Sending Large Files by Email

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Sending Large Files by Email

Introduction

This is a surprisingly rancorous topic for most organisations, not just MAG.

Email is about the worst possible mechanism for sending large volumes of data, and large, in this context, is actually surprisingly small in these days of multi TByte hard drives. In order to send a file over "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol" (SMTP) it first has to be encoded for transport which makes it (wait for it) bigger !!

When the recipient opens the mail, they will in most cases trigger a download of the file attachment. if they are browsing their emails on a phone, this could get expensive, not to mention frustrating as the link is entirely swamped with this file download. Chances are that the recipient didn't actually want to go as far as to open the file just yet. A lot of people preview their mails on their phones so they know if something critical has come in, that they will handle properly at their desks later.

There is also the issue of storage and management of the stored mails, which again is optimised for small "message sized" messages of a few 10s of KBytes. A server specified for normal email sizes will be swamped if the users habitually wing multi-megabyte emails around the network.

There are however a couple of ways to work around this.

Getting round the size issue

Upload the files to a web server

Take your mega sized file and upload it to a publicly accessible web server. Then paste the link (URL) for the uploaded file into your email.

This is a pretty standard way of doing the job. It is way more efficient and a lot more bandwidth friendly. it does rely on the sender being in a position to be able to upload the file somewhere; many people are not able to do this.

Use a "Filelink" style email program plugin

Mozilla Thunderbird has a standard feature called Filelink which automated the "upload - fetch link - include link in mail" sequence.

It is actually exactly the same solution as the previous section, only Thunderbird automates the fiddly bits.

Setting up Thunderbird for Filelink using MAG's ownCloud service

MAG has a server called cloud.mag-uk.org that runs an open source "Cloud" package called ownCloud. This service is available to all MAG members with a MAG server account. This service is much the same as others of its kind, except it is hosted on MAG owned equipment and as such provides a greater degree of data security than the services that explicitly shuffle through your data looking for clues as to what to sell you.

The first thing that has to be done is to download the ownCloud connector from here

Then follow the instructions in this page, only using ownCloud rather than "box" which is the built in connector. In fact I would recommend deleting the existing connector to avoid confusion.