My neighbor, a professional photographer, knocked on my door the other day, with a data-transmission problem. He'd just bought a fabulously expensive 22Mp Leaf camera and the resulting image files were causing him a huge headache.
At 20MB for a high-resolution Jpeg or 80MB for a Tiff, delivering snaps to clients was starting to be a problem -- even with broadband. A client suggested he consider using FTP (file transfer protocol). FTP has its advantages. People can download files from you when you're not at your PC; it's faster than using email or IM (instant messaging) and you can resume broken downloads. You can control access with a password system, too, although this is still not very secure.
My neighbor has a number of options. He could rent some storage space at his ISP, probably over and above the usual 'free web space'. This would incur a monthly charge and he'd have to upload the files to the FTP site before they could be downloaded. At 288Kbps (kilobits per second -- the standard ADSL upload speed), that's going to take some time. With a real-world upload speed of about 28Kbps, it would take roughly 12 minutes per 20MB file, or four hours in total. SDSL (symmetric DSL) would reduce this, but such connections are dear.
A compromise is to run your own server. The software is free and, because you cut out the slow upload phase, it's faster. A command-line FTP client comes with XP, or you can download free FTP clients such as FileZilla and CoreFTP (on the cover disc). You can even use a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox.
Setting up an FTP server is simple and it can run from your existing PC. If you have XP Professional or Windows 2000, the FTP server software is included as part of IIS. You need only to install it.
There is a 10-user limit and a max file size of 2GB on 'non-Server' editions of Windows. For those using XP Home or earlier versions, a free third-party FTP server is available. Serv-U 6.3 is free for personal use at www.servu.com.