Drawbacks of the 4 Most Popular File Transfer Methods | JSCAPE

Some methods for large file transfers are not a suitable solution for an enterprise environment. Learn about 4 popular methods with big deficiencies at JSCAPE.
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This post was originally published on June 2013 but was last updated on August 16, 2018.


Sending someone multi-megabyte or even gigabyte-sized files is getting more common these days. For example, in our Help Desk, it's normal to receive a zip file of log data of over 100MB. While it might seem this is just a highly specialized case that's only common in the tech business, it's not.

A single high resolution image can already run up to a few megabytes, while a regular video can easily exceed 50MB.We often use videos and images in our Power Point presentations and other files, so media file attachments of these types can be pretty common.

The problem is, people often resort to solutions that aren't suitable for sending large files, especially in an enterprise environment. Email, which is the most common way of sending files, is not a suitable big file transfer method for this. So are other methods many people unwisely use at work for sharing really big files; files that are even much larger than a gigabyte.

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Here are the four groups of large file transfer solutions individuals often use for sharing big files in the workplace and the reasons why they may not be suitable for your business.

1. Email

The biggest issue with sending large files via email is that the size limitations per attachment can be very small. For example, major email providers like Gmail, AOL Mail, and Yahoo! Mail usually set their limit to only 25 MB. A 25 MB capacity can be quite small these days. Worse, there's no guarantee a 25-MB file transfer will even succeed. Why?

Because, even if we assume your email service can support up to 25 MB, the file size limit of your recipient's email service may be much smaller than this. The fact is, most email providers can only support up to 10 MB. That number's going to be the upper limit of your file transfer.

So if you want to email files like a .ISO, a virtual machine, a high definition video, a program installer, or a massive collection of documents placed in a zip file, which can easily run up to hundreds of megabytes or a few gigabytes each, you'll have to split them into many small parts. The entire file transfer process can be very tedious and time consuming. Furthermore, this method is highly susceptible to human error. You can easily miss a part!

That's not all. Have you ever tried downloading a file consisting of multiple parts? If you have, then you know the process of joining them together doesn't always go smoothly.

2. FTP

People accustomed to uploading files to web servers should be very familiar with FTP. Incidentally, FTP can also be used for sharing files. One user can share a file with another user by uploading it to an FTP server. Once the upload is done, the other user can login to the server and download the file in question.

Because FTP doesn't put a cap to the size of your upload, people often use it to send large files over the Internet. Unfortunately, FTP is a very insecure network protocol. It transmits data in plaintext. Hence, a skilled hacker can do a man-in-the-middle attack, grab your login credentials, and then use those to gain access to your FTP server account.

Don't you think it's rather foolhardy to be sending large files containing sensitive information knowing how vulnerable FTP is?

If your business is regulated by HIPAA, SOX, PCI-DSS or any law that protects certain types of data, you really shouldn't be using FTP. To be compliant with these regulations, you'll have to use a protocol that supports secure file transfers. Protocols like FTPS or SFTP are much better than FTP because they provide data-in-motion encryption. Meaning, they can protect your files from eavesdroppers during transmission.

3. Cloud based files sharing

Ahhh. Cloud-based file sharing.Box, DropBox, ShareFile, Google Drive, and many others. Easily the most convenient way to share big files these days. Typical upload limits? We're talking about 2 GB, 5 GB, even 10 GB. Some of these SaaS file sharing services don't even have any upload limits at all. So why don't we recommend them?

You see, we now live in a world where cybercriminals can make a living from the data we have. The more data there is to steal, the more motivated these criminals can become.

So let me ask you this. Are you comfortable entrusting confidential files in the hands of people you have no control of? Most of our clients aren't. They don't like the idea of not having absolute control over their data. But that's what happens when you upload files to the cloud. You can't be totally sure your CSP's employees will have no access to your data.

Sometimes, you even don't know where copies of your files actually get stored. For all you know, your files may get backed up in a data center where data protection and privacy laws are weak or, worse, non-existent.

Security isn't the only problem with cloud-based file sharing. Let's talk about the other one when we discuss the last item on this list.

4. File transfers susceptible to high latency

Because of their size, large file transfers normally take a considerable time to complete. And in some industries, when we say large, we really mean way much larger than just 1 GB. In the film industry, a 1-hour uncompressed video file can reach up to 3 Terabytes. That's approximately 3,000 Gigabytes. Transferring that over a T3 connection (45 Mbps) can take about a week to finish.

And that's not considering poor network conditions caused by latency and packet loss. High latency and packet loss can force a 45 Mbps connection to produce an actual throughput of only 5 Mbps. If this happens, it can turn your weeklong file transfer into months.

To read more about file transfer woes in the film industry, click that link.

Most file transfer methods, including FTP and cloud solutions, are susceptible to these poor network conditions. This is why, when large companies have to do bulk file transfers to the cloud, they often resort to non-Internet based methods, like writing data on portable storage media and then actually shipping them to the CSP. This is exactly what some Amazon S3 clients do.

Try a better alternative

JSCAPE's managed file transfer server can provide you with the needed security for carrying out sensitive large file transfers. And through its accelerated file transfer protocol, it also has the ability to counter latency and packet loss. If you want to give JSCAPE's accelerated file transfer protocol a test run, download the free, fully-functional Starter Edition of MFT Server now.

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