YouSendIt Review: Send Big Files Anywhere, Now

By Jamie Bsales | Posted December 11, 2007

Are you tired of trying to work around the e-mail attachment limits of most mail services, and yet nowhere near willing to try setting up your own FTP server? There’s hope. YouSendIt bills itself as a “digital delivery company”—a sort of FedEx for the Internet age, helping businesses shuttle electronic documents to clients and colleagues. No more bounced e-mails, no hassling with an FTP site, and no more burning a file to CD and paying through the nose to ship it overnight.

With YouSendIt, you can send, receive and track files that you need to exchange with clients and colleagues. It’s ideal for professionals or businesses that deal with large files (images, video, audio, CAD, desktop publishing and so on) that need to be delivered outside of an organization, or to remote workers who don’t have access to files stored on the company network.

The concept is simple: You upload files to your private online “dropbox,” and the YouSendIt service notifies the recipients that the file is available for them to download, complete with a link. If someone uploads a file to your dropbox, you receive an e-mail notification that it’s there. Depending on the level of service you buy, you can even customize the look of your dropbox and notification e-mails with your company's logo for a more professional appearance. 

You can use your browser to access the YouSendIt service via the Web, or download the YouSendIt Express desktop utility. That tool, available for Windows and Mac clients (though the Mac is still technically a beta version) can handle larger uploads (files up to 4GB in size, versus 2GB in the browser) and transfer them more quickly.

YouSendIt also offers plug-ins for applications such as Photoshop, CorelDRAW and Aperture, so you can upload files from directly within those apps. There’s also an Outlook plug-in that adds a YouSendIt icon to Outlook’s toolbar.

YouSendIt offers a range of plans to suit every budget—even if your budget is $0. There are two individual plans (Lite and Pro), a small-business plan (Business Plus) and a tiered plan (Corporate Suite) aimed at business that need more bandwidth, more control over files and employee accounts and greater security.

YouSendIt screen shot
The clean user interface makes setting up and managing your YouSendIt account easy.
(Click for larger image)
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YouSendIt Corporate Suite
For our trials, we signed up for Corporate Suite. Signing up is painless; you can enter a credit card to be billed monthly, or ask for an invoice for a year of service (paying yearly saves you about 10 percent).

The biggest advantage Corporate Suite delivers over the other service levels is its management tools for an administrator. The My Account tab lets you add employee accounts, either by typing in each name and e-mail address (easy for only five people, but a bit tedious for 25 or more) or importing a CSV file.

Next, you’ll set up your dropbox. YouSendIt tries to automatically generate a fairly user-friendly URL for your dropbox, such as http://yousendit.com/youraccountname. In our trial, however, the assigned dropbox name had a string of six random numbers appended. But not to worry: We were able to remove those numbers and submit the dropbox name we preferred.

You can then add your own branding to the dropbox, such as a banner logo, a logo that will appear in e-mails generated by YouSendIt (so it looks like they are coming directly from your business), an e-mail footer message, a welcome message, and more.

The Admin tab lets you check on account activity. For example, you can search for deliveries by sender, recipient or date, view activity by user, and generate reports of all activity within a given date range.

Sending, Receiving Files
Working with YouSendIt is easy. The user interface resembles what you get with a Webmail account, and it requires no training to get used to it. To send a file, simply click on the Send tab to upload a file and automatically send a notification to the intended recipient(s) that a file is waiting for them.

The process is just like sending an e-mail: enter the e-mail addresses in the “To” field (if you’ve sent to them before, matching addresses will appear on a drop-down list as you type), a subject line, a message (alas, only up to 100 characters, which can be a bit limiting), and type in the name of the file you want to send (or hit the Browse button to surf to it on your PC).

Here you can also set file-expiration options (ranging from 30 minutes to never), which will automatically delete the file after the time period you specify; select password-protected secure delivery; ask for certified delivery with tracking; and request a return receipt. Then simply add another file if you wish, or hit the big “Send It” button.

You are prompted to keep that browser page open while the file uploads—anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the file size and the speed of your connection—but you can pop over to another application and keep working while the file loads in the background. YouSendIt then sends an e-mail to your recipients, as well as a confirmation e-mail to you.

On the receiving end, your colleagues and clients receive an e-mail (tailored to your business, if you’ve set it up that way) letting them know that a file is waiting, with a link to the download. If they are YouSendIt members already (for instance, those within your company that you added at setup), they’ll be prompted to log in, then taken to the dropbox. Recipients outside your circle will be shown a temporary password in the e-mail, which they enter after following the link.

In addition to long-term file storage, Corporate Suite also offers versioning capabilities, so you can revisit previous versions of an uploaded file to see how it has evolved over time. Corporate Suite also offers strong security, including encrypted file transfers, password-protected files (so even if a link to the dropbox winds up with an unintended recipient, they won’t be able to download it), receipt confirmation and the ability to set access rights and permission levels for employee accounts.

The only missing feature is file preview. This would be handy for recipients who might be away from a broadband connection, so they could see at least a thumbnail view of a file before spending an excruciating amount of time downloading it via dial-up. (YouSendIt recognizes this need and may introduce preview in a later release.)

YouSendIt screen shot
If you can compose an e-mail, you already know how to use YouSendIt to send files.
(Click for larger image)
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Plans and Pricing
For individuals, the Lite account is free to use, and lets you send files up to 100MB in size (with a 1GB monthly download limit). The Pro account ($9.99 a month) lets you send files up to 2GB in size and includes delivery tracking and access to the desktop utility and application plug-ins. You also get 40GB of bandwidth per month plus 2GB of online storage (you can pay for more as you need it).

The Business Plus level ($29.99/month) is a good choice for many small businesses. With Business Plus you can customize and brand your dropbox and notification e-mail, and you get 200GB of monthly bandwidth and 6GB of online storage. You can also password protect files, opt for certified delivery and return receipts and store contacts in your YouSendIt address book.

Mid-sized businesses and smaller companies that rely on file transfer to interact with clients will want to consider stepping up to Corporate Suite, which includes branding, unlimited bandwidth for uploads and downloads, the administration and security tools, and more. Plans range from $99.99 per month (for five people and up to 20GB of storage) to $299.99 per month (for 25 people and 60GB or storage).

For businesses that rely on courier services to shuttle files around, YouSendIt can be a time- and money-saver. It’s easy to use, and it gets the job done with a minimum of hassle for both you and your recipients.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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