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Tue 4 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Send and deliver

There are numerous websites designed to help you send those large files your e-mail client just can't handle.

There are numerous websites designed to help you send those large files your e-mail client just can't handle. We gauge the performance of what are arguably the three main contenders for your consumer click - YouSendIt, MailBigFile, and MegaUpload.These let you upload your monster files to their servers, and subsequently notify friends and colleagues of the file's location, so that they can download it at their leisure. As you'll discover here, there are all kinds of associated extra features and software plug-ins offered too, but sending and receiving large files is the main function of such sites. Let's get started then...

Yousendit.com

Arguably the first such service to strike a chord with netizens and gain serious brand recognition, YouSendIt touts a free-to-register basic service and three additional paid-for, more fully-featured consumer and business accounts.

The free Lite consumer service allows you to send files up to 100Mbytes in size (up to 20 recipients), with a total monthly recipient download limit of up to 1Gbyte. Not bad at all (particularly on the ‘number of recipients' front).

YouSendIt is also the service currently providing the most - generally free software add-ons, such as toolbars for MS Outlook, Adobe Photoshop and even a desktop app (‘YouSendIt Express') that users can employ for easier and quicker file sending (rather than logging into the YouSendIt.com site). Learn more at www.yousendit.com/cms/applications.

Usage-wise, YouSendIt's interface is clean and a doddle to use; as once signed in, its left-hand page tabs are pretty self-explanatory (Send file, Inbox (files received), Outbox (pending files), Sent Items and Contacts - users you've sent files to previously).

‘Lite' senders of individual files who need more security but don't need a monthly subscription to the Pro service, can also pay one or several of various dollar amounts to certify the delivery etc. of that one crucial file (ranging from $3.99 for a return receipt, password protection, or certified delivery, to $8.99 for Premium Delivery - a single method of sending a larger 2Gbyte file with a longer 14-day expiration period).

YouSendIt's higher-level consumer service, the Pro account, really ups the ante. Costing a relatively reasonable US $9.99 per month (or $109.99 per year - the equivalent of 11 monthly payments), this ‘bigs up' the max file size to 2Gbytes, with a 40-gig maximum monthly download limit, delivery tracking, and a unique ‘Dropbox' feature. Some will love this facility, as it lets users send you files via a dedicated page on your own website or blog.

Pros & Cons

+ Simple and obvious interface

+ Lite account's 20-recipient feature

+ Pro service's Dropbox feature

+ Useful toolbars/extra apps

- Lite account's relatively low 100Mbyte file limit

- Lite account's relatively low 1Gbyte download limit

Windows test performance

Test connection: 3.5Mbps DSL line Upload file: 96.3Mbyte zip

Download file: 99.7Mbyte zip

YouSendIt Lite account upload: 3.5Mbytes/min

YouSendIt Lite account download: 27Mbytes/min MegaUpload.comWith its slightly commercial-looking P2P site style, MegaUpload.com loses out to YouSendIt on the aesthetic front, however it does juice its offer with a much greater maximum single file size of one whole Gigabyte (even for users of its free, no-registration-required service).

In addition, with MegaUpload files can be simply uploaded and a download link then instantly copied down, enabling an uploader to send this link to whoever, whenever (rather than having to identify an e-mail recipient from the off, as with YouSendIt and MailBigFile). Recipients then just click the link they're sent and download the file after inputting a quick on-screen security code.

After uploading a file, users who want to share one file with numerous recipients (thus cranking up that file's download amount) can pay to make file a ‘hotlink'. For instance, 10Gbytes of download capacity costs $9.99, scaling right up to $49 for 1000Gbytes (1Terabyte).

What you choose here obviously depends on how many users require access to your ultra-valuable file. Once your paid-for quota is used up, the hotlink reverts to a regular link (also opening an additional ‘pre-download' page and therefore taking more time to utilise fully).

Two registration-required services are also available: the first is completely free and adds features like limited online storage, while the bog-rocking fully-featured paid-for service offered MegaUpload touts is called Premium.

The key draws of this are its ‘enhanced' download speed, jaw-dropping Terabyte of online storage (with associated file manager), massive 1000-recipient limit and file password-protection. This is undoubtedly quite an offer, and sure to appeal if you need whopping amounts of space and flexibility.

Pros & Cons

+ No-registration service's maximum 1Gbyte file size

+ Free-to-register version's 50Gbytes of online storage

+ Paid-for service's huge storage figures

- Adverts noticeable within free services page

- Slow download access with free services (load download page, then click to download, plus there's a pop-up ad).

- Commercial and lightweight look-and-feel

- Free service's ‘very limited' 24-hour download amount (we measured this at around 100Mbytes)

Windows test performance

Test connection: 3.5Mbps DSL line Upload file: 96.3Mbyte zip

Download file: 99.7Mbyte zip

YouSendIt Lite account upload: 3.5Mbytes/min

YouSendIt Lite account download: 20Mbytes/min MailBigFile.com

Possibly the simplest looking site of these three, MailBigFile offers a free service - comprising a YouSendIt-like 100Mbyte file size limit, three downloads per file, but a very limited 3-day file expiry period - and a cheap paid-for service, costing just $20 per year.

Compared to its competitors here, the free service is relatively limited, particularly in terms of its ‘downloads per file' limit of three and 3-day file expiration (which simply looks mean next to YouSendIt's 7-day period). MailBigFile's Google-inspired, ‘everyman' screen interface is super-clean, no registration is required (for the free service), and you don't even need to include a sender e-mail address: just enter the recipient's e-mail ID, attach your file and click ‘Send File'.

What's frustrating is what happens then. The ‘file uploading' screen rocks along - for between 5 and 10 minutes in our thrice-repeated test - giving you percentage updates all the way. But then at some point, the status bar reaches 100%, at which point a ‘Nearly there, just a moment' message appears, and sits there - for an hour or even two in some of our tests.

This is certain to drive most users mad, or even lead them to shut down the page and give up (our test team did both during our tests). We're pretty sure this is a strategy to push users towards paying for the site's Pro account. But this is simply a misguided way to try and ‘upsell'. We weren't impressed.

Neither do you get much in the way of fancy extras: there is no talk of software plug-in toolbars for instance, and the word terabyte never enters into the lexicon of the site. It's solely a case of this: do you want to send one sub-100Mbyte file to one user? (If Yes, use the free service and be very patient ), or files of up to 2Gbytes to anything up to five users? In which case it'll cost you 20 greenbacks per year.

(Although this report is focusing on consumer-aimed file delivery services, those with business websites should note that MailBigFile's third service - the ‘Business Account' - does add an interesting feature in the form of a brandable web page that businesses and their customers can use to exchange files. A free trial of this business service is available via the site - tell us your thoughts on this at windows@itp.com.)

Pros & Cons

+ No registration required to use free service

+ Simple, ultra-clean interface

+ No monthly bandwidth/upload limit for free users

+ Low-cost Pro account

- Free service's 100Mbyte single file limit

- Pro service's relatively low 2Gbyte file limit

- Both services' support low recipient numbers

- Hellishly annoying upload timing/hang screen.

Windows test performance

Test connection: 3.5Mbps DSL line

Upload file: 96.3Mbyte zip

Download file: 99.7Mbyte zip

YouSendIt Lite account upload: 1.7Mbytes/min (due to the 100% ‘wait')

YouSendIt Lite account download: 25Mbytes/min

Windows verdict

If sending less than ten sub-100Mbyte files over the course of a month, you can't go wrong with YouSendIt; it's simple to use and its upload procedure is stress-free compared to MailBigFile's. If you need massive capacities, and have cash to spare, try MegaUpload.

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