File sharing hosts: places to store files

Sometimes, you may want to make a file available for download, or even just for reading, from your website or blog.  This article lists some options for this, and some of the issues involved.

System-file-manager Mac
  1. What is "file hosting"
  2. Google's file-hosting options (Docs, Sites, Picasa, Maps, Video)
  3. Some non-Google file-hosts (Your ISP, Scribd, Flickr et al, YouTube)
  4. Related Articles 

What is "file hosting"

Blogger lets you include the contents of video and picture files (.bmp, .jpg, .png files) in your posts.    But if you want to display any other type of file, or make a file available for your readers to download, then
  1. You need to store the file somewhere else, and
  2. The place that you store it in needs to make it available, on request, to people who ask for it (usually by clicking on a link in their web-browser), and
  3. You need to put an appropriate link to it into your blog.
A place that lets you upload a file, and then makes the file available is called a file-host.

Generally, when you upload a file to a file-host you need to set the security level, so that the host knows who is allowed to see (read) and change (edit) it.

Google's file-hosting options

Google Docs
Docs is Google's main file hosting tool.   You can now upload files of any type.   This includes text, xml, sql, and compressed (zip) files.

For some types (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc) you have the option of leaving the file in it's "native" format, or converting it to Docs format.

After you have uploaded a file to Docs, you can set the Sharing options for it.   If sharing is set to either public or "anyone with the link", then you are given a link that you can use to share the file.

The link looks like:

and of course you can use it as the link for some anchor-text, like this in the same way that you create any other link.   (The words "like this" are linked to the same place as the long link that is shown above.)

When someone clicks on the link, they are taken to a Google Docs file viewer screen showing either:
  • A view of the document, with options to save, print or download it (if the file type is one that Docs supports), OR
  • A link to download the document (if it's not a file-type that Docs recognises)

If a document is in Google Docs format, you can edit it and the Share button (top right corner) has an option for Publishing it to the web.  Doing this creates a separate webpage, with its own URL, that anyone with the link can use to see the document.

Published documents give the option of a link, which looks like:

or an embed code, like:
<iframe src=">

If you put the embed code into the HTML behind your post, you get something that looks like this:

(The document being displayed here is simply a word-processing file containing some text.)

Google Sites
Sites is another Google-based alternative for file-hosting.  

When you log in to it, you are prompted to either create a new (web)site, or to select an existing one.   If you do this, and create a new "filing cabinet" type of page, you have a place where you can upload files - of any type.

When you look at this filing-cabinet page, you see some action buttons (add a file, move it to a folder, delete it, subscribe to changes), and a list of files that have already been uploaded.   Each file that is listed shows the file name, and links to View (only for files of some types), and Download it.

A view link looks like:

and a Download link looks like:

You can copy the value beind these links from the Sites page in whatever way your browser supports (in IE8, it's right-click > Copy Shortcut)

A Sites file cabinet is a better file-storage option than Google Docs for some cases because:
  • You can easily get a download link which doesn't force readers see the file in a Google Viewer and require them to find and click a second link to put a copy of the file I'm offering onto their computer, and
  • The download link includes the name that the file has on your computer (or wherever else it was made):  this makes it a lot easier to double-check that you've attached the correct link to the right anchor-text.
  • If load a new file with the same name to Sites, then it simply replaces the existing file with the new one, notes that there is a new version - and the links don't change.
If you want to display the content of a file from Sites inside your blog, it may be possible to do so using a Google Web Element.   (This definitely works for PowerPoint files - still to check about others.)

Google Project Hosting
This is a tool for hosting code for open-source development projects. I haven't tried it yet (or checked the terms and conditions of use), but it may be a handy place for storing text files that can be read without having to go through Docs/Sites display screens.

Google Maps
Really, a map is just a (very specialised) type of file.  I've previously described how to put a Google custom map into your blog.

Picasa-web-albums (PWA) is a specialist file-hosting tool for pictures, and has many features that are not available in Docs, Sites, etc.   Since 2006, pictures that are put into Blogger posts are actually stored in an album in PWA.

I tend to upload pictures here first and then just link to their URL from Blogger, because this lets me control the resolution of the uploaded files.

Google Video
Video is where movies that are uploaded to your blog using the Video icon in the post-editor toolbar are stored. 

A major disadvantage is that it does not let you find or manage (delete, edit) videos that you have uploaded.   For this reason alone, I'd use YouTube, or Vimeo, or almost anything else if I wanted to put videos into a blog.  [NB  I haven't tried either .. yet.]

Non-Google file-hosting options

Your ISP
Some ISPs include file-hosting as part of their services.  You need to investigate how you can access and display files that they host for you - and whether you may be charged for traffic is a lot of people start downloading your files.

This is one of a number of file-hosting services on the internet, and has been recommended by many Blogger users.

For PDF files, it provides codes that you can use to embed the pdf content in a Post, rather than forcing your readers to download it.

It's free, but has a restriction on how much an individual can download each day, so isn't good if you want only a few people to be getting large documents from your site).

Another free-hosting site that has received good reports from many bloggers in the past.

Other Photo Sites:
Each site has slightly different features:  you may find that  flickr, Photobucket, Imagehosting, or FanBox suit your needs better than Picasa-web-albums, if you're want a "full featured" photo sharing system.

Or if you need very quickly accessible features, try something like:
  • Dropbox, 
  • CloudApp (for Mac) / FluffyApp (for Windows)
  • ImageShack - now called YFrog
  • Imgur
(Thanks to LifeHacker for the list of recommendation).

"The" site for hosting videos.   

Related Articles: 

Putting a Google custom map into your blog

Finding the URL for an image in Picasa-web-albums

Loading a Word document to your blog, via Google Docs

Showing a PowerPoint presentation in your blog, as a slideshow

Tools for applying copyright protection to your blog

Giving your subscribers a free file (eg an eBook) using Feedburner


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