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Recently I have been using using dropbox's public url feature to share my files over email. I'm looking for some information on if it's the best thing to do.

Attachments over email
1. Searching the attachments over email is easier and you get it in seconds. 2. You can forward the same mail with attachments to other recipient in jiffy
1. Unnecessary blocking of memory because of heavy files 2. Variants of files sent to and fro without versioning over email.
Using public URL for files.
1. No unnecessary bloating of mail server 2. Files can be downloaded separately when required.
1. Searching for a particular file (and also searching for the content inside the file) which was related to specific mail is difficult and not possible. 2. In few of organization access to mail port are open but not to many of internet site, ie. access to dropbox etc. might be closed.

Are these real advantages/disadvantages and have I missed any?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by AsheeshR, Rory Alsop Dec 24 '13 at 23:09

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

-1 Your question is too broad and theoretical. What attachments, intended for whom, with what properties (size, security, versioning etc)? – Jan Doggen Jun 12 '13 at 6:48
Yes my question is broad, but this is an annoying question which comes to my mind everyday when I draft mails. Ultimate question is should emails be attachment free? will it be the most productivity practice? – Arun Jun 12 '13 at 13:36
@Arun, then you should clearly define the criteria for the problem: what is important for you when choosing how to send files. Then choose the method. Most likely this will lead you to using both for different tasks. Also I believe this question is off topic on PP. – Steed Jun 13 '13 at 14:49
up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Better" has a meaning that is too relative to context to answer authoritatively.

The file content matters: Are the files business or personal? Do they contain sensitive data? How large are they? Do you have corporate policies that control how and where documents can be shared?

Corporate policies matter: do you (or the recipient) have permitted use policies that limit what internet sites can be accessed from the corporate network?

The recipient matters too. Many people hate opening attachments. I suspect those people are even less likely to navigate to a 3rd party service and download a file, even if it is a simple link embedded in the email.

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I got my answer in your last paragraph :-) you hit the nail on its head. Thank you – Arun Jun 12 '13 at 13:44
For best productivity, summarize the attachment in the email. If they don't look at the detailed attachment, at least they have the gist. – Dennis S. Jun 12 '13 at 16:05

To a large extent it depends on the nature of your files.

Is the data sensitive? Then you may not want to upload it to a third party, in this case Dropbox which numerous times have been attacked by privacy advocates. As you may have heard, a recent allegation is that Dropbox has created a backdoor for the NSA to secretly access user data. In this case I recommend using encryption and GnuPG.

If the data is of more trivial nature, like videos of funny cats, go ahead and use Dropbox.

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Neither one is going to be perfect. Some email systems have limitations on the size of file attachments, so a link is prefered. There can be some users behind strict corporate firewalls that may prevent access to certain sites. Dropbox for example may be viewed as a site for personal use only since it is not adopted by the company.

I like links because you can have some control over different versions of the file. Of course a user can copy the files to their computer and get confused, but at least everyone knows where the "current" version is located.

My answer would be to work with those you email and either be the evangelist for links over attachments or just deal with those who won't comply as an exception. Ideally, you could just tell everyone to go to "the site" and they could search for the file without having to provide a specific link.

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I've found two things to be helpful in my decisions around this:

  1. How tech-savvy is the recipient? If it's my mom, I better attach the document. Having her go to a link (dropbox, etc.) introduces something new to her which opens up all sorts of issues. :-)

  2. How important/sensitive is the document. I like to keep it off email if I can, but keeping #1 in mind.

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Another factor not yet mentioned, is whether the content is relevant only within the context of your email, or could it be useful later, or for other purposes. I often prefer to create a wiki page with the information and send a link to that than email each person an answer because I know I'm likely to have to explain it again, or someone might find it on their own if it's on a wiki.

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