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Sending Files Electronically


April 1, 2002
By Pulp & Paper Canada

There are many ways of sending computer files around the world, ranging from snail mail through floppy discs by FedEx, to copying them virtually instantaneously across your company’s wide area network…

There are many ways of sending computer files around the world, ranging from snail mail through floppy discs by FedEx, to copying them virtually instantaneously across your company’s wide area network. However, by far the most common way of transferring a file to a colleague, and the best for most purposes, is to simply attach it to an e-mail.

Attaching files to your e-mail is easy. If you do not know how to do it with your own particular e-mail software, ask a colleague or read the on-line help for the software. In some cases the documentation uses the term “insert” rather than “attach”. In most e-mail software today, you can simply drag the filename from Windows Explorer to the e-mail message, anywhere in the text, and Windows will take care of everything.

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In most cases, this process is trouble-free, but when your addressee does not receive the file, there are a number of things to try before calling FedEx.

Last month, we discussed solutions to file transfer difficulties from the receiver’s point of view. This month we will look at troubleshooting from the sender’s end.

TRIAL RUN

If you are commencing a business relationship with a new person or company and expect to rely on files transmitted by e-mail, then try a test run as early in the project as possible. This will give time to iron out difficulties, before you are stuck at 9 p.m. on a Friday, with a deadline and no support staff around.

FILES THAT FAIL

TO ARRIVE

When the files you send fail to arrive, the most common reasons are:

Wrong e-mail address.

Your files require more disc space.

You send more files than the recipient’s mail server will accept.

Recipient rejects certain kinds of files for security reasons.

DISC SPACE AND

NUMBER OF FILES

Many mail servers place limits on either the number of attached files that are allowed, or the size of such files. Recipients often do not know such limits, and the problem will not be spotted in trial runs with small files.

Normally, the sender will receive a warning from the addressee’s Internet Service Provider (ISP), which is mostly computer jargon. But it will include a phrase to the effect that file size, disc space or allowable number of files has been exceeded. Such systems normally reject the whole message and all attached files.

If the message is not clear, communicate with the addressee and get him to chase his ISP. If his mailbox is full, then call and ask him to empty it.

Breaking a group of separate files up into several messages is easy enough.

REDUCING FILE SIZE

Some files, particularly database and spreadsheet files, can be compressed substantially by WinZip (available at www.winzip.com.) A reduction in file size to 10% of the original is not uncommon. Photographs and PDF files do not compress well. The recipient must normally have WinZip to “unzip” (decompress or extract) the file. However, WinZip also gives you the option of generating a self-extracting version of your file.

If you have a giant file, then WinZip can save it to several floppies, which will limit the size of each file to 1.44 Mb, which is below most people’s limits. To make a Zip file that spans multiple disks, simply create a Zip file on a removable disk, then add files to the Zip as you normally would. If the disk fills the operation, you will be prompted for another disk.

You can then copy the files back to your hard disc and send them one by one to your correspondent. Rather clumsy, but workable.

SECURITY HURDLES

A few companies, including Invensys last time I tried, refuse to accept files with the “zip” extension, and do not even give a warning. My e-mails just disappeared into the byte bucket. The solution is to rename the files to another extension, such as “zzz”, and tell your correspondent in the covering e-mail to rename it back to “zip”. Microsoft refuses “exe” files, so they also have to be renamed to be transmitted successfully. At least Microsoft passes the e-mail to the addressee, and warns him that the “exe” file was dumped.

FILE SECURITY

When sending files, most people do not worry about security. I work on the theory that nobody will consider most of my files important enough to steal. However, I have some files on my computer that I have promised others that I will keep confidential, so I keep them password protected at all times, whether sending by e-mail or not.

Apart from the obvious security against intruders that is achieved by password protecting files, the practice protects you from the costly or embarrassing results of inadvertently sending a file to the wrong person. It is even easier to click on the wrong file when attaching to an e-mail, than it is to put a letter in the wrong envelope.

If you send a password protected file, it is probably best to advise the addressee of the password by telephone.


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