Big Files Don't Have to Be Big Problems

Thursday Feb 16th 2006 by Lauren Simonds
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ShareFile aims to ease the pain of transferring mega-sized files.

Sending large or sensitive files to clients and co-workers isn't always easy, especially for small businesses that don't have the luxury of an extranet. E-mail has its limits — e-mail systems typically handle attachments up to — at most 10MB. The cost and complexity of an FTP site doesn't make it an a practical solution for SMBs. You can burn files to CD-ROM and mail it — an adequate, if slow, alternative.

ShareFile, a Raleigh, N.C.-based company, hopes to solve that thorny dilemma by offering its ShareFile service — a way to send, receive and store business files online.

According to co-owner Dan Sutera, ShareFile is essentially a secure extranet for small business who cannot otherwise afford to build their own. "Most small companies just don't have the money to build an internal system," he said. "Our service provides SMBs a Web-based solution that lets them exchange large files with clients or vendors. They can even customize it with their logo and branding."

ShareFile's customers include CPAs, design and advertising companies, photographers as well as manufacturing, engineering and architecture firms. A single file in companies like these can be hundreds of megabytes.

Sutera says the branded client login — a newly added feature — is completely transparent, which lets a business handle large files easily while maintaining its own identity. He also claims that the ShareFile service is a safer alternative to an FTP site because Sharefile uses 128-bit encryption on all files.

Sending and Receiving
The company designed the Web-based Sharefile system to be easy for non-technical people to use, Sutera said. Customers sign on to the service with a username (yourname@yourcompany.com) and a password. From there they can choose to either send or request a file by e-mail. The recipient of the e-mail (recipients don't need to have a ShareFile account) clicks on a link within the e-mail to either download or upload the file.

Jesse Lipson, Sharefile's other co-owner, says the upload and download speed depends on the customer's Internet connection. He also says ShareFile provides a zip compression feature to help speed things along.

Account Levels ShareFile Features Monthly Fee
Enterprise Account Unlimited Disk Space; 6GB Monthly Bandwidth;
Custom Branding; 3 Custom URLs; Phone Support;
E-mail Support; 30 Employees; Unlimited Clients;
Daily Backup
$119.95 per month
or
$99.95 per month with
quarterly or yearly billing
Professional Account Unlimited Disk Space; 3 GB Monthly Bandwidth;
Custom Branding; 3 Custom URLs; Phone Support;
E-mail Support; 12 Employees; Unlimited Clients;
Daily Backup
$59.95 per month
or
$49.95 per month with
quarterly or yearly billing
Basic Account Unlimited Disk Space; 1 GB Monthly Bandwidth;
Custom Branding; 3 Custom URLs; E-mail Support;
2 Employees; Unlimited Clients;
Daily Backup
$23.95 per month
or
$19.95 per month with
quarterly or yearly billing

A Customer Perspective
The folks at Generate Designs, a Raleigh, N.C.-based graphic design company, have been using the ShareFile Basic Account for nearly a year. "We used it on and off at first," said Paul Barth, a partner and designer at the firm. "A few months ago we revamped our company Web site, added Sharefile to the site, and now we use it all the time. It feels seamless, like it's our own product. It's a great way for a small business like ours to have a customized service that matches our Web design."

Generate Design's Extranet screenshot
This is what the branded ShareFile service
looks like on Generate Design's Web site.
(Click for larger image)
.

Barth's company designs logos, business cards and letterhead, Web sites, annual reports advertising and trade show displays. He says the files they generate are huge — typically 300MB. Before using ShareFile, Barth's customers had to drive to his shop to deliver or pick up files. "The service helps us look more technologically advanced, it increases our professionalism, and it puts us in a better light with customers and vendors. They save time and money by not having to drive all the way over here. "

Security is another issue that concerns Barth. "We found that people are turned off by the complexity of an FTP site. I didn't like the lack of security because anyone could access any of the folders on an FTP site. We need to assure our clients that their business files are safe with us. ShareFile lets us do that."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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