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Appliance Helps Researchers Share Large Files

By Salvatore Salamone

May 12, 2006 | Researchers often use e-mail in sharing information and collaborating with colleagues. But there is often a nagging problem: Attached file sizes are so large, many e-mail systems will not accept them.

“[Scientists] can’t work without exchanging data,” says Steven Erde, senior director of the office of Academic Computing and chief security officer at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC).

He points out that it’s quite common for researchers to share grant applications, scanned images, and presentations that are 100 MB or much larger.

In the past, WCMC used a homegrown guest FTP system for internal users to post material; outside users were issued a password. Erde notes that there was frustration with the FTP approach. For instance, an outsider could not send in material unless the inside person had set up an account for them. “It was clear we needed a Web-based system,” says Erde. Erde opted for a secure file transfer appliance from Accellion. The Accellion system offloads attachments from e-mail. It integrates with Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Notes.

A user wishing to send a file can create an e-mail in a normal fashion. Using Accellion Attachments, a plug-in to the core secure file transfer appliance, a researcher selects an Accellion icon rather than the normal paper clip to send a file. The file is then uploaded to the Accellion appliance, and an e-mail message is sent to the intended recipient. The message contains a link, which the user clicks to access the file.

For those concerned about security, access to the Accellion appliance is through an SSL-secured link, and files are encrypted before they are transmitted.

The system can use LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol), which allows an outside user to send a large file to anyone in a company’s e-mail system without the company insider having to set up an account for the outside user in advance.

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