The other day, while testing out a laptop, I needed to get some files onto it for evaluation purposes. They’re files I need on a frequent basis, so a copy of them lives on a USB flash drive hooked to my key ring, which is how I’d ordinarily have copied them across.
The only problem was that the laptop in question only had USB C type connectors, which meant that, in the absence of an adaptor, it wasn’t that much use to me. I do have a USB C adaptor, but not in the office I was in at the time, so I had to ponder other routes of connectivity.
Which got me thinking about the whole issue of sharing files around generally, because there’s quite a few options open to you generally if you have files, whether they’re vital business documents or just some music you want in multiple places to listen to. There isn’t really a “better” or worse approach; it’s a question, as with so many technology issues, of the right tool for the job at the right time. Here’s a quick rundown of how I could have handled the issue:
Cloud backup: Take your pick of Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive or many others, upload the files and then download them from other machines.
Advantages: Access from any system capable of logging into your cloud account, which these days would be any Internet-connected laptop, desktop, tablet or phone. This also makes collaborative work a snap, because you can share the same file across many users.
Disadvantages: Unless you’re on a decent fibre NBN connection, your upload speeds are likely to be lousy, which is a big problem for bigger files. If you’re talking about work files, you should carefully consider the security of your cloud backup, and encrypt where feasible to ensure the safety of your documents.
Email: It’s simple, and it should work well enough for most documents; simply email them to an inbox of your choice and wait.
Advantages: Everyone has email, and again you can conceivably receive the same document across many machines.
Disadvantages: Again you’re at the mercy of upload speeds, as well as any inbox limitations built into your email client. Some systems will not happily allow large attachments in emails, so cloud could be a better bet. Finally, email was built with ubiquity in mind but not always security; it’s a poor idea for any sensitive information.
Sneakernet: A catch-all term for any physical transfer mechanism, whether you copy to a USB flash drive or burn to a CD; it’s sneakernet because to get information from one system to another, you really do have to walk it from one to the other.
Advantages: It’s delightfully old-school, and it does give you total control over where your documents go, because no Internet is required. It can also be decidedly faster if you’re on a slow Internet connection for either uploads or downloads.
Disadvantages: Obviously it requires storage media of a size large enough to transfer whatever you need access to, as well as reading capability; in my case USB C wouldn’t easily connect to USB A, but the same would be true if you burnt a CD or DVD of information for a system that lacked an optical drive!
Local network sharing: You don’t have to send files up onto the Internet to grab them system to system if you’re sitting on the same local network. Both Windows and Apple Mac systems have tools to make this a snap, which is why, in fact, for the files I needed to transfer that’s what I did. On the tablet/phone side, consider apps such as Airdroid (Android) or iFunBox (iOS) to shuffle files around.
Advantages: No additional media required, and it can be just as fast, or faster than sneakernet copying.
Disadvantages: Does require some network configuration to get working; depending on your existing security software this may be a tricky balancing act, especially if you need to copy between Macs and PCs.