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About Sending Files

7 Things you should know about sending files

1) Email systems were never designed to send large files, rather email was designed to send text messages and manage mail boxes. HTTP, FTP, and other file transfer protocols were created specifically for the purpose of sending files.

2) Email systems have arbitrary limits on the size of file attachments that they will allow you to send. To make matters worse, the file size limits are unknown and vary by email system, but are usually a few megabytes (MB). A word processing document or a spreadsheet or a single photo will almost always get through fine. However if you attach multiple photos to a message, or an MP3 music file, they may be too big. That large Quickbooks file? Forget it. Way too big.

3) FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is designed to send large files but most people don't know FTP.  FTP usually involves special FTP client software to send files via FTP. FTP accounts are useless if their permissions are not setup properly.

4) Both email and FTP send files as "plain text". This is not sufficient for sending credit card information, medical records, or business files which should be transferred encrypted for greater security.

5) E-mail attachments are encoded into long text strings using "MIME base64". This is not only easily reversible, but increases the file's size by 33%. If your inbox has a size limit, you'll reach it quicker by sending large files.

6) Not only do some attachments get blocked because they are too big, Email programs like Outlook block many kinds of attachments, regardless of their size. This is meant to protect you from transferring files that Microsoft might deem a potential security risk.  This may include program files, security certificates, and other files you may indeed wish to transfer.

7) Some email programs like Microsoft Outlook add hidden information to file attachments that can be used to personally identify you, information like your name and email address. Sometimes that hidden information undesirable or even has the potential to violate someone's privacy.

Last Modified: June 8, 2009

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