Using FTP to Send Large Files

By: mmmesh
It was inevitable that our work files would mushroom to sizes far beyond restrictions imposed by most email services. The reason can be summarized in one word: graphics.

Whether you want to send photos, CADD (computer aided drafting & design) files or encyclopedic volumes of scanned documents, you will hit roadblocks when you try to send these as email attachments.

Most email systems reliably allow file attachments of 1 megabyte or less. Above that level, service becomes unreliable, or at worst, nonexistent. Many have been chagrined to find that their large file transmission never arrived at its destination, yet they received no error message other than a very upset human one from the awaiting party.

Companies such as architectural and graphics design firms who routinely send large files have discovered a solution: FTP.

FTP (File Transmission Protocol) is the method by which large files are sent across the Internet. For example, when I press the "Publish" button in the blogger software I am using (a free Google service called Blogger (www.blogger.com), the service will send this article to my remote server (the computer which hosts my website) using FTP.

Generally, when you upload or download files from a website, you are using FTP. It is a more direct connection between you and the server because it is not routed through email systems at all. However, using FTP you will still use email, but it is just to tell the other party that a file has been posted to the FTP site.

By now you might assume that unless you have an always-on computer with a URL (web address) and web-hosting software, FTP might not be in your future. Wrong-o. There are companies out there including Poingo (www.poingo.com) who will rent you space on their remote server for a very nominal monthly charge.

Then the question becomes, "how do I do it?"

You can actually transmit files to a remote server using Windows Explorer(tm), however there are more robust applications available. We use Wise-FTP (www.wise-ftp.com), but we have heard that CuteFTP (www.cuteftp.com) is also good.

These apps will allow you to set up URL, username and password on a one-time basis, so that your FTP webspace can be accessed later with one click. Use FTP software to upload your large file to your remote webspace. You then need to teach your recipient to access and download it.

There are a few ways to do this. For the tech-savvy and trustworthy recipient, teach her what you learned about FTP software and get her up to speed. After you upload a file, send her an email which says, "Go to the site and grab this file:___". You will need to give her the URL, username and password to your webspace, which involves a leap of faith. After all, anyone with this information can access all of the files you have posted there, and can also inadvertently delete files.

Now comes the cool part. Have you ever clicked on a download link? Did you notice that you did not have to supply a username or password in order to download? Download links are a function of http (hypertext transfer protocol-the way websites communicate to web visitors). The idea is that you gain download-only rights to a file if you know its exact URL, path and filename. No username or password required.

Poingo has developed an application called Personal-FTP (www.poingo.com) which puts the power of download links in your hands. It is so easy that you will wonder why you never knew about it before.

You will need a remote webspace and knowledge of the path your webspace provider uses to specifically access your webspace, not to mention the system rights. Or use Poingo FTP Service for a more integrated experience.

Using Poingo Personal-FTP software, you see a "browse" screen which allows you to select files within your local computer or network. When they are selected, click "Upload All" and watch the file transfer progress. When the upload is complete, Personal-FTP automatically creates a new email and places download links to your files in the email. Your recipient either clicks on the link or pastes it into her browser to get a fast, clean download without access to your other posted files.

This is the type of straightforward, elegant solution poingologists love.
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