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4 Reasons to Avoid Uploading Files to Your Web Server for Your Design Clients to Download

Most website development projects involve large files that need to be passed between developers and clients. Managing large files can be a point of frustration for many developers. When you don’t meet with your clients in person, exchanging data requires sending storage devices through the mail like hard drives, DVDs, and USB sticks.

Impatient clients make it tempting to use workarounds to deliver large files for review. For example, if you spliced together a quick video intro for a client and want their feedback, you need to upload the video somewhere to show your client the results.

Some clients don’t allow developers to upload content to YouTube, even as a private video. Even if they did, YouTube only works for video content. You still need a file transfer service for sending images, PDF files, SQL databases, and other files. However, most free file sharing services have limits.

Uploading large files to a web server is fast, but not secure

When you need to send a large file to a client, sometimes it’s faster to upload it to your web server using FTP. This way, you can bypass file size limits imposed by file sharing programs and you aren’t uploading your files onto someone else’s server.

Although uploading files to your web server seems like an acceptable way to transfer data in a rush, the risks outweigh the benefits.

1. A standard web server isn’t secure enough for file storage

Unless you intentionally sought out a high-security web host, your hosting environment isn’t secure enough to be used for file storage and transfer. It’s even less likely that your client is using a secure web hosting environment. Even if your web host allows you to use your account for file storage, which is rare, it’s a bad idea.

Never upload files with sensitive data, such as development contracts, tax forms, invoices, or any raw source files for audio, video, or graphics. If your server gets hacked, you’re putting your clients at risk for identity theft and further incidents of cybercrime.

When you approach file storage through a web server, you have to perform some workarounds to prevent search engines from indexing your file and compromising your security. You have to create an index file in the folder, change your robots.txt file, and in the end, you have to remember to delete the file and hope your client doesn’t need access again.

If you use a content management system like WordPress, one outdated plugin could give hackers access to your server where they can browse your files freely regardless of password-protected directories.

The easiest solution is to use a secure file storage platform like Box. Box makes it easy to send large files to clients securely in a drag-and-drop setting that can even be integrated into your computer’s browser window.

Box also allows you to disable download and editing privileges, encrypt files, and require a password. This means you can share files with sensitive information and know they’re only being accessed by the right people.

2. Stray files that get indexed will give away the directory structure

You don’t want hackers to know the directory structure on a server, otherwise, they’ll go searching for files they can use for illegitimate purposes (like identity theft). If you’re uploading files to your client’s web server, you’re putting them at risk.

How would anyone discover the directory structure of a server? Simple. When you upload files to a web server, search engines will discover those files next time they crawl the website. Once the files are indexed, the URL is displayed in search results. If a hacker comes across a file indexed in the search engines, they’ll have a partial hierarchy of the directory structure and will start browsing the main folder and any sub-folders they can find.

You could password protect directories used for file storage, but that requires logging into your hosting account control panel and then you and your clients have to remember the username and password for each folder you protect.

It doesn’t make practical sense to upload large files to your web server for your development clients. The only solution that makes sense is using a secure and reputable file storage platform.

3. Large files will eat up your hard drive space and bandwidth

Technically, most web hosts prohibit customers from using their servers for file storage. However, let’s say your web host presumes you’re using the space for your website. Over time, your web server will run out of hard drive space. Worse, each time the file is downloaded, it eats up your bandwidth. If you’re uploading video files and other large files, you could end up exceeding your hosting account’s bandwidth allotment.

You might be thinking you’ll be okay because you have an unlimited web hosting plan. Technically, there are no truly unlimited web hosting plans. There’s always a catch to unlimited bandwidth and storage space.

Unlimited hosts have fine print that says there will be a problem if you use too much bandwidth or storage space. However, “too much” is left undefined. If they defined it, they couldn’t call their hosting “unlimited.”

It’s not worth risking your web hosting account just to pass files to your clients.

4. It’s unprofessional

When your clients have to download files from your web server, it can make their project feel a little chaotic and unprofessional. They’ve hired you to create a website for them, and expect you to deliver their files professionally.

Downloading files from your web server isn’t technically any different than downloading files from a file storage system like Box. However, Box’s user interface creates a professional experience your clients won’t get when accessing directories on your web server.

Keep your design business and client data secure

Make security your top priority when sharing large files with your web clients. Avoid using your web server as a method to deliver large files to clients. To protect everyone’s privacy and keep files secure, always use a reputable cloud-based file storage platform.

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