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Definition: how to transfer a file over the Internet


There are several ways to transfer files over the Internet.

Via Email
Email programs can "attach a file" to a message, which means any file (document, image, program, etc.) can be transmitted along with the text message. This is the simplest way to send a file via the Internet. All you do is click the "attach" button and point to the file(s) you want to send along. On desktop computers, files can be dragged and dropped into the email message. See email attachment and UUcoding.

Via a Cloud Provider
Very often, a mail service limits the size of attachments, and email cannot be used. The alternative is a storage provider such as Dropbox or Box, which require that you open an account, upload the files and invite a recipient to download them. See Dropbox and Box.

Via a File Transfer Service
Free and paid services exist that let people transfer very large files to another party. See file transfer service.

Via FTP and the Web
The protocol designed for sending files to a server on the Internet is FTP (file transfer protocol). FTP supports files of all sizes, and files can be uploaded and downloaded using a GUI-based FTP application as well as FTP commands using a command line utility. Although files are commonly downloaded using a Web browser and the HTTP protocol, login credentials are required for FTP access. See file transfer program, FTP, command line and utility program.