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Appliance Helps Researchers Share Large Files

Researchers, by the nature of their work, need to share information and collaborate with colleagues. In this day in age, that often means emailing new experimental results or grant applications to peers within their own company or at other organizations.

But there is often a nagging problem: Attached file sizes are so large, many email systems will not accept them.

“[Scientists] can’t work without exchanging data,” said Steven Erde, senior director of the office of Academic Computing and chief security officer at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC). “People don’t think twice about sending a 100-MB file.”

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. With that system, internal users could post material; outside users were issued a password that allowed them to send material in.

Erde noted 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,” said Erde.

Erde opted for a secure file transfer appliance from Accellion. The Accellion system offloads attachments from email. It integrates with Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Notes.

A user wishing to send a file can create an email 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 email message is sent to the intended recipient. The message contains a link, which the user clicks on 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 email system without the company insider having to set up an account for the outside user in advance.

The combination of features has helped WCMC researchers work with their colleagues. “It gives them the ability to send large files to other people who might not be able to accept large email attachments,” said Erde.

How do you handle large file sharing? Do you use FTP? A Web-based file management system? An appliance? Drop me a line at and let me know.


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