Video, music and audio, applications and even documents seem to be getting larger each year. Right up there in the top 10 list of how *not* to win friends and influence people is the sending of large files via email attachments - particularly if it's unannounced.
The current email protocols in use today were developed many years ago; back in the days when 100kb was considered a large file. They were never designed to cope with the 1,2,5,10 megabyte monsters that regularly appear in our inboxes and it's quite amazing that they do.
Additionally, the sending and retrieval of large files via email is incredibly slow - much slower that http and ftp
While most folks have broadband nowadays, they do so for a reason - speed. A couple of examples where you may unwittingly turn a potential client/partner or friend into a mortal enemy through sending large files via email:
a) Someone's in a hurry and just wants to quickly checks their email - a 30 second task can turn into minutes if a large file is clogging up the works.
b) With the increase in mobility; people are increasingly using wireless broadband or may be connecting via a landline (dialup) when they are out and about. A large file can take literally hours to download via a dialup speed connection.
The problem is while your attachment is clogging up their server mailbox, you're pretty much holding it hostage unless the recipient can get in via webmail and delete the email or is familiar with telnet or SSH to do the same.
Either way; you've likely annoyed the heck out of the person and they likely didn't even get to see what you were sending if they opt to zap it - which is what I usually do. It's not a good way to impress a potential partner or client.
Also, many people also have filters in place to strip off attachments and to top it all off, your ISP and web host also frown upon the practice of transferring big files via this means.
In a nutshell - don't send large files via email if you can avoid it. Large files are evil :)
Email attachment etiquette
There are alternatives to sending large files via email which I'll get into shortly, but if you have no other option, the best practice is to ask the recipient if it's okay to send them the attachment first. Let them know how big it is.
Don't assume; ask. Even if you know they are broadband connected; you won't know of their current situation. For example, I usually use broadband ADSL; but sometimes I'm in the outback where the speeds are more like dialup.
Also be sure that the recipient has the application necessary to open the attachment you send. Quite often I'll receive files that have been created by some obscure application and there's no way for me to open them.
Sending large files via email - tools
There are many other ways to get your large attachment to a recipient without bogging down the recipients connection and these methods should be used wherever possible.
Upload it to your site
If you have a web site, zip up the file and upload it. Then it's just a matter of sending a link to that file via email; e.g http://www.example.com/attachment.zip. This way, the recipient can download it at their leisure. Be sure to include the size of the file in your email.
Install a script
There are many scripts around now you can install on your server to make sending large files a breeze. Additionally, you can give your clients access to the scripts so they can send you files as well without clogging up your own mailbox. Basically they are just an interface where you select the file you wish to upload, then you specify the recipients email address and a message. The better scripts will have security features such as encrypted URL's and expiry date features for added security. I haven't trialed any of these scripts as yet, but if you run a search on "file sending script" via your favorite search engine, you'll find there's plenty you can try out.
Use a file transfer and delivery service
If you don't want to mess around with installing, securing and maintaining your own file delivery script; quite a few transfer services have popped up in recent years.
These work pretty much like the scripts mentioned above, but with a stack of bells and buzzers. Some free services allow you to send files as large as 100 megabytes and premium services up to a couple of gigabytes! You do need to be a little cautious which service you elect to use - remember that you may be storing quite sensitive information on their servers; so it's best to use a well established transfer/delivery service.
One of the best services I've found is You Send it. It offers both free and premium accounts - but even the free service is pretty darned good. The lite (free) account lets you send files up to 100 MB with a 1 GB monthly download limit and up to 100 downloads of every file. Files remain available for 7 days.
The Pro account lets you send multiple files up to 2 GB a piece, offers secure file delivery and tracking, custom file expiration control and includes 2 GB of long-term storage space - for just a few bucks a month.
I've used You Send it quite a few times over the months and I've always found it easy to use and the recipients report fast download speeds - I also point people to it who ask about sending me large files.
Remember - friends don't send friends large files via email ;)
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