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Friday, June 02, 2006

Four features to let you have the large file transfer / large email attachment cake and eat it too

In this file transfer business, the need to seamlessly receive and send large files is usually mentioned in the same breath as security concerns. The trouble is that IT and end users have very different views on the same issue.

IT's typical refrain

End users are always trying to sneak huge files through email. One time, an user tried to send 1GB in attachments through email. Big sigh. Then, we had to deal with crashed email servers and got yelled at for poor email performance.

End users don't understand what emailing large files does to the network, especially when they send to a long list of CC and BCC. We have massive files replicated all over the place, taking up bandwidth as they go across the network, and taking up storage space on our email system.

We try to limit the file sizes in email, but all users do is complain and get their managers to approve exceptions which adds to our workload.

We recognize that end users want ability to exchange large files with external users. The trouble is that we have no control over the external user's IT infrastructure and there is not a lot we can do when something, inevitably, goes wrong.

We have tried setting up FTP servers for exchanging big files. But, end users complain that FTP is too hard to use. And, truth be told, administering an FTP server is painful because we are always running behind in cleaning up files in the directories and setting up new accounts for users.

End Users' familiar tune

IT just don't get it. Sending large attachments via email is the most straight forward method. We do not have time to master a new set of technology to conduct everyday business. The last thing we need is to learn some complicated system to send email attachments somewhere and have to talk the recipients through the process on how to retrieve these attachments.

And, heaven forbid that we have to call up IT for support!

The attachments are large. But, that is just the reality in today's enterprise environment and we all know that they will only get bigger.

We have tried sending documents via overnight services, but that added days to our schedule when we had to make lots of changes. Besides, I don't want the bean counters breathing down my neck to contain delivery service expenses.

Same issue but different interpretations - Sometimes it feels like I am watching Kurosawa Akira's adaptation of Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa all over again.

Half of the battle in finding a solution to this he says, she says problem is to get all parties involved to think beyond whether it is a large file transfer issue or large email attachments concern.

Fortunately, unlike the renowned Japanese story, there is a simple way to address this Gordian Knot.

Just get a solution that does the following:
  1. Easy to use through email client integration or webmail interface

  2. Offload traffic from the email infrastructure

  3. Automate administration tasks such as file life cycle management and account creation

  4. Allow external users to send and receive files using the same platform

By the way, yes, Accellion makes a secure file transfer appliance (SFTA) that does all that and more. And, no, it is not called a pain reliever.

You may say "It is all well and good, but would it handle really large files and how about folders?"

(Trouble maker, you!)

Let's talk about strategies, new and old, on how to send folders and really large files next week.


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