Using attachments in email is a common and simple method for sending files. There is, however, a problem when those attachments get too large. That is because there are file size limits on most email services for both sending and receiving attachments. Oversized messages either won’t send at all or will be rejected by the recipient’s email server. The size limits are often in the 10 to 25 MB range. Gmail for example has a limit of 25MB. Attachment size can approach these limits very quickly. While attachments of this size can be sent, it is not necessarily the most efficient process. Large attachments can clog email systems and slow down the sending and receiving process.
Attachments such as video clips, uncompressed audio files and multi-page PDFs can quickly exceed size limits. For example, a short three-minute mpeg-1 video clip can exceed the limit, so can a stack of a few hundred scanned exhibit pages; even fewer pages if all the scans are in color.
It is useful to note that when sending an attachment, its size inflates approximately 130 percent as part of the process of encoding it to be included within a message. This means you likely cannot actually send an attachment that is right at the 25MB size.
If you need to work with large attachments, other solutions must be used. The method I regularly use to send large files is a Web-based service called YouSendIt (yousendit.com). It allows me to send and share large files quickly and securely. Is it easy to use? Yes. I recently worked with an attorney over the phone, explaining to him how to navigate to the site and send a file I needed. Before I could even complete the verbal instructions, he was able to log on, attach the file and send it on its way.
To verify, I tested it myself by signing on and creating a new free account. It took less than one minute to sign up, and less than three minutes to attach and upload a 50MB video file, the file size limit for a free account. You simply provide your email address, the address of the recipient, and tag the file that you want to upload. Just like email, you can add multiple recipients by simply including additional addressees. The recipients then receive an email that includes a Web hotlink that they click on in order to download the file. It took less than a minute to download and play the video file.
If you regularly need to send files larger than 50MB, you can pay $100 per year for a subscription to the Pro version, which allows you to send attachments as large as 2GB – roughly the amount of data that will fit on three CDs. The Pro version includes other useful features. For just an occasional need, you can pay $9.99 per 2GB upload. There is also an option to try uploading larger files free of charge by signing up for the two-week free trial. It is easy to cancel before the end of the trial period if you don’t find the subscription useful.
Security wise, sending and receiving files via YouSendIt is more secure than simply attaching a file within an email. This is evidenced by the “https://” found at the beginning of the Web address when working from within their site. Your uploaded files are stored on a cloud-based server and typically remain available for download for two weeks. After that, they are deleted from the system. You can choose to have them retained for a shorter period if you like or opt to have them deleted immediately after your recipient has completed his download.
I like the automatic erasure/timeout feature as I am still not entirely comfortable with having sensitive data floating out there in the cloud. I may simply have to get used to it, since it seems like the use of cloud-based storage continues to grow and is here to stay. It admittedly can be particularly useful for tablet computers, music collections and offsite data backup, but there is always a risk of the data being hacked or simply evaporating one day.
You can also opt for additional YouSendIt file security by tagging your upload with a “verify recipient identity” feature. Only your intended email addressee can open the file, and the file link cannot be forwarded to additional recipients. The sender can also examine tracking details to review who downloaded a file and when it was downloaded. There are even greater levels of security available at additional cost, including password protection of files and return receipt email notification.
If you find that YouSendIt is a useful application, you can make it even more convenient to use. Instead of having to navigate to their Web site, YouSendIt can be integrated to work from within popular email platforms such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. This allows you to compose an email and attach files using YouSendIt without leaving the message itself.
Give YouSendIt a try the next time you find yourself bumping up against the email attachment size limit.•
Stephen Bour (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.