In the course of using the site I often find myself commenting on a new question saying 'Can you post a sample of your data?'

In the case of csv files and other plain text formats a few lines can be pasted as a code block into a question, but for other GIS formats such as shapefiles, FME workbenches, etc these files cannot be pasted into the question. I feel that a number of questions come up every day which can be better answered if the sample data is provided alongside code and the rest of the question.

I understand that for many reasons GIS SE cannot host files for the users, but would it be possible for the community to come up with a list of good web hosts that meet our needs and could be recommended to users when they ask a question?

My idea for hosting criteria would include:

  • Reliability
  • Long term storage of files
  • Ease of use
  • Free

Do people agree that this would improve questions and answers and if so can they recommend any good hosts that we could agree on as a community and recommend to new users?

  • 6
    dropbox - though many 'data hosting websites' are blocked at work for security reasons.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Oct 18 '12 at 13:25
  • 1
    I read here that google drive is competitive with dropbox. Oct 19 '12 at 3:29
  • 6
    Dropbox is very convenient BUT does not fit the 'long term storage' criterium! Most users are probably not going to maintain old files long after their question has been answered.
    – Simbamangu
    Oct 19 '12 at 7:39

This is a great question. I don't think it's possible to get a good answer though.

Dropbox and Google Drive can't be the canonical answer because they have no concept of a public commons. Everything is owned by individuals, who have quotas. When my storage space is maxed I'm going to remove stuff I don't need anymore, and first on the chopping block will be old sample data for no longer relevant or resolved problems (for me).

This is analogous to what service to use for image hosting, and that wasn't solved for a year or so, when our benevolent overlords made a deal with imgur.com. I a similar arrangement as the only real solution for this too. Consequently I'm going to tag the question with and hope they pay attention.


There really won't be any assurance of the "Long term storage of files" unless the files are somehow tied to the question. I don't know of any service that is easy to use, free, reliable and promises to keep files forever.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is the easy to use, free and reliable criteria. Long term enough to get the question answered is probably sufficient. It might be slightly more useful for data to be archived, but the typical use for older questions seems to be to get a hint (if they are read at all), rather than try to replicate.

So any "brand name" free hosting site is probably OK. It would be useful to avoid "dubious" places (since Mapperz comment about blocked sites is an important issue).

So "If you can make sample / representative / exact data available, that may make it a lot easier to help with your questions. Consider using one of

  • DropBox
  • Google Drive
  • SmartBins"

(and add / delete sites as they become available / problematic).

  • 2
    I like the idea of having a standard message to post in these situations, it could help to keep things consistent across the site.
    – sgrieve
    Oct 23 '12 at 8:25
  • Box. Up to 250 MiB individual files. Files and folders can be shared. The free service offers 10 GiB capacity. Files can have comments associated.
    – carnendil
    Apr 14 '16 at 7:00


25GB Free (Additional disk space is available up to 1 TB per account. Paid)

Securely send and share files via the Web

large 1 GB file uploads (zipped accepted)



I've used SmartBins (free up to 1GB) for this purpose. Pretty simple and unobtrusive.

  • 2
    Does it "recognise" GIS specific files like *.tbx? For example, I use SkyDrive, and I have a 30Mb toolbox in there with 8 toolsets and about 50 models in total. Everytime I save a model I am currently modifying, SkyDrive uploads the entire toolbox file again. This would not be a problem for me if I was in a location with super fast, stable, unlimited internet access, but I have to make do with a capped 384kbps line. Oct 25 '12 at 13:16
  • Nope and I doubt any other service would. Have you thought about breaking up that toolbox into several?
    – blah238
    Oct 25 '12 at 16:00
  • sigh I do have it broken apart in several places, but I kept misplacing my most recent version, which is why I put it all into one toolbox to back up on SkyDrive. Oct 25 '12 at 17:44

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