• Posted: 15/09/21    

Which File Sharing Service is Best For Pro Audio?

"Help! I need to Send High Quality Files ASAP & they're too big for email! What program works the best?"

If you aren’t used to working collaboratively in the recording process or you haven’t yet sent recordings for duplication or mastering you may not have come across this question as of yet, or this scenario may not be that important in your daily recording process. Once the time comes when you are done with your mixes or recordings and you need to send them to the mastering engineer or the duplication plant this decision will become vastly more significant.  “I need the best solution RIGHT NOW!” type significant. Instead of waiting until the last minute, let’s review our options in full from an engineer’s perspective to see what works best in the recording studio. These programs aren’t necessarily designed with the recording industry in mind, so it’s important to get an engineer’s take on what works…That’s what I’m here for! Here Goes…

What Are the Most important Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Option?

  1. File Size
  2. Security
  3. Cost
  4. Ease of Use
  5. Long Term Storage?

Notes That We’ll Use To Evaluate Each Service:

Average size of a Full Tracked out Song or internal DAW file: 1 – 4GB

Average size of a 24 Bit/44.1 PPM Mix: 30 – 70MB

Average size of A Full 24/44.1 Album sent to Mastering: 10 songs x and average size of 50MB per track = 500MB. Of course if you (as many do) record at higher sample rates you’ll see dramatically increased sizes. *These numbers are derived from my own projects of various albums mixed, and projects worked on.*

 

The Most Widely Used Options:

DropBox:

What You Should Know

Continuous Backup

2GB storage limit for free accts.

Files & Folders and can be password protected.

Data Storage on multiple servers in multiple locations for protection against disaster.

Incredibly easy interface and sync capable folders and files between users.

*You can increase your free 2GB storage by referring friends on the free acct.

Paid option- ($9.99/month)

1TB of storage, 10GB file size upload limit

Additional sharing controls.

Apps, & Desktop applications all sync with all options.

Dropbox Plan Details

A Mix Engineer’s Quick Take on This Option:

This is a very popular option, and probably the most widely used on the list. I’ve used this option personally in the past with my main studio location and production team and it’s worked relatively well. Once you’ve downloaded the Dropbox desktop folder you have continuous real-time access to material anyone drops into the folder at any time. That’s pretty darn convenient.

On an EPK we were doing for a pop act we used Dropbox for the photos liner notes and mixes we were sending to duplication. Have you noticed the hiccup yet? Let me reiterate that last sentence “we used Dropbox for the photos, liner notes, and mixes we were sending to duplication for a few copies” everything works in that 2GB or so other than the MIXES!!!!! With Dropbox, the convenience and ease of use is great especially if you have less computer literate users on your team. Where Dropbox may be inadequate is the 2GB of storage space. Yes you can access more after you’ve referred others and they’ve signed up, but that does nothing for you when you have 3.5GB you need to send to duplication not tomorrow, but NOW! With planning ahead you can easily sign up for the paid option and have that issue solved but you’ll need to pay for the monthly membership annually so that’s a year commitment. You’ll have to weigh that for yourself.

Security, Security, Security!

The increased 256-bit encryption is definitely comforting, but with all the hacking today that happens you are never 100% safe so you’ll have to weigh those costs with any cloud service and that’s a decision you’ll handle before you even consider anything in this arena. (There are companies that put more of a premium on encryption and their strides in that area and depending on your clients that may be a prevailing factor.) You’ll notice with services like Dropbox and the business service Hightail (formerly YousendIt) with the paid options you get more password protection and more encryption. Paid members also tend to get pushed to the front of the line when it comes to support tickets as well.

 

Related: 10 Signs You Studied Music Technology In College

 

Google Drive:

What You Should Know:

5GB of Free Space

Integrates seamlessly with Gmail, Google Docs, GChat, etc…

Built-in Intelligent search capabilities. Can search for actual items inside photos, actual words in documents…..I’m not certain if it can pull out hooks of songs or bass lineswink

You can set edit and view permissions (a feature commonly included as a paid option with other selections on this list)

Content never gets deleted, no limit on accessibility for folders or items shared as they may be with “Sharing Services” like WeTransfer that don’t require an acct.

You can buy an additional 25GB for $2.50month up to 16TB.

A Mix Engineer’s Quick Take on This Option:

I use Google Drive all the time for transfers to mastering and transfers to send to clients. The biggest obstacle I’ve found is getting others to use this option, because it seems to have a slightly bigger learning curve. For me it’s a great addition to Gmail because there is no signup and you have access to 5GB off the bat (larger than WeTransfer or Dropbox) and your email contacts are automatically synced. The addition of the basic permission management is great as well so that I can have a folder in Drive and allow the Mastering engineer to have edit capability but also send mixes to the artists and their friends with only view capabilities. We can send and edit files back and forth much like Dropbox and you can also get a desktop icon with continuous backup.

Drive gets beaten by Box in the Max storage space but with Drive there is no max file size beyond the 5GB space that you have so you can have 1 huge file of 4.5 GB or many files that add up to 5GB whereas in Box you will get 10GB of space, but each file can only be a max of 250MB. Something to consider…. Again evaluate this option with the above averages or use your own if you have a history of different type of work or recording at different sample rates. My work is based in popular music (pop, R&B, Hip Hop).

Another issue to consider with Drive is the fact that your data is safe forever. You will never have a length of time where you can’t access the files if you need to. With a few of the other options (Dropbox & WeTransfer) you may only have 7 to 30 days to access the file from the link. Many times when you are sending files to a collaborator this isn’t an issue since things are time sensitive, but I’ve had sessions where we needed to go back to an old EPK for photos we were going to use on another single or old mixes we wanted to add to a new duplication effort and the fact that we can leave files in the Drive folder regardless of timeframe is a great backup if you don’t have a hardcopy handy.

The final issue to consider with Drive is Google. Yes Google itself. If Google has your contacts, your file backups and your search history, they almost have everything. Matter of fact they may as well have everything. Of Course, when products are free that means YOU are the product. Google may use this info in any way they see fit. I’m sure there are laws against privacy (who knows If we signed our rights away in the last update) but either way Google may end up mining this data to better understand their customers and better market to you and your friends. I’m not saying this to be scary or to insinuate that Google is going to steal your music and put out a Google album, I’m just saying this because Google is one of the largest corporations in the world and their email, search and product solution business is about data….Big DATA and I wouldn’t doubt that Drive is another cog in that Data wheel.

 

Related: Join The Home Of Audio Engineer Music Mix Contests!

 

Musistic:

What You Should Know:

I included this selection because I’ve used this on a few occasions before and it definitely deserves more of a look when considering file sharing options for Recording & Mix engineers. Musistic isn’t an actual sharing program like Drive, Dropbox etc… It’s a program that works inside your DAW through an integrated plugin and allows you to send near real-time files to and from all the major DAWs. 

Here’s a low down on the pricing:

Musistic Subscription Plan Details

Here’s the cool thing about this option: There is no leaving your DAW, you can set up projects  with specific collaborators on each project and pass information back and forth specific only to each project. Of course once that project is finished you can collaborate with others on different projects. Swapping music inside the DAW relieves the hassle of compressing audio, bouncing and exporting.

It’s important to take a look at the above options and evaluate them on our main criteria.

With 2GB of storage on the free account, the Monthly account is the most appealing, but consider the fact that this options is unlike any of the others where we are collaborating real-time. This alleviates (at least for me) the likely hood that I would need to transfer full songs at a time. In previous collaborations I’ve experienced the singer cut vocals and send them to the drummer or receive tracked out musical elements sent to me from the producer so that I can do overdubs with the singer etc.

Are you a member of Mixrevu.com? Get an exclusive Musistic trial here and judge for yourself.

 

Related: Top 10 Skills Audio Engineer Students Need

 

FTP:

What You Should Know:

File Transfer Protocol is used for a variety of different reasons, many of which have 0 to do with sharing files peer to peer. If you have FTP, you can use it to share files already sitting on your server for other reasons (you have a website?) The FTP process can be a no brainer and the easiest of all the options.

The Basics of FTP involve client-server operations. I, the client can contact the server (example - the host of my website) and upload my file (as large as my server will handle, no limits here really *note: the larger the file, the longer the upload. Uploads tend to be exponentially longer than download times.), then I can send a link to that server to another person/collaborator to download a file from that link.

Example link: http://www.mysite.com/serverfiles/downloadthis.zip

Your collaborator clicks the link and is automatically able to download the file from a popup window.

FTP often requires login credentials for your server and of course requires subscription space on a server. Your server can be accessed anywhere via the backend of the connection and your collaborator can download from the link anywhere (i.e. you can email the link and they can download any size file from your server.

Server security is often extremely important, and that should be considered when accessing your server. You’ll want to review hosts based on their support, security, up-time and ease of use. One of the most widely used FTP clients (user interface access to your server) is Filezilla. I often use FileZIlla and FireFTP which is a plugin based on the Firefox browser. (FTP is most commonly an internet based transfer process so you’ll need reliable access to the internet, but then again, you’ll need that for all the other options as well)

How An FTP Works by serv-u.com
by serv-u.com

A Mix Engineer’s Quick Take On This Option:

If we evaluate the FTP option via our criteria, file size is not an option at all. FTP doesn’t have the restraints that all of the other services have. It’s not at all as intuitive to set up as WeTransfer or Musistic is once the plugin is in your DAW, and requires a lot more forethought initially. Security of your files is in your hands with the FTP setup which can be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it, but you do have the control over what’s on the server and how long it stays there and how it’s accessed. Size isn’t a concern with FTP, but when you have purchased access to a server you have to balance the costs of that against the costs of any of the paid options of the alternatives discussed here.

Are you a member of our Audio Engineer forum? Mixrevu members have access to download via our FTP setup. Click here to go to the Downloads section where you will see exactly how FTP server access works with Audio Download files.

 

Related: Need Your Music Mixed? Hire The Mixrevu.com Team!

 

WeTransfer:

What you should know:

No Acct required

2GB File Size limits per send with a Free Acct

Access via emails.

7 days to access files in free Acct.

Options for email access to the files or download or social media (paid accts)

Paid Acct – ($10/month paid annually)

Send limit increased from 2GB to 10GB per send.

Personal Subdomain access (so you have a permanent public url for others to access your specific content.

You can set all sorts of cool data for your transfers and view the stats on it (ex. Expiring date, how many downloads)

Max 100GB total storage on your channel.

*No separate admin options on a single plus acct, so all content is available to all users.

Access This Link WeTransfer File Sharing to learn more.

We Transfer Subscription Details

A Mix Engineer’s Quick Take on This Option:

Referencing the initial considerations , the free option of WeTransfer would be limited to sending quick mixes but would never work for large files sent to mastering or DAW files sent for collaboration. For Mp3 you’d be good to go, but then again you can send that via email many times anyway depending on your compression sizes. For my tasks I view WeTransfer as a quick no hassle option for sending to clients, but not a long term solution to file transfer tasks.

The Paid option would obviously serve to relieve this sizing problem and with WeTransfer being so freaking easy (look at how it works below) , this is a viable solution. There’s also the question of file storage for longer terms. You still have the 100GB limit (which in this day and age seems limiting) on your personal subdomain where you can search and store files. Of course if you are dealing with video projects the 10GB limit per send may end up being limiting as well. I only deal with audio so this is more than enough for full 24/44.1 projects of regular length pop productions.

 

Related: How To Troubleshoot Any & Every Problem In Your Recording Studio

 

Box:

What You Should Know:

10 GB of total storage (Free acct.)

250MB per send

Personal Paid acct. ($10/month)

100 GB of storage

5GB per send

 

Small Biz Plan ($5/month per user 3-10)

Increased security and encryption

100GB of storage

2GB Max per file

Mobile sync & Share

External Collaboration

User management.

 

A Mix Engineer’s Quick Take on This Option:

With Box as you can see, your real benefits come with the small biz option which only works if you have a team of at least 3. As Mix Engineers we have to analyze each option via the above criteria  just like we did the previous scenarios.

I normally just send high quality mixes for review and mp3 then Box is excellent with 10GB of storage on a free account. This is the largest storage volume of all the free options. We must limit each file to 250MB so you’ll have to break down any sessions or transfers to Mastering. You might already do this in your process so this could be a viable option. Video here probably wouldn’t work at all with this setup. With our favorite Mastering here in Atlanta, We often do work via singles first and then we’ll do full albums as needed. 250MB per mastered 24bit file would easily be enough space to send the track, instrumental, TV, and Acapella versions. Box is something to consider on the free end and could definitely be viable if you have a team and want more management of your storage and security.

Box Subscription Plan Details

By: ivan-the-engineer

 

What’s Your Favorite Way to Transfer Audio Files and D.A.W Sessions? Let Us Know in The Forum!

 

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