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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Listen to Forbes! Do Not Accept that Email Attachment. Use Accellion Instead.

Summary: Forbes magazines says clicking on email attachments from strangers is the most dangerous thing you can do online. Fortunately, Accellion takes the worry out of accepting file/folder attachments from others.

Don't forget to go to the bottom to see what Accellion has been up to

Forbes magazine recently ran an article about The Ten Most Dangerous Online Activities. Number One on the list is “clicking on email attachments from unknown senders.” Why is this so dangerous? As the Forbes article points out, “e-mail attachments continue to be the most likely means of contracting viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other digital infections. And because these attachments usually contain applications or executable files, they have the greatest potential to instigate the complete takeover--or destruction--of an enterprise PC.”

But that’s not the worst of it. The really scary part is that people KNOW this and often STILL can’t resist opening attachments from senders they don’t know.

In a business environment, it only takes one careless person to open a harmful attachment and unleash a disaster on the network. Network administrators know this and do what they can to prevent such actions, including banning attachments like executable files known to carry malware. But hackers know this, too, and they are getting trickier in the way they embed malware in their attachments.

A better way to combat the threat of malicious email attachments is to stop using email attachments altogether. But wait, that doesn’t mean you can’t send and receive those business-critical files that would normally go through email. I’m simply suggesting you use a more secure alternative method to transfer your business files: via a secure file transfer appliance, which decouples attachments from the enterprise email system.

Accellion’s secure file transfer solution allows you to send and receive the files you need, and it takes away the worry of receiving (or sending) a malware-laden attachment. We do this in two ways.

Number one, by off-loading attachments from the email system to the Accellion appliance, you ensure that only people you know and authorize are using the system to send files. That means you won’t be getting spam or other junk attachments from people you don’t know – at least not through the appliance. If attachments do make their way into your email inbox, you can assume they are suspect and quarantine or delete them.

Number two, all files that pass through an Accellion solution can be automatically screened for malware by F-Secure virus scanning bundled into the product. When you send a file to the appliance for transfer, or retrieve a sent file off the appliance to put on your own PC, the anti-virus program can watch your back. I say “can” because virus scanning is optional with the solution, although highly recommended. The appliance administrator can choose no scanning, scanning only on upload, scanning only on download, or scanning on both upload and download. In other words, choose the mode that suits your business practices the best.

Using Accellion secure file transfer solution to transfer files and folders makes it significantly less likely that bad attachments will get onto your users’ PCs or into your network. It should be a part of your broad security measures to protect your network and your business. Automatic security processes are a good thing, because as the Forbes article points out, users just “can’t help themselves” when email attachments tempt them.

Accellion in the News
Media Coverage

Sarbanes Oxley Compliance Journal
Sarbanes Oxley Compliance Journal - Track and Report Conformance During File Transfers
: Survey results confirm need for broader tracking and reporting features introduced in Accellion’s Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance.

ConstruTech - Perini Deploys Accellion
: ...[P]rotect our email infrastructure with the associated archiving systems while allowing users to send very large files as part of their regular business processes.

Press Releases
MSA Selects Accellion's Secure File Transfer Solution for Global Large File Transfer Needs

Exponent Deploys Accellion's Secure File Transfer Solution to Enhance Communication of Data with Enterprise Clients

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Attachment Limits: Myth or Reality? Not If You Use Accellion

Summary: Email attachment limit serves an important function in keeping the sanity of IT infrastructure. But, end users need to send large files to get the job done. How do you turn this reality into a myth by deploying Accellion?


Ahhh, email! We love it. We hate it. We agonize over it. And, we can’t meaningfully function, figuratively and literally, without it. Ask any office worker, and he’ll tell you that email is undoubtedly one of his most important productivity solutions. It’s the means for him to collaborate with his colleagues to get his job done.

The popularity of email places a big burden on the email server and administrator. He needs to keep this vital application functioning well for all end users - no easy feat. In fact, it’s a rather challenging balancing act of trying to match available resources with user needs. This often means he has to impose unpopular size limits on how people can use email. (For example, Microsoft strongly urges administrators to set limits on mailbox, message and attachment sizes.)
In the broader scheme of things, limits are a practical solution for an enterprise. However, to individual users, limits are, literally, quite limiting.

No doubt you’ve experienced it: It’s crunch time and you’re trying to send some critical files to meet a deadline. You attach them to an email message, hit send, and think the message has gone through. Some time later you get an administrative notification that says your message failed because the attachments were too large. Your business process just came to a screeching halt. You curse the IT department under your breath.

This is what happened to Sonus Networks on a big contract for a key customer as reported by ComputerWorld. And, this is the very problem that Accellion eliminates. We make email attachment limits irrelevant and turn them into capabilities instead. (And, yes, Sonus Networks is now a customer of Accellion.)

The Accellion secure file transfer solution offloads attachments from email messages into a parallel system. This vastly reduces the space needed for attachments, messages and the mailbox in your email server. It also improves email performance when large messages are no longer hogging the email infrastructure. Attachment limits can go from a paltry 5 MB in a typical email setting to a hefty 20 GB with Accellion.

Now see the glint of empowerment in the end users' eyes!

End users can go about their business and the IT people can look like heroes for setting the sky as the limit. And that poor overworked email IT administrator can finally get some sleep at night, knowing his email server won’t be crashing under the weight of overuse.

Now see the beaming smile on the IT administrator's face!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Collaboration Solution as a Business Productivity Tool

Summary: Confronted with SharePoint, eRoom, Wiki, email attachment, secure file transfer appliance. What is a smart IT manager or a smart business users to do? The bottom line is which tool(s) would boost your productivity with minimum hurdles.


The old saying is No man is an island. The current hip intelligentsia phrase is The World is Flat. The business IT buzz word is collaboration.

Back on earth, we get the job done by sharing information, verbally, visually, and electronically. We send files back and forth, we edit and comment on them, we add our own bit of knowledge before sending the files on to someone else. It is the norm these days for most business processes.

Numerous technologies have been/are being developed to address the needs of sharing information as part of the collaboration process. Many of these solutions are addressing the organizational question of how multiple people can access and use the information when they need it and how they need it. And, how can one be sure that the information is protected and secure?

At the everyday level, people still rely on email and email attachments to send information to each other. Whether using email or another means of file transfer, such as the Accellion Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance, directly sending files from one person to another (or to a group of people) is still the most effective means for getting the right information to the right person(s) in most organizations' collaborative processes.

Shared repositories from products like Microsoft SharePoint and Documentum’s eRoom are typically called “workspaces for teams.” Predefined team members can place files on the shared space as well as access files that others have placed there. If you think about it, these kinds of repositories are a new and improved version of good ole' FTP servers. One drawback for shared workspaces is that they tend to be designed with an “organization-centric paradigm” and with rigid access control. In other words, outside users, consultants and partners, often have no easy access to the information even if new business processes require it.

Wikis, as embodied by the world’s largest and most famous wiki, Wikipedia (and an ACA Guy favorite), is another exciting new technical solution designed to improve collaboration. Wikis have caught on with technical audiences such as engineers, but the adoption rate by average non-technical knowledge workers is still low. The biggest hurdles are organizational security and confidentiality requirements on information access as well as user resistance on having to learn another protocol and/or managing another set of ID/password.

So, the net-net of it is that collaboration tools like email, secure file transfer appliances, shared workspaces, and wikis are often complementary. No single technology is right for all situations; they all have their place in the enterprise.

Take the example of an Accellion customer, a major global media agency. They have implemented the Accellion secure file transfer solution to allow end users to exchange large files across geographic boundaries and with external partners from day one. In parallel, they are implementing a large digital asset management (DAM) tool that would consolidate all of its media assets on a global basis.

Although the Accellion solution was a separate project initially, it is now part of the DAM implementation to enable easy transfer of the information as the evolving business processes require.

Sort of like collaborating across flattened islands, huh?


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Let External Users Send Large Files Back Securely without Harassing IT

Summary: Through self provisioning, Accellion Courier secure file transfer appliance empowers end users to work with outside colleagues without unnecessary impediments (including IT intervention).


For a while now, I’ve talked about how easy it is for employees of a company with an Accellion Courier secure file transfer appliance to send files to other people both inside and outside the organization. But what about when a business colleague from outside the company wants to send a file or folder of files to someone “on the inside”? Is this person relegated to the restrictions of conventional methods like CDs, email or FTP?

No! No! No! Not at all! Forget those other methods because the whole point of the Accellion solution is to let people get on with their business!!

The Courier solution can be configured to allow outside colleagues to “provision themselves” (register as a restricted user, in official Accellion jargon) with the appliance to send files back into the company. Such provisioning can be handled in mere minutes without intervention from a system administrator, allowing for true ad hoc file transfer when the business process calls for it.

Here’s how it’s done.

The appliance administrator setups up a web page accessible to outside colleagues for creating their own accounts. This is part of the standard setup for all Accellion appliances.

When an employee wants to set up an outside colleague, he emails the web address for this page to the colleague. This new user enters his valid email address and receives an automated response at that email address to verify his request to use the service.

Once verified, the user can create his own account on the Courier solution and immediately begin using the appliance to send files to internal recipients. (Note that, since this is not a public service, the external user cannot use the appliance to send files to just anyone. He can only send to recognized internal users.)

This whole process has purposely been streamlined to (1) empower employees to work as needed with external parties, and (2) remove IT from the process of approving and setting up new users without compromising the security of the system.

Consider this scenario:

A lawyer, working late at night, gets a phone call from an outside counsel, who has new information to send to the lawyer. This information, in the form of several scanned photographs and other large size documents, could impact the case the lawyer is working on. How can the outside counsel, who resides in another state, get the information to the lawyer quickly? The total files are too large to send via email.

Using CD: If the law firm has no automated file transfer method in place, the lawyer might instruct his colleague to copy the files onto a CD and use a courier service to send the files. Given the late hour of the night, it could take up to two days for the information to be sent across the country.

Using FTP/SFTP: The lawyer knows his company has an FTP/SFTP server to allow for the transfer of large files. But, only an IT administrator can set up access to the server. The lawyer tries to call the IT administrator to make the request but can’t reach him due to the late hour. He leaves a message and hopes for a call back. If the administrator can’t be reached, the lawyer will have to wait until morning to make his request and hope that it can be handled promptly. Then he’ll have to call his colleague back and instruct him on how to use FTP to send the files.

Using Courier secure file transfer appliance: The lawyer sends an email to the outside counsel, inviting him to create an account via the self-provisioning web page. The outside colleague creates his own account in minutes and the lawyer gets what he needs in less than ten minutes.

It’s about empowerment. It’s about ease of use. It’s about letting people get on with their business without having unnecessary obstructions.

Let people work the way they want and need to work. What a concept!