Thursday, 4 August 2011

sending big files

in this wonderful synced everywhere world we're sliding towards, there's a problem - sending or sharing big files. Or more accurately doing it between different workgroups located at different geographic or institutional locations.

In the old days of course it was simple - mailboxes were small and any (relatively) big files were transferred by ftp either from your machine, or via some server.

Nowadays. mailboxes are considerably larger, but quite a few systems impose limits on the size of attachments, which can be a problem when sending verbose files such as scanned pdf's of contracts.

Now we could simply use ftp, or better sftp, but of course this has a problem - distribution. Using an ftp solution is reliant on the end user bothering to download the file. A proportion won't. And these days a greater proportion won't know how to use ftp. Email wins as all they need do is click on an icon and the file opens in Acrobat, Preview, or whatever.

Commercial services like Yousendit are a bit better. Even though conceptually simple as an http file upload/download service they generate an email with a link that you click on and the download happens. It's immediate and almost as good as clicking on an attachment.

However, to send a file you are entrusting your content to a third party. A third party elsewhere. And the server is in?

The Dropbox sign in fiasco tells us that however good third parties services are we need to reserve judgement. Sure 90% of the data shared is cat pictures, but what about the 10% that is contracts or X-rays or something equally private or confidential?

In Australia we do at least have Cloudstor that uses Shibboleth to ensure that those you share with are members of the club but this has a disadvantage - one you can't share with non Australian Access Federation people (or the NZ equivalent) ie you can't share with non university people or people in the Northern hemisphere eg UK or US.

So, do we have to trust a third party - for the moment yes, otherwise it's down to sending encrypted USB sticks through the mail. What perhaps we need is a third party encrypt and submit service that sends the key separately to the uploaded file ...

1 comment:

Arthur said...