What Is File Sharing & How Does It Work?

AceMarch 8, 2024
What Is File Sharing


In this article, I will cover what is file sharing and how file sharing works. I delve into the intricacies of file sharing, unraveling its diverse facets, advantages, challenges, and the means to navigate them effectively.

I investigate different types of file sharing solutions, from conventional approaches to the latest technologies. These solutions empower both individuals and organizations to easily share, collaborate, and access information on various devices and from different places.

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File sharing definition

1. What Is File Sharing?

File sharing has become an integral part of our digital lives. People are accessing, exchanging, and distributing files across various devices and networks, for personal, and professional purposes. But, what is file sharing? Let’s start by defining it first.

File sharing definition: file sharing refers to the process of transmitting or distributing digital files from one user, or device, to another.

The types of files can include documents, images, videos, audio files, and more. The purpose of file sharing is to enable collaboration, information exchange, and easy access to files between different devices, locations, and people.

File sharing offers numerous benefits that have revolutionized the way we store and access information. Firstly, it promotes collaboration by allowing multiple users to view and work on the same file, improving productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, file sharing makes files accessible from any device with an internet connection, eliminating the need for physical storage devices.

File sharing also aids in backing up and recovering data, ensuring the safety of important files in case of hardware failure or unexpected events. It simplifies file distribution, making it easier to share large files with colleagues, clients, or friends, regardless of their physical location.

Furthermore, file sharing enables seamless sharing of resources, reducing the need for duplicate files and promoting sustainability.

File transfer

2. How Does File Sharing Work?

File sharing works by allowing users to transmit digital files from one device or user to another through various methods. For file sharing software the process typically involves the following steps:

1. Selection: The user chooses the file or files they want to share from their device.

2. Initiation: The user initiates the sharing process through a chosen method, such as email, a file-sharing platform, or a direct connection.

3. Uploading: If the file-sharing method involves uploading to a cloud or server, the selected files are uploaded to a centralized location.

4. Link Generation: A link or access code may be generated, allowing the recipient to access the shared files. This can include password protection or expiration dates for added security.

5. Notification: The recipient is notified of the shared files through an email, notification, or direct message.

6. Downloading: The recipient accesses the shared files through the provided link or access code. They can then download the files to their own device.

7. Access: Once downloaded, the recipient has access to the files and can view, edit, or share them as needed.

8. Completion: Once the recipient has obtained the files and any necessary actions are taken, the file-sharing process is considered complete.

File sharing can take various forms, such as sending files as email attachments, using cloud storage services, sharing files through peer-to-peer networks, or utilizing collaborative platforms. The method chosen depends on factors like file size, security requirements, convenience, and the recipient’s technical capabilities.

File sharing method

3. 7 Ways To Share Files

Now that we know what file sharing is, let’s look at various methods of file sharing. There are a multitude of methods at our disposal, each offering unique merits and demerits. In this section, I provide an overview of their functionalities, suitability, and potential pitfalls.


Peer-To-Peer (P2P) File Sharing

P2P file sharing operates through a decentralized network, thus allowing users to share files directly with each other. By removing the need for a central server P2P facilitates quicker transfers.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that certain P2P networks have facilitated copyright infringement due to the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted content.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

FTP is a standard network protocol used to transfer files between a client and a server on a computer network. It offers secure and reliable file sharing, commonly used by businesses and web developers to upload and download files to and from websites.


Cloud Storage Services

Cloud storage services, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Filemail, have gained popularity in recent years. These services allow users to store files in the cloud and share them with specific individuals or make them accessible to a wider audience. Cloud storage offers easy synchronization across devices and robust security features to protect files.


Email Attachments

Email attachments remain one of the simplest methods of file sharing. Users can attach files to emails and send them to recipients. However, there are limitations on file size, and large attachments may face restrictions or result in slow transfers.


Collaborative Platforms

Various online platforms, like Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, and Trello, provide file-sharing capabilities alongside real-time collaboration features. These platforms enable multiple users to work on files simultaneously, making them ideal for team projects and remote collaboration.


Removable Media

Unlike online file sharing, which involves using networks and the internet, removable media file sharing relies on the physical transfer of storage devices between different computers or devices. This approach is helpful when:

  • Internet access is limited.
  • Transferring large bulky files that are not suitable to transfer via some file sharing solutions.
  • There is a need for strict privacy and confidentiality.

However, this approach may also have limitations in terms of speed, security, and convenience compared to some online alternatives.


System Local File Sharing

System local file sharing involves sharing files and resources between devices connected within a local network. This type of file sharing occurs within a closed environment, such as a home or office network, without the need for an internet connection. It enables users to exchange files, documents, media, and other data directly between devices like computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.


4. 10 Advantages of File Sharing

File sharing has numerous advantages, which contribute to its popularity and widespread use. This section underscores how file sharing orchestrates these advantages to elevate work processes and interconnectivity.



File sharing allows multiple individuals or teams to work on the same document, project, or task. This fosters collaboration and enhances productivity by enabling real-time updates, feedback, and contributions from different users.


Easy Access & Distribution

File sharing simplifies the process of accessing and distributing files. Instead of physical transfers or complicated methods, users can effortlessly share files online, granting access to remote users.


Efficiency & Time Savings

File sharing eliminates the need for manual file transfers, reducing the time and effort required to share information. It enables fast and convenient distribution of files, leading to improved efficiency in various workflows and processes.



Sharing files electronically eliminates the costs associated with printing, copying, and shipping physical documents. It also decreases the requirement for extensive storage infrastructure since files are stored and accessed digitally.


Version Control & Revision Tracking

File sharing platforms often include version control features, allowing users to track changes made to files over time. This helps to avoid confusion and ensures that everyone has access to the latest version of a document or file.


Enhanced Security & Backup

Many file sharing services provide robust security measures to protect files from unauthorized access. Additionally, cloud-based file sharing platforms often have built-in backup mechanisms. This ensures that the system protects files and allows for recovery in case of data loss or system failure.


Scalability & Flexibility

File sharing accommodates various file types and sizes, making it suitable for different purposes and industries. Whether it’s sharing small documents, large multimedia files, or entire project folders, file sharing offers scalability and flexibility to meet diverse needs. With Filemail there are no restrictions, you can share files of any type and size.


Global Accessibility

With file sharing, geographic boundaries are no longer a hindrance. Individuals or teams can share files with people around the world, facilitating smooth communication and collaboration across various time zones.


Improved Document Control

File sharing platforms often provide granular control over file permissions, allowing users to define who can access, edit, or delete files. This ensures better document control and privacy, preventing unauthorized modifications or access to sensitive information.


Environmental Benefits

By reducing reliance on physical paper documents and transportation, file sharing contributes to environmental sustainability. It minimizes paper waste, carbon emissions, and energy consumption associated with traditional document-sharing methods.


5. 10 Disadvantages Of File Sharing

While file sharing champions efficiency, it also presents challenges that users must navigate. By acknowledging these drawbacks, individuals can take informed precautions and harness the benefits of file sharing more effectively.


Security & Compliance Risks

If you don’t take proper precautions, file sharing can pose security risks. Files shared over public networks or through insecure channels may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, malware, or data breaches. It is essential to use secure file sharing methods and platforms that employ encryption and other security measures.


Copyright Infringement

Individuals can misuse file sharing for illegal distribution of copyrighted material, such as movies, music, or software. This can result in legal consequences for both the uploader and downloader, violating intellectual property rights.


Viruses & Malware

File sharing networks and platforms can be breeding grounds for viruses, malware, and other malicious files. Users may unknowingly download infected files that can harm their devices or compromise their data security. It is crucial to have robust antivirus software and exercise caution when downloading files from unknown sources.


Unreliable Sources & Content

File sharing exposes users to content of varying quality and reliability. Shared files may be inaccurate, outdated, or contain misleading information. Users should exercise discretion and verify the credibility of the sources before relying on shared files for critical purposes.


Limitations: Storage Size, File Size, Sharing Restrictions

Some file sharing software providers will impose certain limitations on sharing functionality. This can be via limiting file storage space, or on the maximum size of the file you can share. Furthermore, some file sharing solutions impose further restrictions such as curtailing the number of downloads, or the number of recipients. Finally, some will impose bandwidth limitations.

At Filemail we have no such restrictions, so you can share files of any size with:

  1. Unlimited downloads
  2. Unlimited recipients
  3. Unlimited bandwidth


Dependency On Internet Connectivity

File sharing heavily relies on Internet connectivity. If the internet connection is slow, unstable, or unavailable, it can disrupt the sharing process and hinder collaboration. Users may also encounter difficulties accessing shared files when offline.


Loss Of Control Over Shared Files

When files are shared, there is a loss of control over how they are used or modified by others. In collaborative environments, it is important to establish clear guidelines and permissions to maintain control and prevent unintended modifications or deletions.


Compatibility Issues

Different file formats and software versions can lead to compatibility issues when sharing files. Users may encounter difficulties opening or editing files shared from incompatible platforms or older software versions. Compatibility challenges can disrupt workflows and require additional effort to resolve.


Privacy Concerns

When sharing files, the potential risk of privacy breaches exists, especially when sensitive or confidential information is involved. It is crucial to consider privacy implications and use secure file sharing methods, especially when sharing personal, financial, or proprietary data.


Overreliance On Third-Party Platforms

Third-party platforms or cloud storage providers provide many file sharing solutions. While convenient, this reliance on external services can present risks if the platform experiences downtime, data loss, or policy changes that impact access or privacy.

By being aware of these disadvantages and taking necessary precautions, users can mitigate risks and ensure a safer and more efficient file-sharing experience.


6. How To Choose A File Sharing Solution?

Assessing file sharing systems involves evaluating various factors to determine which solution best fits your needs in terms of security, functionality, ease of use, and scalability. Here’s a guide to help you assess different file-sharing solutions.


Define Your Requirements

Clearly outline your organization’s requirements and goals for file sharing. Consider factors such as the volume of files, number of users, security needs, integration with existing systems, and any specific features you require.


Security & Compliance

Security should be a top priority. Look for solutions that offer encryption both during file transfer and while at rest. Consider whether the solution meets industry-specific compliance standards (HIPAA, GDPR, etc.) if applicable.



A user-friendly interface and intuitive navigation are essential. The solution should be easy to use for both technical and non-technical users.


Storage Capacity

Assess the storage capacity offered by the solution. Make sure it aligns with your organization’s needs and future growth projections.


Access Control & Permissions

Check if the solution provides robust access control features. You should be able to assign different levels of permissions to users, ensuring that sensitive data is accessible only to authorized individuals.


Collaboration Features

If collaboration is important, look for features such as real-time editing, version control, commenting, and the ability to work on documents together.


Integration With Existing Systems

Consider how well the solution integrates with your current software and tools. Seamless integration can enhance productivity and reduce disruptions.



Choose a solution that can scale along with your organization’s growth. It should handle increased user and data loads without compromising performance.


Mobile Support

Check whether the solution offers native mobile applications to allow users to access and share files from smartphones and tablets. Filemail offers native file transfer apps for Android and iPhone, which are free to download and use to send large files of up to 5 GB in size.


Performance and Speed

Test the solution’s performance by uploading and downloading files of various sizes. Assess the speed of file transfers and determine if there’s any noticeable lag.

At Filemail we have globally distributed servers to speed up file transfers. Our desktop apps for both Windows and Macs use UDP Transfer Acceleration to give you blistering fast speeds, browser based solutions can’t provide.


Customer Support & Training

Consider the level of customer support provided by the solution’s provider. Look for resources like documentation, tutorials, and training to help your team get up to speed.


Cost & Pricing Model

Understand the pricing structure, including any hidden costs. Compare the solution’s pricing against its features and benefits to determine its value for your organization.


Backup & Recovery

Determine if the solution offers automatic backups and a recovery process in case of accidental data loss.


User Feedback & Reviews

Research user reviews and feedback to gain insights into the experiences of other organizations that have used the solution.


Trial Period

Whenever possible, take advantage of trial periods or free versions to test the solution’s functionality and see if it meets your needs firsthand.


Future Roadmap

Research the solution provider’s plans and updates. This can give you an idea of their commitment to improving and adapting the solution over time.


Data Ownership & Vendor Lock-in

Clarify the terms of data ownership. Ensure that you can easily migrate your data to another solution if needed, without facing vendor lock-in.


By carefully assessing these factors and comparing different file-sharing solutions, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your organization’s requirements and goals.

File sharing tips

7. 15 Tips On How To Share Files Safely & Securely

Sharing files safely and securely is essential to protect your data and sensitive information from unauthorized access or potential threats. In this section we cover various measures you can take to protect your files, such as implementing access controls, so only intended persons have access to files. Here are some guidelines to follow.


Use Secure Platforms

Choose trusted and reputable file-sharing platforms that offer encryption and security features. Cloud storage services like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Filemail, provide secure options for sharing files.


Password Protection

Use strong passwords for your accounts and enable password protection for shared files whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized access.



Encrypt your files before sharing them. This ensures that even if someone intercepts the files, they won’t be able to decipher the contents without the encryption key.


Secure Links

If your file-sharing platform offers it, use secure link sharing options that require recipients to log in or use a unique link to access the files.


Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Enable 2FA for your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second verification step, such as a text message code or an authentication app.


Limit Access

Only share files with the individuals who need access. Avoid making files publicly accessible unless necessary.


Expiry Dates

Set expiry dates for shared links. This ensures that the link becomes inactive after a certain period, reducing the chances of unauthorized access in the future.


Avoid Public Wi-Fi

When sharing sensitive files, avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, as they can be more vulnerable to hacking and interception. Use a secure network or a VPN for added protection.


Scan for Viruses & Malware

Before sharing any files, ensure that they are free from malware or viruses that could potentially compromise the recipient’s system.


Regular Updates

Keep your operating system, software, and security tools up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities.


Secure File Transfer Protocols

If sharing files over a network, use secure transfer protocols like SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS to encrypt data during transmission.


Check Permissions

Double-check the permissions and access levels you’re granting when sharing files. Make sure you’re not inadvertently giving too much access to others.


Educate Recipients

If you’re sharing files with others, educate them about the importance of cybersecurity and how to handle shared files safely.


Delete Unneeded Files

Regularly clean up and delete files that are no longer needed. This action decreases the risk of malicious access to old files.



Always keep backup copies of important files. This ensures that even if something goes wrong during the sharing process, your data is still safe.


By following these guidelines, you can significantly enhance the security of your file-sharing activities and minimize the risks associated with unauthorized access or data breaches.




In today’s interconnected world, file sharing plays a crucial role in facilitating collaboration, improving accessibility, and simplifying the exchange of information.

Understanding the different methods of file sharing, empowers users to choose the most suitable option based on their needs.

By using file-sharing technology effectively, people and groups can simplify work, boost productivity, and encourage smooth teamwork in a digital world that values shared knowledge.

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