We’re sure you’ve been in a situation where you wanted to share a file with your friend who lives on the other side of the country or even the world. Sending it on a flash drive or emailing it are limited solutions. What you can do instead is upload a file to the internet and let your friend download it.
We’re going to tell you how you can do that with free file hosting services.
File hosting services let you upload your file with the drag-and-drop method — if they’re user-friendly — or by selecting it from your computer. While they basically do the same thing, how well they do it and what other features are available differ substantially by provider.
Some take your file and give you the download link to share or send it to your email. Then there are those that offer advanced capabilities, such as sharing to social networks, remote URL uploads, encrypted channels, public catalogs and more.
You can use cloud storage to achieve the same thing, though. The advanced features are only available to premium accounts, but the free ones are nothing to dismiss. To make sure you choose the right service, I’d consider this comparison chart and, if that’s not enough for you to make a decision, we have an article to help you pick best online storage service for you.
For the rest of this article, we’re going to look at how free file hosting services and free cloud storage compare.
File Hosting vs Cloud Storage
First up, let’s take a look at the difference between file hosting and sharing using cloud storage.
If you need to upload a file in a hurry, most free file hosting will let you do so without creating an account. You can upload your file, get the link and send it. That’s all it takes. Cloud storage, on the other hand, requires you to register, log in, upload a file and then get the link.
While it’s more cumbersome, cloud storage has more options for sharing links than bare-bones file hosting services, which only provide you with a link. Most cloud storage services let you share to social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Plus, you can invite others to your folder by username or email. Read our best cloud storage for sharing piece to learn more.
If you’re sharing files to collaborate with remote teammates, some cloud storage services offer native apps, such as Google Docs and Dropbox Paper, and integrated note-taking apps. You can find more information about cloud collaboration in our best cloud storage for collaboration article.
File hosting services aren’t forthcoming about their security measures, but we can assume that most don’t encrypt your uploaded data. That means anyone with access, such as a rogue employee, can read it. There are exceptions that offer end-to-end encryption, but they tie it to premium plans.
Even when it’s free, cloud security usually offers at least a minimal level of protection. Services encrypt your files on servers using AES 128-bit or 256-bit algorithms, protect your files during transfer with the TLS protocol, offer two-factor authentication to protect your account and encrypt your transfers end-to-end. For that, read our best zero-knowledge services article.
Ease of use
If all you need is simple file transfer, there’s no questioning that file hosting services can take care of that without you breaking a sweat. As a non-registered user, you will be subject to restrictions on file size, speed and the amount of time your file sits on a server, but that’s beside the point if you need to share immediately.
For more advanced needs, cloud storage lets you access your files using web clients that mimic file browsers on operating systems, as do some file hosting services. That lets you delete, rename or move files in your storage. On top of that, all cloud storage services have a desktop client that lets you sync files from your hard drive directly to the cloud.
As a free user of file hosting services, your download and upload speeds might be limited in some cases, while unlimited speeds are reserved for paying customers. Cloud storage services don’t throttle speeds. Instead, speeds rely on other factors, such as how close you are to a server, the service’s infrastructure and your internet service provider.
Files and Storage
If you use a free plan with a file hosting service, it might limit the maximum file size or storage and the amount of time your files can stay on its servers.
Some have a relatively low cap for storage, such as 5GB, while file size limit can go as low as 50MB. Services that don’t have such limitations will delete your file after a set period of time without downloads. Free plans often have ads to compensate for the lack of limitations.
Free plans with cloud storage won’t provide you with hundreds of gigabytes of storage, but they won’t attack you with ads or delete your files because of inactivity, either. In many cases, you can increase your storage quota by inviting friends or completing steps after registering.
Some services limit file size to several gigabytes, while others set the bar quite high, as you can see in our best cloud storage for large files article (also check out our guide for how to send large files).
Good File Hosting Services
Free plans are what they are, but some services stand out. We’re going to give you a brief rundown of them next, beginning with Files.fm
The service lets you upload files of up to 2GB in size, while your storage is set from “1GB to 15GB.” Since it’s a free plan, it’s supported by ads. During upload, an “encrypted data channel” protects your files. Once they’re done, they will be available in a public catalog.
DepositFiles raises the bar for file size to 10GB. On top of that, it retains your files for 90 days after each download. That is much better than the mere 15 days that some services offer. The number of files you can upload is limited to 50, though.
With 4shared, you get 15GB of free space and you can upload files as big as 2GB. There are no restrictions on the amount you can transfer, but download speeds are capped and there are ads. Plus, if you don’t log in for 180 days, your account and files will be deleted.
You can upload a maximum of 2GB per transfer on the free plan. Once uploaded, the transfer will be available for seven days. After that, it is deleted to make room for other files. If you’re in the EU, the service will host your data on servers there, which is handy considering General Data Protection Regulation applies.
Filehosting.org doesn’t limit file size, speed or storage, but deletes your files 20 days after the last download. That seems to good to be true, but we haven’t found any restrictions. It doesn’t have ads, either, but it “reserves the right to occasionally inform the user about new features of this service or offers of our partners according to the privacy terms.”
YourFileLink doesn’t require you to sign up and doesn’t limit uploads, downloads or bandwidth. That said, if your files haven’t been downloaded for 15 days, they will be deleted. The service is ad-heavy, too.
Good Cloud Storage Services
Cloud storage shines when you subscribe to a premium plan, but there are good free plans, too. They let you use the service to upload and share files the way file hosting services do. For more details, read our top five providers with a large service plan article.
Google Drive gives you a generous 15GB of free storage, which will be enough for most people. Free users get the same access to Google Docs, Google Photos and other apps that integrate with the service. If you upload your photos in “high quality” instead of “original,” your space for photos will be unlimited. Read more in our Google Drive review.
Using the free version of pCloud gets you 10GB of storage. You can complete a multi-step process to get another 4GB. If you refer a friend, you get 1GB of additional space up to 20GB. Free users don’t get access to passwords and expiry dates for shared links, but the experience is quite good besides that.
pCloud is near the top of our cloud comparison list. If that intrigues you, read our pCloud review.
Free File Hosting Services vs Cloud Storage
Sync.com is the best cloud storage service, according to our rankings, but it only gives you 5GB for free. It has many upsides, as you can read in our Sync.com review, and you can refer it to as many friends as you like to get an additional 1GB per referral. The company tells us that it will remove the 20GB cap once you hit it if you ask.
Most features are available to free users, including zero-knowledge encryption and the ability to password-protect shared files.
MEGA used to provide 50GB of free storage without requiring referrals or processes to be completed. Now, 35GB ultimately vanish, leaving you with 15GB, which is still nothing to dismiss. The space you get using the referral program disappears, too.
Besides those bonuses being temporary, the options for free users are limited. You can read more about it in our MEGA review.
When you start using MediaFire, you get 10GB of free storage. That’s a fair amount and you can increase it to 50GB. When you refer a friend you get 1GB of space up to 32GB. If you don’t like doing that, you can install the mobile app and connect to Facebook and Twitter to get more space.
It’s decent for file hosting, but doesn’t do as well as a cloud storage service. You can read more about it in our MediaFire review.
If you use the internet, you’re probably going to share files. Doing so with ease, quickly and without many restrictions is better than it being a chore. Free plans are limited whether they are for file hosting or cloud storage services.
Both usually limit your storage space, with some exceptions for file hosting services that limit how long files stay on the servers or have ads. Cloud storage services don’t remove your files or serve ads and generally have more features. They are more complicated, though, so if you only want to share a file quickly, you are better off with a file hosting service.
What do you think about free file hosting and cloud storage services? Which do you prefer and which do you use? Let us know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading.