Last weekend, my mother-in-law, a recent Mac convert, sent an email out to family with 111 photos embedded in the message. Yes, one hundred and eleven. My synagogue has been trying to save postage fees by emailing out the monthly bulletin…a PDF file that has averaged […]

Last weekend, my mother-in-law, a recent Mac convert, sent an email out to family with 111 photos embedded in the message. Yes, one hundred and eleven. My synagogue has been trying to save postage fees by emailing out the monthly bulletin…a PDF file that has averaged 3-6MB in size every month. My inbox is always overflowing with attachments from my co-workers.

Still I have to wonder…is this a problem that really needs solving?

This isn’t about the 75 MB video file. Even the novice knows that email won’t work for sending files that big. The challenge lies in the smaller, but still-too-bulky-for-email type files–photos, audio, PDFs, etc. The space-filling stuff folks attach to email without thinking twice.

Aside from the disk space and bandwidth considerations, we all know what’s wrong with all these attachments: Multiple versions of the same files floating all over the place; No way to know who has and has not opened the attachment; No way to control who can forward the file.

Lately, there’s been a proliferation of web apps looking to solve the email file problem. This week alone we saw the launch of Zector and Topicr, joining the field already crowded by services like Box, Dropbox, YouSendIt and many more.

Yet none of these solutions has emerged as a clear winner. In fact, it seems many of these services solve one problem while they create others. Users have to maintain yet another web application (or many new applications if files are sent/received from different services), learn a new interface or two, maybe install some software, and they have to trust their data to an unknown 3rd party. So with that, folks still attach files to email with reckless abandon. It’s frankly easier to click that paperclip right in the email application than install and maintain software or visit a new site.

How are you sending around larger files? Take our GigaOm poll below and then let us know your thoughts in the comments. Are you seeing the same resistance to these file attachment/sharing services in the “real world” that I am?

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  1. Joel Falconer Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Since moving to Gmail, attachments don’t bother me so much as long as they’re solicited. While I was using POP, different story! Gmail lets me find out what the files are, then delete or download – POP doesn’t, so you might download 50mb only to trash it.

    The file attachment services really haven’t jumped out at me as useful enough to sign up.

  2. Lately I have used yousendit.com as my choice and it’s what I have encouraged clients to use as well. I have even set up something similar on my own server. I like the idea behind dropbox but as you said it’s something addition people have to install.

    Within my own company and work we use Basecamp from 37 signals as a solution for not only sharing files but for also allowing customers to view project progress.

    If I had my choice, resources and influence I would totally revamp the way e-mail and file transfer works. We hear a lot about Web 2.0 but sadly e-mail seems to be stuck a a .9 beta release. Currently e-mail and file transfer solutions seem to be an ununified kludge.

    I would do the following;

    1.) Combine e-mail and ftp servers into a unified solution

    2.) Make security a top and required priority. Hardly anyone uses security measures with e-mail like signing or encryption and it’s too annoying to encourage others to adopt security measures even if you are gung ho about it.

    3.) Maybe adopt something like a Basecamp solution for friends and family as well a business associates.

    Those are my ideas.

  3. This issue would bother me a lot less if Google would introduce into Gmail the ability to remove attachments from e-mails (i.e. save e-mails without attachments).

  4. Well your synagogue could post the pdf on their website and inform members that it was available and include the hyperlink in the e-mail so they just had to click it.

    I have used yousendit but the limit to one file at a time is akward. Why not allow a folder? (I’m merely a G.I.T (geek in training )so I may not realize any tech limitations.

    But how do you limit your friends and family from sending all the attachments is beyond me.

  5. I have been preaching my family about how to compress images so that they can send that 3 MB picture to me in a small less thank 100K size. It’s a loosing battle.

    Here’s one way for users who are not very computer savvy: http://blog.gadodia.net/resize-your-pictures-in-a-snap/

  6. Jeffrey McManus Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Getting fifteen versions of a Powerpoint show attached to emails is one thing, getting a hundred “me too” comments on one of those versions is another. Email is great for brief communication but it sucks as a workflow platform.

    This problem is why we developed Approver.com.

  7. The problem with most of these web services for online file storage and transfer is they require the recipient to have an account on the service as well, or sign up for an account just to receive the file you want to share with them. One more web app to sign up for and give your information too, and then remember for the next time you may or may not have to use them.

    We have settled on using ibackup.com. Its not free – some would even say they’re pricey – but I can share a large file(s) with someone and they simply receive a link by e-mail which will let them download the file(s) without having to sign up or give any information to ibackup.com. I do give ibackup.com the recipient’s e-mail address in order to send the link, but I have never heard of any abuse of this.

    adrive.com (currently free beta) seems to have a similar capability, but they also have a limitation of sharing only one file at a time – i.e. your recipient gets a separate e-mail with a link for each file you are sharing, which can end up being troublesome on its own.

  8. My clients are generally not very tech savvy. They resist learning Basecamp, Central Desktop, and Google Docs just to work with me. And FTP? You gotta be kidding.

    None of their other peers are doing it, so the learning curve seems steep to them.

    YouSendIt is awesome, particularly with the Outlook plugin.

  9. I’ve become a big fan of Drop.io. Free, online file sharing made simple, easy and anonymous.

  10. moved to gmail (so no more cleaning), if I get an office attachment I need to read I use the “view as html” option, If its something important I use “Open as google spreadsheet/doc”. For pictures: I dont event bother anymore (or if important I move them to my home server) and the Preview in osx just opens pdf’s instantly.

    I dont have office installed anymore and my workflow just spreads around in the office (complains on office/windows and outlook)

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