For years we have gotten used to email.  The second most common habit is to attach a file or photo to an email.

This worked great until it didn’t. The reason is because attachments have gotten larger and email systems will only allow you to send something with a file size smaller than (on average) 10 megabytes.

This becomes a problem because we are sharing more data than ever before and that data is large!

Enter The Cloud

You probably have heard the words “Dropbox,” “Google Drive” or “iCloud.” All of these are ways to store data on and off your computer.

Dropbox was really a pioneer because the company created software you would install on your computer and that software made it easy to create copies of a file on your computer and on their servers (“the cloud”). This is 99% of the time seamless and opens the door to all sorts of possibility.

Why Send A Link Instead of An Attachment?

When you attach a link to an email and hit send, that attachment becomes part of the message.

For example, let’s say that you need to send someone an important report. You attach what you think is the right Word document, hit send and go about taking a coffee break.

You start to have bad feeling and when you get back to your desk you check the message again only to see that you sent your boss a similar looking document that details all the ways you think about quitting your job and starting a competing company. I guess this could be chalked up to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or, it could have been avoided by updating your email behaviors.

By pasting a link to the location of that document in the cloud you are still sending the document with the message but you are putting a hyperlink instead of the actual file. This is no different than when you find that cat video that you think your best friend just has to see of the world will end.

How Does This All Work?

If you are using Dropbox (and they are the biggest company in this space) then you presumably have installed Dropbox and already are syncing some files. So, we are going to start from here.

Any file in Dropbox that has a little green check mark means that it is copied to the Dropbox server.

Dropbox then allows you a few sharing options: 1) to share it with a persons account and 2) to create a link that someone can click on to view or be able to edit depending on your choice.

So, let’s go back to your plan to quit your job and potentially burn every bridge you have built with your current company…

Let’s say you read that email again, but this time you pasted a link to your file in Dropbox instead of attaching the email. In this less stressful scenario, you would just simply break the link. The recipient of that email would click the link and they would see a message saying the file no longer exists.

It is much easier to explain that mistake than to defuse why you sent a hypothetical plan to quit.

You can now take a deep breath and get back to posting your resume on Monster.com, get that new job, and then quit like a pro.

Best Practices For Sending a Link

1. Decide if you want to share your file or just send a link

As I mentioned above, hitting the share button opens up a bit of a Pandora’s box. You have to know the exact email address of the person you are sharing with. For me, I have some “business email addresses,” but with Dropbox, you can only use one email to connect to a Dropbox account. So, if you were to send me a share request to adam@solveinterestingproblems.com I wouldn’t be able to connect it to my dropbox account. I would then have to email you back and say “please use another account which is ______.” Hassle…

The second problem here is that we are assuming everyone in the world has the same services that we do. The person you are sharing the file with may 1) not use Dropbox and 2) may never want to use it. So, moving to best practice #2 makes a lot better sense.

Again, hassle…

2. Do you want the other person to be able to just view or edit the file

If you share a link with someone then they don’t need to be a customer of Dropbox. Win.

Basically, anyone with the link you send can open it. Needless to say, don’t send this unless you are prepared for what the other person will do.

But, Dropbox gives you two options when generating a link: 1) anyone with a link can view a file and 2) anyone with a link can edit the file.

In either case, if you change your mind can just make a setting change.

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Oh, by the way, I can help you with this...

Show Me How

Now that I just covered all the theory, here is a practical walkthrough: