My daughter Amy, is away at college. She got to be a pretty good file-seeker and downloader over the last couple of years. In all honesty, I happen to know that she does the same thing I do. She listens to the music on her MP3 player, and if something is worth buying, she will buy it. She's even learned quite a bit of self-support just by watching me. I watched her kill and relaunch Explorer.exe from the task manager recently to get around a lockup.
Anyway... Her college blocks file sharing (and they're GOOD at it). This precipitated the following setup. This could be used for any number of situations where you don't want to run P2P software (school, work, etc..).
I set up an old PC, with a 300 gig drive, and a stripped-down copy of XP (Tiny XP in this case)
I created a Hamachi network. Hamachi (now from LogMeIn) is a zero-config VPN client that uses a third party server to route your traffic (much like GoToMyPC, or LogMeIn but for networking)
I installed UTorrent, Tight VNC Server, and a neat little Http File Server called HFS. HFS integrates right into the context menus, so once you set up preferences and security, you just right-click the folder you want to share and select "add to HFS".
I set up three links on her computer. One to the VNC remote web page, giving her full remote control using Java in a browser. A second to the HFS file server, to download the completed files. And a third to the remote GUI for UTorrent, so she can check the status without having to open a remote session. All she has to do is turn on the Hamachi service to connect. No opening ports in firewalls, or any other network trickery. Transfer speeds from the server to her are not too bad, but the server is on a residential FIOS connection, which I'm sure helps that a bit.
I had considered creating a shared drive on her computer that the server could write to directly and choose that location as the download directory for the P2P software. Then I got to thinking: What happens if the download speed exceeds the speed of the Hamachi connection? I'll have to try it just to see how windows deals with that, but for now, I just wanted it to work.
I guess the only issue the college may have is with Hamachi. Some IT security folks don't appreciate such things, but so far so good.