Dropbox Delivers FTP-like Uploading Anyone Can Use


Everyone’s favorite file syncing service, Dropbox, just announced one of the simplest, most powerful file uploading capability I’ve seen yet. So simple that anyone with a Dropbox account (except a Business one…that’s coming soon) can create a request, and the person (or multiple people) they send that request to can upload files, each up to 2GBs in size*.

Providing access to your files in Dropbox to another person or persons is already simple. You can copy a shared link to that file and email it to someone. Couldn’t be easier. But enabling others to send you files has always been very difficult.

At my companies, it turns out that many people at our clients don’t have Dropbox (or Box)  or are unable to use it due to corporate security policies that disallow the use of third party file sharing services. Asking someone to set up a file upload-and-email service sounds good, but if they have to send you either one huge file (like a video) or multiple files (e.g., compressed in to a Zip file) then they will likely have to buy a subscription to that service in order to be able to send it to you.

But Dropbox has made this entire file sending adventure a no-brainer for anyone to use.

If you already have a free Basic (or paid Pro) Dropbox account, you can simply login and go to file requests, set one up, email that request to the person(s) either right from your request or you can copy the link to email from elsewhere, and they can then go to that page and upload their file or files.

All the files end up in a folder called “File requests” in your Dropbox folder. One thing I really like is that whatever you named the request is what the sub-folder’s name becomes. After uploading, if the uploader inputs their name and email in the box that appears once their file(s) are successfully uploaded, their name is added to the beginning of the filename. Pretty slick.

You also receive an email notification when your file uploading request has been completed.

In this screenshot you can see that I've already requested a PDF file upload from Michelle and photos taken at an event by Joe, Susan and Phil. You can see how Dropbox automatically creates a hierarchical folder structure that makes it easy to see what has been uploaded and by whom.

In this screenshot you can see that I’ve already requested a PDF file upload from Michelle and photos taken at an event by Joe, Susan and Phil. You can see how Dropbox automatically creates a hierarchical folder structure that makes it easy to see what has been uploaded and by whom. If the person adds their name after uploading, the file(s) they uploaded have their name as the prefix to the filename.

As I’ve thought about this new service, a few things stick out in my mind worth nothing:

  • This will be a huge driver for Dropbox’s business. Why? Because if you have a free Basic account (which is 2GB in size) and have used, say, 1GB of that storage amount already, if you then make requests of 20 people for photos and each uploads close to 50MBs each, you will be out of space. If you’re a business or organization using the free Basic, or paid Pro, Dropbox service and you send file submission requests to clients, won’t you want to ensure you have enough space? It would be embarrassing if a client tried to upload and you couldn’t accommodate their upload so you will probably step-up and buy an account.
  • File upload-and-email services may be crushed. Emails with larger-than-1MB attachments are usually unable to be accepted through mail servers, especially corporate ones. When I think of services that have emerged which allow someone to upload and then email huge files —like Hightail, FileDropper, ShareFile, and others—why would you want to use them when you can send out a request, the files just appear in your Dropbox, and you get an email when they’ve been successfully uploaded?
  • Dropbox advertises on FTP server searches already.

    Dropbox advertises on FTP server searches already.

    FTP and SFTP will wane. If you’ve been on the internet since even before it became commercially available in the mid-1990s like I have, you know that File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and it’s “Secure FTP (SFTP)” version, have not been easy to setup as servers so clients and others could easily upload files. FTP/SFTP server hosting and software providers like Hosted FTP, Serv-U, and even the open source FileZilla project, will likely have an increasingly difficult time making the case on the value they provide.

Isn’t it great to have all of these services appearing? It continues to get easier and easier to move “digital payloads” around to one another and it will only get more useful as our internet speeds continue to increase for both uploading and downloading.

*Make certain that you have enough space in your Dropbox account to accept a total number of files from your requests!

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  1. H Burke on June 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on this one, Steve. Solves a long-standing problem.

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.