File-transfer appliances are good, inexpensive options for many shops.
What these standalone server applications essentially do is separate attachments from all incoming e-mails (not just the big files), then hand them off to a parallel server (the FTA) for processing and delivery. The FTA allows several different functions to take place automatically, including: e-mail notification, automated file deletion or archiving, guaranteed recipient receipt notification, and reporting capabilities. No client software is needed; as far as the customer is concerned, they are simply sending an e-mail.
Two other companies--Beehive Software and SeeFile--are specifically targeting the print and graphics communities. Beehive (www.thebeehive.com) offers both hosted and appliance versions of its Beehive file-transfer product, so you can elect to use this company's server for file transfer instead of installing and maintaining your own. In addition, the company offers different configurations of its appliance product if you wish to do your own hosting and management. SeeFile (www.seefile.com), which I have mentioned previously in this column, also allows you to manage your own file transfers rather inexpensively.
Price varies substantially for FTA solutions: The Tumbleweed Client sells for $300 for Windows and various Unix clients (no specific OS X client is listed); support is $1250/year. Accellion's entire package starts at $3500. Beehive's hosted version costs $995 for the first year, which includes configuring the server, designing an HTML form with a custom splash screen or logo, etc. (annual renewals are $495).
A free solution
I even managed to find a free solution, though admittedly it's not as sophisticated as the others mentioned here and it's marketed to the consumer market: Fabrik (www.myfabrik.com) has released a product called MyFabrik Lite. Although it's really designed for posting music, video, pictures, and other digital media to your website, it also allows anyone to simply drag and drop their files into your portal. And, you get a free gigabyte of storage space and a little chunk of HTML to create a drag-and-drop widget to your site. Accounts can be shared by up to 10 users. MyFabrik Lite certainly doesn't address a lot of print shops' concerns, and 10 users may not be enough capacity for some shops, but the product does address the ease of use and accessibility issue.
Fabrik has also partnered with Maxtor (www.maxtor.com, purchased in 2006 by Seagate) to create a self-contained file-server product based on a 500-GB Maxtor drive and a more robust version of Fabrik's file-distribution software. Called Maxtor Fusion, the product currently retails for $799.
Stephen Beals (firstname.lastname@example.org), in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.