he internet is without a shadow of doubt the easiest and most convenient way to share files with friends and family. Over the next few pages we're looking at sharing files using three different aspects of the internet: file transfer protocol (FTP), the web and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.
The web is obviously the most visible and familiar part of the internet to many, so the step-by-step box below basically reveals six different sites or services for sharing different types of file, from photos and documents to diagrams and even your calendar.
Online calendars are designed for public viewing, plus you can set up meetings, parties and appointments, then email others the details for integrating into their own calendar.
Upload the FTP way
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is the traditional way of uploading files to the internet, and one of the reasons it's still popular is because it's quick and easy. While it's possible to upload files using FTP in Internet Explorer or through Windows, it's not the most effective way of doing so.
A far better way is to use a FTP client, which - once configured - gives you quick and easy access to your server space, whether it's free space offered by your Internet Service Provider or spare capacity from your web host. One of the best free tools out there is FileZilla, which you can download from here.
To gain access to your online storage you'll need three things: a FTP address, plus username and password for gaining access to that storage space. Your ISP or web host can provide these - check its online help section for details.
Set up access to your web space with FileZilla
1. FIRST STEPS
Open FileZilla and choose File > Site Manager to set up your site details. Click the New Site button and enter a name for your connection. Once done, type your server's FTP address into the Host box.
2. ENTER LOGON DETAILS
Change Logontype to Normal and enter your FTP username and password into the User: and Password: boxes respectively. If you want to set default local and remote directories, switch to the Advanced tab.
3. SET INITIAL DIRECTORIES
Click Browse next to the Default Local Directory box to choose a folder on your hard drive to default to on connecting to the server; type the remote directory in manually to the box below, then click Connect.
Once you've logged on to your web or storage space you can use it like a Windows drive - create folders to help organise your uploads and then upload files to those folders. While it's possible to browse your hard drive using FileZilla itself (navigate using the left-hand pane), it's usually quicker to simply drag and drop from an Explorer window into your web space as represented in FileZilla's right-hand window.
Upload speeds will depend on your ISP and package, but don't expect them to be anywhere near as fast as your download speeds - as an example, the Virgin Media 10Mb package can download up to 1MB (1,024KB) of data per second, but upload speeds are typically around 60-70KB/s.
If you'd rather not install another program to handle your file transfers, you could use your web browser - just type ftp://server.co.uk in your browser's address bar (where server.co.uk is your server's FTP address) and hit [Enter]. You'll be prompted for your FTP account's username and password - supply this and then drag and drop to your heart's content using an Explorer-like interface within your browser window.
It's not an elegant solution - when uploading large files it can appear as if the browser has crashed for example. As a result, Firefox users should take a look at FireFTP (click here), a free browser add-on. Once installed, select Tools > FireFTP to open It in a new tab, where you can configure a connection and then use it in exactly the same way as FileZilla, with full support for drag-and-drop as well as self-contained access from within your browser. Sadly no equivalent add-ons exist yet for Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Opera.