I once worked for a company that would send updated documents on CDs to all customers. Sometimes it would just be a single Word document – less than half a meg in size – and they would have it burned onto a CD, have the CD silkscreen-labeled and put into a jewel case, then shrink wrapped. At one manager’s meeting I asked why waste all that money just to send a single file? I said it was like using a semi truck to deliver a postcard. I had also told them that at one slide per minute, their 250 + slide PowerPoint presentations would be longer than Lawrence of Arabia.

They never liked my analogies. They stopped inviting me to meetings.

I did suggest e-mailing the files, or using FTP. I was told the clients expect CDs. Plus it was more professional. CD labeling and duplication is not cheap. E-mailing is a lot cheaper. Especially if your files are under a single MB in size.

The company had to lay off 30% of its staff two years ago. Wonder why.

But remember when you used to dread sending large files through e-mail? How they used to choke your bandwidth and you (almost literally) held your breath as you watched the little progress bar inch. . .so. . .slowly. . .to. . .the. . .100. . .percent. . .mark? And how often would the mail server time out? And if FTP was an option, how many times was your client software incompatible with the server? Or how often would it time out, too?

Now we (allegedly) creative folk have lots of other options to get large files to others. Sites like Dropbox and Box.net let us store our work that can be shared through a download link. And now we have Adobe’s entry into the upload-and-link market: SendNow. Similar to YouSendIt, you just select a file, type your recipient’s e-mail address, type a message, and click Send.

All these sites have free versions that you can try.  They do limit the size of files you can send, but you can pay a small monthly fee to have considerably more space for uploads. The low-end subscription to SendNow allows you to see when the recipient downloaded the file you sent.  To compare, here’s the price list for YouSendIt.

CDs are becoming the last resort of file distribution and sharing.  They won’t go the way of ZIP drives, thank goodness.  But now we have more (and cheaper) resources for sharing large files.