With Dropbox, file transfer is as simple as sharing a secure file link. This way, you can easily send large files like video clips and photos—without having to worry about compressing them to fit your email attachment size limit.

Stress-free file sharing with Dropbox

File sharing with Dropbox is quick and simple. By using Dropbox, you can store, share, or sync anything—from photos and videos to zipped folders and large CAD files—to anyone, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.