Sending Emails with Large Attachments

We took a call today from somebody trying to send a large file (48MB) to one of their clients. The email appeared to be ‘stuck’ in the outbox (in fact it was actually being sent) and it was blocking other emails from being sent. These were problems for the user, but in our view would have presented an even greater problem for the recipient of this email. We were able to unblock the email by gracefully disconnecting the email client from the server and then deleting the email from the queue. But our client needed to get that email sent straight away.

The problems with sending large emails…

Email was not designed to send any files, let alone large ones. That has changed now of course, but it is unacceptable to send large files by email. We would suggest that 5-10 MB is a reasonable size for occasional and urgent files, 20 MB should be the absolute limit.

Just because you may have a fast Internet connection, the recipient of the email may not do. There are plenty of people in this country on dial-up – or as I saw recently – on a half megabit broadband connection. If you send a 48MB file to someone on slow broadband it might take 15 to 30 minutes to download at the other end. The chances are that the recipient would think their computer had crashed and would potentially stop all users on that network being able to send or receive email or browse the web for half an hour. Imagine how popular you would be if you brought your customers network to a halt!

In any case, there are plenty of people who have limits on the size of files they can send and receive. Something like a 20MB limit is usual, but a 5MB limit is common when people do things on the cheap. Even if the email I descibed above had been sent it would probably bounce back because it was too large.

Some files can be made smaller using file compression tools such as WinZip, but some files do not compress well. Typically ‘image rich’ files such as video, photographs and presentations can not be compressed by much, if at all.

The technical amongst us would get around this problem by uploading files to a server on the internet using something called FTP, and sending a link to that file by email, so it can be downloaded by someone else at their leisure. This upload / send link / download process does require a level of expertise that most small business owners would not have the time to learn.

One Alternative…

The alternative we suggested to our client was to use a free of charge ‘dropsend’ account. This service (and others like it) allows you to send your large emails but using their systems as the middleman.

What actually happens is that you fill in an email form, attach your file which gets uploaded to the dropsend server and then the dropsend system emails a link to the file which can be manually downloaded by the recipient.

There are a variety of similar systems available but the only one we have tried is dropsend – that is why I am mentioning it here. At time of writing, dropsend allows you to send 5 large emails per month using their system – if you want to send more then you have to upgrade to a ‘paid’ account.

Our only advice would be to make sure the files you are sending are protected with a password. Dropsend do have a privacy policy which you should check out if you are worried about anybody ‘intercepting’ your files – but to be blunt if your data is that sensitive, then you should talk to us about your other options – none of which will be cheap or quick to implement.

DROPSEND (UK Based)