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No-Hassle File Transfers

(January 2007) posted on Sat Jan 20, 2007

File-transfer appliances are good, inexpensive options for many shops.

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By Stephen Beals

You are probably already well-versed in sending and receiving digital files. Almost all of us do it on a daily basis. But very few of us are completely satisfied with the process--it can be slow, cumbersome, and not terribly user-friendly for our customers.

The truth is, most of us would rather our customers send us files through e-mail. It's simple, easy to use, and secure. The problem is that e-mail servers do not typically allow files larger than 10 MB to go through the system. The reason for this restriction is sensible: Allowing larger files to pass through would clog the e-mail servers and hog available bandwidth.

While this restriction may make sense for some companies, it can prove to be quite the problem for print providers and their customers. After all, it's not uncommon to have to send files that weigh in at more than 500 MB.

The FTP solution
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers can provide at least a partial answer. If you are already providing your own e-mail server space, it's easy enough to set up an FTP server. But if an ISP is providing that service, you are likely paying an extra fee for an FTP site. While FTP is used by thousands of print shops to send and receive files on a daily basis, the problems with FTP are not insignificant.

For one thing, many printers find themselves using the same user names and passwords for multiple customers, and/or allowing multiple customers to "see" all the resident files on the FTP site. It's certainly possible to give every user individual secure access to the site, but often, it simply is not done.

For customers, there are other issues. For example, many of our customers are fine at sending e-mails, but these same customers might find sending files to FTP sites to be somewhat daunting. The user interface is not something they're used to, and many do not even own any FTP client software. You probably are familiar with a customer or two who would rather FedEx you a CD than try to figure out how to FTP a file. Even though the FTP sending process truly isn't all that difficult, "different" often is enough of an obstacle to deter one from doing so.