Sending attachments via e-mail to a colleague or friend is perhaps the most common approach for sharing files, and is a method that is nearly as old as e-mail itself; however, one limitation that many e-mail services have is a cap on the size of attachments that you can send, which depending on the service is generally between 10-25MB per attachment. Even though this allows the sending of most standard documents, more and more frequently there may be times when you need to send files that exceed this size.
Unfortunately if either you or your recipient has a cap on the size of attachment, when you attempt this you may receive an error and not be able to send your message. However, this can be overcome in several ways:
Classically, overcoming this limitation required you sign up with a Web host to store your files, and then make your files available through a Web link that you could then send to your contacts. This approach is still quite viable, but to do so you will need to sign up with one of many hosting companies, set up your Web disk access (FTP, WebDAV, HTTP, etc.), upload your files, and then get your link (sometimes assembling it manually) to copy into your e-mails.
Personal Web hosting options have for the most part evolved to online storage services like Dropbox, MediaFire, Amazon Cloud Drive, and others. These are essentially the same thing as personal hosting, except that managing files are far easier through integrated desktop apps or intuitive Web interfaces. Once signed up and logged in, you can drag and drop your files to the service, set whether or not you want the file to be accessed publicly, or by specific people, and then quickly get a link to the file for sending to another person.
If you manage e-mail from non-iCloud accounts, and using third-party e-mail clients, or if you use multiple operating systems, then this approach is likely the most convenient option.
Mail Drop with iCloud Drive
If you are on a Mac or iOS device and have an iCloud account, then by far the easiest option for managing large attachments is to use Apple’s iCloud Drive with its new Mail Drop service. While iCloud Drive is in some ways similar to other online storage options, from its inception Apple made it a storage option that augments applications behind the scenes, as opposed to being something you directly interact with (only recently has Apple tacked on the ability to access iCloud Drive’s storage and organization directly in the Finder).
One of these augmentations is Mail Drop, where when using Mail with an iCloud account, you can attach files of any size to your messages. Upon sending your message, Mail will attempt to send them as standard attachments, but if they are above 10-25MB in size, Mail will resort to using iCloud Drive to store them. In doing so, Mail may alert you about this and give you an option of either continuing to send the file as a standard attachment, or use iCloud to store it and send it as a link. If the message recipient is using Apple’s Mail client, then the received file will appear as a standard attachment, but if not then the attachment will show as a link that will open the user’s browser to iCloud where the file will download.
This approach is somewhat of an enhanced online storage option, that may be more convenient than resorting to Dropbox or others for sending large attachments. The best part about it is if you already use iCloud, then you do not have to do anything to configure it. The only requirement is that you are using Mail, an iCloud account, and OS X Yosemite, so if you have not yet upgraded to Yosemite, then this might be an incentive to give it a try.
Mail Drop limitations
Even though Mail Drop greatly enhances Mail’s ability to manage attachments, it does have some limitations, which Apple outlines in this knowledgebase document, with the most applicable ones being the following:
- Attachments will be limited to whatever space is available in the user’s iCloud account, which is 5GB maximum for standard free accounts, with an upper limit of 1TB.
- You cannot send a bare folder as an attachment, instead, you can right-click it in the Finder and choose the Compress option to save it as a zip archive.
- You cannot send more than 200 messages per day, send to more than 1000 recipients per day, or include more than 100 recipients per message.
- Mail Drop links will expire after 30 days, requiring you re-send the attachment.