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Friday, June 09, 2006

Putting the Machine in Deus ex Machina - Sending folders and 10GB files without IT Help

I regularly have tête-à-tête sessions with IT users and prospects. Okay, they are more like griping fests on the latest end user faux pas. The point is, however you describe these discussions, the ability to send folders and ability to send really large files are easily amongst the top five IT obsessions I hear about.

Why are folders and really large files big headaches?

Folder Headache 1: There are times when the ability to preserve specific directory hierarchy and file relationships is the whole raison d'etre for the transfer. This usually happens with complex projects in industries like advertising/media production and engineering.

Folder Headache 2: Another oft-cited reason for wanting folders is because there are many files to send. So, instead of attaching or downloading 100 files individually from an email, the world would be a better place if there is just one folder (containing 100 files) to process on both ends. This happens a lot with professional services industries such as law firms.

Really really (two times) large files: we all have different definitions of what constitutes large file. The typical IT threshold is about 10-20MB, same as the email attachment size limit. For me, I consider files north of 1GB as decent size. For most web-based file transfer solutions, 2GB is the maximum limit due to a number of browser technical constraints. Beyond 2GB, FTP is the most common choice for file transfer, but the trouble is that most end users and some IT folks detest FTP with passion.

So, what are the conventional coping strategies since these problems are, surely, not new? Well, the old strategies on how to deal with folders and large files generally involves the use of some kind of data compression technology with a variant of the zip utility.

For folders, a few clicks with a compression utility creates one single file that contains all the files with the directory hierarchy information intact.

For large files, usually zipping makes them smaller. This does not always work, however, because some file formats are already compressed or they start as really really really (three times) large files. For example, legal deposition and discovery that involves emails can easily run into 5-10GB per transaction these days.

The unspoken assumption with the traditional strategy is the fact that end users are comfortable packaging these folders and files with a compression utility. The trouble is, as intuitively obvious as Zipping may be to the tech-savvy, it is not obvious enough for a vast number of end users. In other words, IT intervention is still often required and nobody is happy about the process.

The unpleasant truth is, as complex projects with intricate directory structures become mundane, as the file quantity to be exchanged per transaction continues to increase, and as file size growth keeps up its cancerous pace unabated, these issues are not going away.

If anything, folders and large files have become a part of today's core business processes and IT can no longer afford to address them in a case-by-case fashion.

In the face of this classic and seemingly intractable end users vs. IT drama, a deus ex machina is needed to restore the cosmic balance. This sanity-saving solution needs to:

  • Transfer folders as easily as files

  • Transfer 10GB or even 20GB in one go (as a reality check, 10GB is more than 2 DVDs or 14 CDs worth of data).

  • Be as easy to use as webmail.
Ahem... Send folders and Send 20GB files with one click using a familiar webmail interface - putting the Machine in Deus ex Machina - please meet Accellion Courier 5.0 Secure File Transfer Appliance.

Or, click here to get more information.

* You can click here to see a picture of the appliance and the note from Computer World's Mark Hall.
* Or, click here on what Linda Musthaler of Network World has to say about SFTA.


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